Fanatical: Inspite of qualifying as a lawyer, Adellah Agaba’s passion led her into a sports career. Esther Oluka spoke to her about following her heart and defying gender stereotypes on sport.
It is midday on a Saturday. I am at the Radio One studios in Kampala to meet Adellah Agaba. Adelle, as friends refer to her, is a 29-year-old lawyer.
Our plan is to have a chat before 1pm; the time she goes on air to analyse the week’s sports events alongside a line-up of mostly men on a show dubbed the Locker Room.
As I patiently wait at the reception, a petite woman in a long blue dress opens an adjacent door and smiles before offering a firm handshake.
Although it is now about 35 minutes into her show, she tells me not to worry.
“Let us talk and not think too much about the time,” she assures me.
How her love for sports started
In primary school, Agaba was an athlete who participated in several competitions.
“I would run and win prizes. One time, I received a trophy after competing and was very happy. Such gestures motivated me to run even more,” she says.
Agaba attended Bweranyangi Junior School in Bushenyi District where she completed Primary Seven in 1999.
However, after leaving Bweranyangi Girls Senior Secondary School, where she completed both O and A-levels, Agaba’s participation in athletes dropped for a number of reasons.
“There was a mentality that girls who participated in athletics or any other kind of sport would end up getting muscular legs. So, I got scared and participated less,” she says, adding, “But also, peer influence was another factor where I had a looming fear of what my friends would think of me.”
Back home, Agaba had two older brothers, who passionately followed sports events. Over time, she started getting incorporated in their world.
“I started watching games on television with them, but also, I would tag along with them to watch home-played games, including basketball and football,” she recalls.
It was this kind of family involvement that kept her sports passion alive.
The one who dared her
In 2012, when a male friend cracked a joke that women unlike men could not easily become sports commentators, she got offended.
To prove a point to him, Agaba did extensive research on sports. She read a variety of sports literature, watched more games on television and also did a lot of Internet research on notable sports personalities. She would then post updates on her Facebook page from time to time.
“People seemed to enjoy what I was posting to the extent that the number of followers on my page doubled over time,” she says.
It was then that Thomas Muruka, a sports journalist, reached out to her via a personal message on Facebook. “He appreciated my work and requested me to find time and pass by Urban TV offices in Kampala,” she says.
Upon meeting, Muruka asked her if she was passionate and knowledgeable about sports. Agaba talked about some of the things she knew in the sports, which left Muruka impressed. He then asked her to join the all-male cast of sports commentators who were going to take part in a live broadcast that day on a programme dubbed Game On.
“I hesitantly accepted. Since this was my first television appearance, I was nervous. The studio lights made me more anxious and worried,” she says, adding, “But when the show started and the men started talking, I became more relaxed and made a few statements here and there until it ended.”
The show producer was impressed and requested her to continue making appearances.
“I kept going and before I knew it, I started receiving phone calls to feature on other sports shows,” she says.
It is this passion and knowledge of sports that earned her an appointment as the country manager of Betway, an online sports betting company in Uganda.
With a full time job, Agaba was unable to make frequent television appearances. She opted to take up a weekend sports programme, The Locker Room on Radio One.
“I analyse sports events at the weekend and then concentrate on my full-time job during weekdays,” she says.
Her support system
After Senior Six at Bweranyangi Girls Senior Secondary School, Agaba enrolled at Uganda Christian University (UCU) for a Bachelor of Laws (undergraduate). Later, she enrolled for a Masters in Oil and Gas law and graduated in 2017. According to Agaba, the Masters programme was very hectic and if it was not for her mother’s encouragement and support, she would not have graduated.
“There was a lot to read and research about. The course almost took my life as I had to juggle studies and work,” she says, adding, “My mother kept telling me to persevere. However, her continuous reminder that my tuition was covered with a loan propelled me to work even harder especially during times I was about to give up.”
According to Agaba, of the 23 individuals, who enrolled for the Master’s programme, only five graduated and she was the only girl.
Always a lawyer
Away from sports, Agaba has previously worked with Uganda Debt Network, a non-Government Organisation (NGO), where her legal background was fundamental in advocacy work. She plans to get into the petroleum sector and possibly handle issues of energy and climate energy. But even in her current position as the country manager at Betway Uganda, almost everything rotates around the law and its applicability in the gaming industry. Being a lawyer does not require one to be in a courtroom.
Agaba’s career highlights
Agaba started working at Urban Television in 2012 on Game On with sports analysts; Brian Kamusiime and David Mutaka. Agaba left the show in 2015 to join Radio One where she presents on a weekend sports show dubbed, The Locker Room.
Game On was recognised as the best sports show during the Radio and Television (RTV) awards in 2013.