Venture Uganda partners with The University of Manchester for gift to South Sudanese footballer

Venture Uganda partners with The University of Manchester for gift to South Sudanese footballer

From a very young age, it was clear that Joseph Muyang had a talent for football. One of five boys, some of his earliest memories are of playing the game with his brothers and friends, enjoying spending time together as they bonded over their shared love of Manchester United.

“I really loved playing football when I was young,” Joseph recalls. “And I always loved Manchester United, how they play as a team.”

In many ways, football has been Joseph’s escape. Born as a refugee after his family fled from what is now South Sudan, his parents sought shelter at the Kiryandongo refugee settlement in Uganda.

Then, when Joseph was six, he and his family were repatriated to Ikotos County, their home in South Sudan.

For a while, life seemed settled. Joseph joined a local club team before he was asked to play in the South Sudanese capital of Juba. In 2016, he was selected by the national side.

It was the year that conflict once again broke out.

Returning to the Kiryandongo refugee settlement

Still living and playing in Juba, Joseph managed to escape and return to the place where he spent his early years, at the Kiryandongo refugee settlement. Although he has tried to get in touch with his family, he has not heard from his parents or brothers since.

He simply does not know what has happened to them.

Joseph continues to play football in camp and was invited to join the South Sudanese team for a one-off international match in Kampala.

However, because of his situation as a refugee, he is worried that he is not able to play at the standard he would like to, that he is not being challenged enough.

A gift from Manchester United

The Venture Uganda team first met Joseph while partnering with the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute, based at The University of Manchester.

On one of our academic field courses, a group of Masters’ students from the Institute were in Uganda to learn more about Uganda’s refugee policies and met Joseph.

The following year, having heard Joseph’s story and requested to meet him, the group presented him with a signed Manchester United shirt, kindly donated by the Manchester United Foundation.

Meanwhile, for Joseph, life as a refugee continues.

Now aged 18, he has trained as a carpenter through an NGO-run vocational centre but it is difficult to find a job.

“It is very hard to earn a living,” says Joseph.

Lesley Harris, of Venture Uganda, says: “Because of Joseph’s talent for football he stands out, but at the same time he illustrates the difficulties that many refugees find themselves in – trapped, with few opportunities to achieve their dreams and ambitions, as the years pass by.”