Ultimate in Africa is on the up and up. With U23 World Championships around the corner, the ultimate community is experiencing something it has never seen before: multiple African ultimate teams at the same major international tournament. Kenya and Uganda created a buzz on social media at the World Championships of Beach Ultimate 2015 as both countries accomplished their first ever victories on the international stage. The importance of this cannot be understated because their presence in Dubai could be a watershed moment for African ultimate. While there is plenty of ultimate played in a number of countries across the continent, only South Africa has consistently attended major international tournaments. We can now proudly say that we have three countries flying one flag for more than one billion citizens of Africa. Hopefully this will spur on other WFDF member nations, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, to send teams to compete against other countries and join the global ultimate family.
South Africa has sent an open team to every WFDF World Championship since 1998. We joined the mixed division in 2004 in Turku, Finland and returned in 2012 to Sakai, Japan to take home the spirit award. It is no longer a question of whether we will send a team to WFDF events but how many divisions we want to compete in. Our next achievement is competing in a youth division internationally and we are proud to have the pleasure of sending a mixed team, the Wild Dogs, to compete in the WFDF U23 World Championships in London this year. This will be the first African team to compete in this event and we are eager to see how we stack up against more seasoned countries with a longer history of ultimate.
South Africa didn’t even consider sending a team to the previous two U23 Championships. These events were arguably not even on our radar. How can it be that in two years we are ready to join in on the action? We think the answer lies in the growth of the sport at the university level. Three years ago, there was only one official university team that played ultimate in South Africa — one lonely team. This year we have five university teams and the Wild Dogs have representatives from all of them. We are creating little pockets of ultimate fever as the university players spread out to work around the country. Our team has players from all over; four different provinces and seven different cities. Aspiring architects, geologists, philosophers, physicists, historians, doctors, artists and accountants: we are the youth and future of South African ultimate.
For many of us this is our first international tournament and we are approaching it with a nervous energy. But — we are ready, we are excited, we are united and we are powerful. We draw strength from our totem animal, the African Wild Dog. These amazing highly social animals hunt, play and joke together. They have bundles of energy and can run for hours on end, hunting their prey by tiring them out. Both the animals and our ultimate team share a desire for fun and competition.
The idea of representing our country has resulted in many enthusiastic air punches and sleepless nights. These sleepless nights come from our excitement to compete but also from the stress of funding our campaign. It is incredibly expensive for students and we need to pay for all of our own costs. Flying halfway across the world is expensive at the best of times, and the abysmal rand to pound exchange rate makes this even tougher. We do have a multi-point fundraising plan and are working very hard to raise funds. At the top of this list is our Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign and we are hoping the global ultimate community can help us get to London in July. We want to be there, we deserve to be there and the tournament needs us there; it wouldn’t be a world championship without Africa representing.
Many of us would never have dreamed of being able to hoist the flag for South Africa at an international competition (and in a sport under Olympic consideration no less). The desire of the team is not just to be externally recognized, but also to use this tournament as a platform to create more interest in the sport back home. Attending this tournament, competing on the world stage and coming back with stories, memories and new friends would go a long way to promote the sport. Hopefully the next time the U23 Championships comes around we will send more than one team. We want to take the tournament by storm and prove that even though South African ultimate is in its infancy, we can compete on the world stage.
We have high hopes for the sport and rumors of an African Ultimate Championship are spreading. It will be a number of years and lots of hard work before this dream is realized. Sending a U23 team to compete internationally shows the ambition and enthusiasm we have for ultimate in Africa and will undoubtedly go a long way in developing our beloved sport in our vibrant continent.
Here is the link to our crowdfunding site – https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/get-south-africa-s-u23-ultimate-team-to-worlds/x/10102850#home
Here is a link to our Facebook page, have a look at how we progress on our journey to London – https://www.facebook.com/SAu23wilddogs
Also follow us on twitter here: @SA_U23_WildDogs
This article was written by a number of people, including: Dale Franklin, Graham Gerhart, Jarrod Banks, Oliver Goosen and Jonathan Aronson.