By Kim Constantinesco
Castro David Onen is a man who not only makes history, but endures it as well.
The leading scorer for Uganda’s national lacrosse team made history Friday in Denver, CO when he became the first African player to ever score a goal in the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championship, a tournament that was founded in 1967.
Onen ran by two Ireland defenders and put the ball in the back of the net in the third quarter of the team’s debut in FIL competition. That goal stood alone at the end of the day with a final score of 17-1, but it was the one that stood out the most.
“I scored the first goal in Africa,” Onen said. “Now I come to the United States of America and score the first African goal.”
Onen continued the streak by adding additional goals in each of Uganda’s two games on Saturday and Sunday.
Onen only started playing lacrosse four years ago when the sport was first introduced to the area through Fields of Growth International.
“I played other sports like futbol, but I didn’t succeed,” Onen said. “Lacrosse is the one that I succeeded in.”
Onen has made history with his lacrosse stick, but he also had to overcome devastation as a child.
“Growing up, I went through many difficulties because I was raised by a single mother, who was a nurse,” Onen said.
At 15 years old, Onen’s father died. His father was killed while fighting for Uganda against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a cult-like movement that’s been accused of murder, child-sex slavery, abduction, and mutilation.
Onen, his mother, and his two brothers and sister fled northern Uganda where the LRA was based. Once the LRA left northern Uganda, Onen’s mother and sister returned to the area.
Onen stayed in Kampala, and worked as a baker before deciding that he wanted to spend all of his time playing lacrosse.
“My work wasn’t giving me enough time to play lacrosse so I resigned from my working, and I strictly work on my lacrosse,” Onen said. “My hope is to spread the word of lacrosse in Africa. I want to coach in the future.”
While Uganda was never slated to win the tournament, the stands were vibrant with supporters, lacrosse fans and not. It was a homecoming for a team that was 8,500 miles away from home. Chants of U-GAN-DA rang as bongos accompanied the melody.
Onen bounced up and down seemingly enjoying every moment of his journey, for if there is no past, there is no future.
Update: Uganda won their first game in international competition Monday when they defeated Korea. Uganda came back from 5-0 to win 10-9. Onen had two goals including one down the stretch that tied the game.