Margret Baagala will be representing Uganda at the forthcoming Netball World Cup with the She Cranes come July in Cape Town, South Africa.
This is a dream come true for anyone, and its no different for Baagala whose meteoric rise has been fascinating.
The Centre who plies her trade with record National Netball Super League winners NIC, speaks about the forthcoming prestigious event with a lot of passion and excitement.
“I just want to raise my Country’s flag high again,” Baagala told The-SportsNation.
She wants to leave a diligent mark at the world showpiece, and will be eager to add an accolade or two on her brief career that has seen her win the Player of the Series against Wales during She Cranes tour in the United Kingdom.
She was also the player of the match as She Cranes stunned Jamaica at the Fast Five.
Early Life Struggles…
Baagala is the last born in a family of seven girls of William Kivumbi (Dad) and Betty Nakachwa (Mother), both deceased.
One of her sisters is Norah Lunkuse who also plays for She Cranes.
Born on May 9, 2002 at Mulago Hospital in Kampala, she was brought up in Kawaala Kasubi – a suburb of the Capital.
Growing up, she harbours little childhood memories and describes herself as being “quiet and sleepy.”
“I wanted to sleep a lot,” Baagala remembers.
“There was a time they searched for me the whole village, and there was some scare that I had been kidnapped. But they later found me sleeping out there alone.”
Baagala credits her Mum for her good upbringing despite the family’s financial hardships. Her Dad separated with the Mum just after Baagala was born.
“We struggled a lot especially with finances because I am not from a well-to-do family,” Baagala reflects.
“She (Mother) did a lot to see us go to school. She was a businesswoman earning a living through selling Tomatoes. And she used to save with fellow ladies in those Cash rounds things, and she could at times ask for loans to see us study.”
Unfortunately, her Mother passed away. Baagala was then in Senior Four.
Playing Netball started out as fun for Baagala who picked interest from watching her elder sisters play the Sport.
Little did she know that it’s a Sport that will help pay School fees for her at a certain stage.
“I watched my Sisters play and that’s where I picked interest,” She narrates.
“I tried out the moves and I slowly realized that it’s a thing I can be good at. I remember I was in P.3 then, I took part in Junior events. I was a shooter then but later switched to middle (Centre) because of my small height.
She showed glimpses of a future star at an early given thanks to her quickness and mobility, which got her a bursary while at Primary Six at Kawaala P/S.
“That lifted a huge burden off my Mum’s shoulders. I remember playing with the likes of Sandra Nambirige (also at NIC) and of course my sister Norah Lunkuse at that time.
“I was short, and I could go through players armpits. I was that talented and a joy to watch.”
“I just have to thank Coach Stone, Coach Kiberu and Coach Zagalo for moulding my future.”
At Kawaala, she won Nabagereka Cups and other Zonal tournaments where they competed with schools like Good times, Masanafu and Nakirebe among others.
The Star is Born!
Baagala started to take the Sport seriously after she became a point of interest from various schools after leaving the Primary level.
She joined Kakungulu Memorial amidst interest from St Mary’s SS Kitende, Kibuli SS and Kawanda etc.
“Mr Hassan (of Kakungulu) came at home and convinced my Mother, persuading her to let me join Kakungulu.”
Few classes later, Baagala joined Kitende where she won a couple of titles including the National Rallys, District titles, East Africa trophies, Nationals etc, playing with the likes of Mary Nubas.
And it was at Kitende where she tried out Basketball, a Sport where she has proved good at as well.
“That was during my Form Five, Basketball Coach Chris saw me playing Netball, you know the two games have a couple of similarities, and that’s how I started playing.
“At basketball court, I was given just one assignment, and it was to steal balls, a skill that had made me famous thanks to my position as a Centre in Netball.
“And I perfected my role, I started enjoying scoring as well because unlike in Netball, everyone can score in Basketball. And that’s how I started.
“I faced some minor challenges during this course especially with Netball; You know a basketball ball is heavier so during the East Africa championship in TZ, we played basketball in morning, then Netball in the evening and I could throw the light ball way past the court!”
Joining League Giants NIC
During her times in Secondary, she inevitably drew interest from some local clubs.
And NIC win the race to acquire her signature.
“I remember it was during the National Rally (a competition that brings together Schools, Clubs, Corporate bodies etc) in Bombo. Hajjat Kitaka Fatiah and Coach Kiwanuka spotted me.
“I was introduced to NIC Manager Jocelyn Ucanda, they talked to my Uncle and signed a contract before starting playing in 2021.”
NIC has established players started in her Centre Position like Betty Kizza and Ruth Meeme, and it looked like a bad move for a young player who wanted to get more playing time.
“Many detractors criticized the move, saying that I was going to be benched.”
Luckily, Kizza went to United Kingdom while Meeme joined Prisons.
Fast forward, Baagala went on to establish herself as the best Centre in the League and won the 2021 Netball Super League with NIC and the East Africa Championship at Kamwokya.
Her list of accolades also include Gold at the East Africa Games in Ndejje with Kampala University.
In National Team Colours
Baagala was first summoned for the Uganda U21 team that was then gearing up for the 2021 U21 Netball World Cup.
But unfortunately, the tournament in Fiji was canceled due to Covid-19.
Later in November 2021, she was called to the Senior team, the She Cranes, for the 2021 Pent Series and Africa Cup.
Baagala remembers the day like yesterday: “I was with my sister (Norah Lunkuse) at home when the phone came in. We were both excited.
“It was a surprise to me actually because there were good players and I have to thank coach Fred Mugerwa for putting trust in me.”
Baagala managed to make the final cut for the trip to Nambia after weeks of training.
“We were training at Buddo, then President, the Coach and other officials came to deliver the final squad list.
“Pressure was high. For centre and Wing Attackers, we were six if I remember very well and they needed four.
“So they read out Lunkuse, Meeme and Achan… and I stopped breathing. And they read my name. I switched off. I was crying at the time. I was going to Birmingham!”
Alicia Wasagali and Sarah Nakiyunga were the dropped players.
“I was training well at the time and I thought I had a good chance to make the final squad, but I started to get worried that I might be dropped because my Passport had not come out.”
Baagala, who still had passport challenges, did not fly out with the team, and so did Sandra Nambirige and Coach Sarah Namuddu Kabuye.
They joined the Team after the Pent Series for the Africa Cup.
“I think my first game in National Colours was against Zambia. I came on for Meeme. I struggled initially because I was still nervous unlike my teammates who had played these same teams during the Pent Series.”
Fast forward, Baagala has become a core member of the She Cranes and has featured at the Commonwealth Games, Test series in United Kingdom and Fast Five in New Zealand.
“I have got a chance to travel across the World and meet new people and friends,” Baagala relishes playing with the She Cranes.
Baagala says that she wants to play professional Netball, possibly following the footsteps of Mary Nuba and Peace Proscovia in the United Kingdom.
Her role model is retired Laura Robyn Langman, who is a former captain and most capped player for New Zealand (Silver Ferns).
On her basketball journey, she believes that the doors to the National Team (Gazelles) haven’t opened but she remains optimistic after making her debut in the National Basketball League with the Kampala University Ladies team.
She mentions Sharifah Nassaka as the funniest (talkative) teammate at Kampala University (Basketball).
On her personal lifestyle, Baagala listens to Sheebah Karungi’s music, still loves to Sleep, stays in Ggaba and Kansanga and her good friends include Mercy Batamuliza and Tonny Drilleba of City Oilers.