Yona: A master blaster and cricket legend of our time

Wednesday August 8 2018

Fallen Soldier. The cricket fraternity will

Fallen Soldier. The cricket fraternity will give Yona a fitting send off with a guard of honour after the church service at All Saints Cathedral in Nakasero with a guard of honour. COURTESY PHOTO 


KAMPALA. Never seen anyone who loved and lived their life to the fullest. He loved life and it would not be fair to say that it didn’t love him back in the same vein.
But life is a mystery. How could it give up so fast, and so easy on him in one breath? No record of long illness and in just a moment news filtered through Yona Wapakhabulo Namawa was no more.

Yona, as he was predominantly referred to by all and sundry, was a son to former minister the late James Wapakhabulo.
He died on Monday evening (August 6, 2018) and his coup de grâce is related to a bacterial infection (called infective endocarditis) that got to his heart before spreading to his lungs.
Indeed, we remain mere mortals. Forgive us, Oh Lord!

But never have I seen someone go about their work in a meticulous and professional way like Yona. His life seamless; whether on the oval, tennis court or in his daily routine. After all, cricket is a ‘Gentleman’s Game’ and it teaches one to be so. Always in his corner, Yona never played for the gallery. As a success-hungry person, he preferred to focus on personal goals and only said a word when his opinion was sought.
And as an all-rounder who had honed his skills while studying in Australia (his father was working as chief justice in Papua New Guinea), Yona wore his heart on his sleeves and left nothing in his tank every time he stepped on the oval.

He would move from bowling to keeping wickets; or vice-versa when his team fielded first and then he would bat, more often than not, long innings as he rescued his side from either a spot of bother or into total domination of a match. The same way he would express himself when compelled to say something – brutally honest. He minced no words and many misunderstood him for being a ‘ big bully’.
But it is such a character that helped him amass feats and pile on runs especially when he played for Uganda, from 1988 -96, and for traditional clubs Wanderers and Tornado.
In many ways, Yona was battle hardened. Fearless on the pitch and a truly fierce competitor, Yona’s technique is still talked about as one of the best. He tucked under his belt the record of Ugandan cricket’s highest score. That was in 1992. Yona crafted a double century (212) for Wanderers in the National Cricket League.

Off the oval, he had grown into his own man. A consummate corporate communications guru, Yona had over the years built a formidable team at WMC Africa managing the growth of several big brands including MultiChoice Uganda (DStv). A great guy all-round, Yona loved to hangout and his banter was priceless – it left many in fits of laughter.
There is a scheduled vigil at Machame Health Club in Naguru tomorrow, funeral service at All Saints Cathedral on Friday (9am) and burial will take place at Mafudu in Sironko District on Saturday at Midday.

For his wife and three children, Yona’s innings stays incomplete.
For his fan-base, they will be hoping to cheer themselves hoarse after the next delivery he cuts hard for a boundary for the ‘Angels XI’ in heaven. Because that is where Yona’s heart belongs amongst legends who lived life in a different dimension and yet gave many people of sense of belonging in this materialistic world.
Rest in Peace, Master Blaster Yona. A true icon of sports in Uganda!

Batting Genius: In many ways, Yona Wapakhabulo was battle hardened. Fearless on the pitch and a truly fierce competitor, Yona’s technique is still talked about as one of the best. He tucked under his belt the record of Ugandan cricket’s highest score. That was in 1992. Yona hit a 212 for Wanderers in the National League.

Paulo Nsibuka Luswata (Former Uganda Captain)
He was my vice captain when we won in 1991 and technically very astute, he could tell a batsman weaknesses from how he held a bat or from the stance and set an impeccable field. Outside he was very perceptive about a very wide host of fields and I even consulted him on matters finance even if it was my field and not his. He was a master strategist that always preferred to work behind the scenes, kingmaker de extraordinaire.

Tshaka Mayanja (Reggae Artiste & Producer)
I’m kinda numb right now. I don’t think I would have been so deep into Reggae Music if Yona hadn’t introduced me to his Cricket coach and Rasta Elder Tony Moody in London. He had back pains but seems it was a clot that led to his death.

Hussein Bogere (Cricket Afficionado)
That Yona is responsible for a surge in repair expenses for some of those buildings outside The Oval. And some vehicles on Jinja road. Bhoy, could he whack that ball!
Sam Walusimbi ( Ugandan Sports Legend)
Yona was a very talented young man. His batting was out of this world, only comparable to Roger Mukasa in this generation. He was a bet for a century any day when he batted especially for Wanderers.

Godfrey Kivumbi Ddungu ( King’s College Budo OB)
I remember Yona walking past Africa House. Sometimes at break and sometimes at lunch. He always seemed to be walking from the dining hall side to the cricket pitch side. The memory sticks because he was always had a cricket ball in his hands. He would idly throw that ball back and forth from his left to his right hand as he walked. The ball never seemed to settle in either hand for even a few seconds.