The Uganda women’s lacrosse national team, which was slated to be the first team from Africa to compete in the World Lacrosse Championships, will not attend the tournament at Towson University because of issues acquiring visas to travel to the United States and will therefore forfeit its games, organizers announced Wednesday afternoon.
“We’re heartbroken to not be able to compete in the women’s championship after years of effort to make it to this stage,” Uganda coach Colin McSharar wrote in a statement distributed by World Lacrosse. “Both myself and my staff have done everything we could do the past 12 months to make sure that we gave the players the best opportunity to showcase their passion for lacrosse. We did it the right way; we just had a few things not go our way recently.”
Uganda was one of five countries making its international debut at the World Championships, joining a group that includes Argentina, Jamaica, Norway and Puerto Rico. Uganda was a member of Pool C, which includes Germany, Jamaica, Latvia and Wales, and was scheduled to open group play against Latvia on Thursday.
“We deeply regret that Uganda is unable to attend the women’s championship due to circumstances beyond our control,” World Lacrosse CEO Jim Scherr wrote in the same statement. “Since being informed of the team’s visa challenges, we have exhausted every possible avenue to get the Uganda women to the United States, but have unfortunately been unsuccessful. We’re devastated for the athletes and support staff who dedicated substantial time, effort and commitment to making their dream of competing among the world’s best a reality, and we hope to be able to welcome them at a World Lacrosse event in the near future.”
Uganda had replaced Kenya, which withdrew from the tournament. Without Uganda, the field for the World Championships dropped to 29 teams, which is still a record.
World Lacrosse officials continue to hold out hope that Uganda could arrive sometime next week and participate in a few friendlies. McSharar said he had no objections to his team forfeiting its games.
“While efforts continue to overcome our visa issues, we understand that the integrity of the competition for the remaining 29 teams must be maintained,” he wrote. “ ... We have made incredible progress with the women’s team in Africa and look forward to continuing to rebuild the program to take the field in future championship-level events.”
Scherr said the Uganda lacrosse program should be proud of reaching this stage.
“While Uganda is not able to participate in the event, the impact of the team’s preparations will endure and position women’s lacrosse in Uganda higher than it has ever been before,” he said.