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Gulu City bodybuilders using sport to curb crimes in northern Uganda

Northern Uganda Bobybuilders Association members pose for photo with the Association Founder, Michael Ojok (2nd R) at Plan B pub in Gulu City on Thursday, August 24, 2023

Gulu, Uganda: In a bid to professionalise the sport of bodybuilding in northern Uganda, a focused-group of young bodybuilders formed a club called Northern Uganda Bodybuilding and Fitness Association (NUBFA) to streamline their work and relations with people.

Michael Ojok, the founder of the association says, they were concerned about the public outcry against some of the members’ behavior and action who are sometime employed to manage the security of events and happening places.

In an interview with DailyExpress on Thursday, August 24, Ojok told this reporter that the coming together of the association is already paying off as incidence report has reduced due to their teaching on professionalism and discipline for the growth of the young industry in Northern Uganda.

“They are no longer fighting in clubs, beating people on the way, including the bouncers. We are trying to change their mindset because people who do bodybuilding are associated to violence, fighting and stealing but now we are teaching them to realize that it is a sport which can change their lives and the lives of their families,” says Ojok.

In April, a Gulu renown bodybuilder commonly refers to as ‘Gen Matembe’ was charged for murder after allegedly punching to death an artiste Oyet Jackson alias Big J during a quarrel at a pub in Anaka town in Nwoya district. Matembe was famous for providing security at betting points and happening places.

Ojok envisioned that with the coming the elevation of Gulu Municipality into a City, the metropolitan town would attract many business opportunities and the population of sport lovers.

The Gulu University vice Chancellor Professor Openjuru George Ladah, members and admirer of the club, believe that bodybuilding and gym by its nature of sport in term of training, competition, keeps the participants engaged instead of being idle.

Gulu University vice Chancellor Professor Openjuru George Ladah speaking to participants at the fitness club

He advises the body builders to treat the sport as a business by marketing themselves to potential advertising companies especially those that do a lot of corporate advertisements on billboards, Social media, Television who look for handsome and well-shaped body physiques.

“Look out for opportunities to win commercials for payment from advertisers especially on billboards, cosmetics, beverages, beer and many others. This sport comes with opportunity when someone participates on it. It is a pride for someone participating in the game because you keep fit, busy and mentally sounds and this solves many social problems,” the Professor said.

Jenine Robinson, a British national sponsoring the club notes that there are virgin opportunities for the ladies especially in weight lifting, body physique and bikini which is not yet fully understood by Ugandans. The trainers who brings her 30 years of experience into the club, expresses excitement to see the participant grow however she appeal to ladies to join the virgin sporting opportunities.

Ms Jenine and the Association Founder Michael Ojok during a meeting on Thursday, August 24th

 “I am really excited to see how these participants grow and there is a lot of hard work that goes on behind the scene. What you see on stage is a finished product of months and years of hard work, dedication, commitment and focus. We want to see more women;” She says, adding

According to the expert Northern Uganda is endowed with so many strong women in who could be trained to compete in national and international competition. This is because the region has got plenty of natural food supplements and diets which enhance muscle building.

The association is organizing a Sub regional completion which will be held in Gulu for the participants in the 10 Acholi district and city inclusive. The event is schedule to take place on the November 26th 2023 in Gulu City.

Similar activities will be held in Lira for Lango districts and Arua for West Nile subregion and finalize it for general greater northern Uganda.

Among some of the categories of games the association is practicing to showcase in September’s competition includes, bodybuilding, body physique, Bikini and a newly introduced game-Arm wrestling. But the association also trained other game like powerlifting, weight lifting, Bikini, and Deadlifting. But next year the club will be following their sporting activities under the calendar of Ministry of Education and Sports.

Members of the Association pose with their certificates. Second Right is Ms Jenine Robinson the sponsor of the club.

The club now has registered with Ministry of Sport and Education. The founder says there are preparing their players to participate in national and international games. Effective next year, the association will start participating in sporting activities guided by the calendar of Ministry of Education and Sport.

The biggest challenges affecting the Association right now according to Reagan Ocaya, the General Secretary of the club, is the lack of transport mean, travel documents such as passport and food supplements to take them to a greater height.

At the moment, the trainers are focusing so much on changing the mindset of the players to prepare them for golden opportunities that lie ahead of them. Through regular meeting during practice, the founder is happy to see level of violence among his members go down.

Members of the Bodybuilding and Fitness Association during practice in a Gulu city gym ahead of September competition.

Julius Ocungi, a sport enthusiast says the body building in Northern Uganda comes with untapped opportunities for the players coming together. The sport has for long been misconceived by many young sportsmen, ladies and parents thinking it are for hooligans.

“The job of bouncing in Gulu city is still growing. It is a milestone for the youth to come together. This will help them because organization, celebrities, politicians, can easily identify them for hire to provide security which can help to build their career. Weightlifters across the world are earning a lot of money because of professionalism,” he said.

Stories of bouncers being agent of violence attack in not new in Uganda, apart from the incident of Gen Matembe, allegedly causing the death of artiste Big J this year, a similar incident also led to the death of prominent Uganda musician Mozey Radio after he was assaulted by a bouncer in a pub brawl in February 2018.

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