Miles from the main roads in rural Uganda, soccer balls bounce unevenly. Playing fields are arid, lush, weedy, sandy—any flattish space will do. Goalposts might be made of rocks or branches. Some feet are bare, others shod in fraying sneakers, boots, or rubber sandals. Yet children kick and chase handmade lopsided balls with skill and abandon, competing for pride and joy—for the sheer pleasure of playing.
On fields throughout Uganda, rubbish is transformed into handmade soccer balls (odilo lawiny, as they are called in the Acholi language). Odilo lawiny are spun into being with whatever’s at hand: rag or sock, tire or bark, plastic bag or banana leaves. Made entirely of recuperated materials, the balls give another life to something that would otherwise just be thrown away. They might last days or months on a field of gravel or hard earth.
These precious jewels are a symbol of Africa’s passion for football. Each is a unique work of art. They speak of the ingenuity and craftsmanship of a continent. They speak of people who manage to do so much with so little.