The Ugandan children were denied visas to play in the U.S. after the U.S. State Department said there were discrepancies in players’ ages and birth dates, “making some players appear younger than they actually were.”
Only last month, the African team had whipped the Saudis in the Middle East and Africa region championships and was thrilled at the prospect of being the first team from Africa to play in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, the site of the series games.
Godfrey Mabirizi, vice chair of Uganda’s National Council of Sports, said that in the future the council would verify players’ ages and documents, and would punish those responsible if they were found to have lied about players’ ages.
Little League baseball was introduced to Uganda eight years ago by Richard Stanley of Staten Island, a part-owner of the Yankees’ Class AA Trenton Thunder and a diamond miner in Uganda. Listed as an officer on a Uganda Little League Baseball directory, Stanley said he has donated about $1.5 million to the organization there.
In an interview earlier this year, Stanley expressed his admiration for the young players: “These kids are great… They play all day and never get tired. They’ve got the talent. All they need is more practice and competition. All they need is a chance.”