Netball might not be the most high-profile sport at the Commonwealth Games, but just try telling Peace Proscovia it’s not the most important.
Uganda’s inspirational netball captain and flag-bearer has been the face of her team’s maiden Games, where they emerged from obscurity to win three games and just miss out on a semi-final spot.
Proscovia has risen from poverty to become one of the world’s leading players, and she said the sport has changed her life.
“I believe having come from a very humble family, this young girl in this small village that was not known, nobody knew anything about me,” she said.
“From that small family, where we had nothing, to going to school, getting jobs when I never even dreamed of getting a job.
“I believe without netball, I wouldn’t have been known internationally. Nobody would have known about me and I believe that my family wouldn’t have been transformed up to now.”
Currently studying a Masters degree at Loughborough University in England and playing for the Loughborough Lightning, Proscovia’s story is one of the most remarkable at the Games, having endured childhood poverty in the West Nile of Uganda before being spotted by an organisation and earmarked for greatness.
And she says her netballing talent has been a cornerstone of it all.
“I call netball an anchor to lean on, something that can hook onto you even when all hopes are gone, and something that provides light at the end of the tunnel,” Proscovia said.
“I believe talent can do anything to anybody, the most important thing is to have the belief, have the passion and the motivation that this can turn your life around.
“This has turned my life around and I am so grateful for it.”
Proscovia’s rapid ascent is indicative of the growth of netball around the world; there is now fierce competition from countries of all shapes and sizes to be afforded the honour of one of the twelve spots at the Games.
“It’s been a very important platform for us; our countries really vie to get there,” International Netball Federation President Molly Rhone said.
“The Commonwealth Games is very important to us, it’s our pinnacle event… and we love the fact that we are in the Commonwealth Games and we want to remain there.
“We have countries like Uganda who have come from nowhere to be in the Games.”
An eleven-point loss to South Africa in the fifth-place match may have been a disappointing way to end Uganda’s Games journey, Proscovia is still immensely proud of her team’s efforts.
“It’s not all about winning gold, but it’s all about what you put out there for the crowd to see,” she said.
“I believe many young girls are being inspired by our performance, because that was one of the major things we wanted to do as Team Uganda.
“Even if we don’t win gold… the fact that we enjoyed the game and are satisfied with our performance means that many girls are being inspired and they know that playing sports is all about enjoying it and being exposed to the outside world.”