Twenty 20 years since Simon ‘Zungu’ Nsubuga last played for the Cricket Cranes, sport still flows in his blood. A product of Busoga College Mwiri’s talent conveyor belt, Nsubuga became a household name at National Schools Track & Field Championships as a shotput, discus and javelin thrower.
He also managed to throw his hat in many rings as a more than average volleyball, basketball and handball player. But it was at cricket under the tutelage of Justine Ligyalingi, currently the International Cricket Council (ICC) Africa Development Officer, that Nsubuga would become a national hero.
Nsubuga scripted as many towering performances as a captain for the Africa Cricket Club (ACC), as well as Jinja Association of Cricket Clubs (JACC) and Tornado.
At the national level, he was a punishing all-rounder; one that could instill fear in batsmen with the new oily ball (nicknamed Juglar for retiring some ‘poor’ Zambian cricketers), and later conjure up winning scores with beautiful and yet sometimes brutal smacking shots off his blade.
Having been a core part of the Ugandan team that dominated East Africa in the 1990s, Nsubuga can proudly claim to be one of the pioneer players that helped Uganda earn the stripes from an Affiliate to an Associate member of the ICC in 1998.
And despite a stiff fight for numbers on the final 14-man squad, the selectors duly rewarded Nsubuga with a spot on the historic side that played in the 2001 ICC Trophy in Canada as Uganda looked to spread their wings and show the cricketing world how much of the gentleman’s game knowledge they had grasped.
Nsubuga featured in two games against France (22 off 43 & 1/13 in 5 overs) and Israel (0 for 37 in 10 overs) as Uganda stunned the world to finish with a 100 per cent record and a haul of 10 points in a group that also had Malaysia, Argentina and the combined East & Central Africa side, that Uganda used to be part of, at previous global meets.
Uganda terribly veered off the rails in the playoff match; going down by 5 wickets to United Arab Emirates after setting a paltry 154 runs but history had been made as little-known Uganda, then ranked 23rd among ICC Associates, had punched above their weight with a 10th place finish on their debut meet.
The crowds didn’t get enough of Uganda and religiously followed their new darlings in the suave environs of Maple Leafs in Toronto.
Nsubuga hadn’t done his reputation any harm and despite moving on to pursue further education and a career in the UK, he squeezed in time for cricket, featuring for and captaining his local club Long Ashton CC for six years from 2003 to 2008.
From bats to clubs
And as night follows day, Nsubuga lost the legs for sprinting in at 130kph to bowl pace but still had the hands for the swing and golf would be his next sporting love.
“Since I came to the Middle East, I have been playing golf for 10 years,” Nsubuga told this paper in an exclusive chat soon after winning the nett category of the Qatar Open Amateur Championship by four strokes after tallying four-under with scores of 70, 74 and 68 for an aggregate of 212 after 54 holes on February 27 at the Doha Golf Club (DGC) in Doha.
“I have had many small victories, but this was my third main win. I came ninth in the gross category whose winners played in the European PGA event, the Qatar Masters that climaxed over the weekend (March 14).”
Nsubuga plays off a solid handicap 4 but, because of the stormy weather consisting of swirling winds and the general course difficulty, his handicap was adjusted up to nine.
His other two ‘major’ wins also came last year at the Education City Golf Club, where he won arguably the biggest event of the year at the club, The Club Championship, earning him the title of Club Champion Golfer of 2020, which he won in a two-way playoff, and the Crowne Plaza Championship honours at Education City Golf Club.
During his annual visits back home, Nsubuga, who also has a golf-playing brother Mark Nsubuga, has visited several golf clubs in Uganda and his driving distance and accuracy have left many on the course wondering whether he is a professional golfer.
“My driving distance is not far off 300 yards and my fairway accuracy is 60 percent and getting better. My strength is driving distance and putting. But I need to sharpen my short game and handle pressure situations better,” says the 44-year-old affable fellow who has been a common figure in the stands whenever Uganda visits Qatar for the Annual Bilateral Cricket Series.
Sport in the blood
Nsubuga is now a full-time member at the Education City Golf Club and recently played in the Pro-Am event of the Qatar Masters last week, featuring with Spanish pro golfer and multiple winner on the European Tour, the big hitting Spaniard Alvaro Quiros.
For the next seven days, Quiros, a former Dubai Desert Classic champion, will be competing alongside one of our own Phillip Kasozi in the Magical Kenya Open and Kenya Savannah Classic, two fully-sanctioned PGA European Tour events.
One wonders whether Nsubuga will be tempted to take up the swinging game seriously and become a mainstay on tours in the gulf and beyond.
“You know golf is not my career. I am happy in my current role as a director in an international Cost Consultancy Company (Rider Levett Bucknall), helping Qatar to deliver prestigious projects as part of its effort to deliver a successful Fifa 2022 World Cup,” he says.
“I just love sports and I play to cool off, socialise and, of course, win whenever possible. I cannot draw any conclusions about my future.”
Life seems to be one big sport for Nsubuga, hopefully he can play on until his limbs can turn no more.
Full Name: Simon Nsubuga
Nicknames: Zungu, Juglar
Date of Birth: Feb. 25, 1977
Place of Birth: Nsambya Hospital
Home Village: Kasese District
Height: 6ft’ 4inch
Education P1-P4: Namhuga PS, Kasese
P5-P7: Budo Junior School
S1-S3: St Leo's Kyegobe
S3-S6: Busoga College Mwiri
1997-1999: OND, Civil & Building Engineering (Kyambogo University)
2002-2006: Bsc Hons, Quantity Surveying & Commercial Management (University of the West of England, Bristol)
2012-2014: Master of Laws (LLM), Construction Law & Practice, (University of Salford, Manchester)
At a glance
Nicknamed Zungu because of light skin complexion, Nsubuga is a director at Rider Levett Bucknall in Doha, Qatar, working as a Contracts and Cost consultant. He was a powerful and hard-hitting all-rounder.
His Cricket Cranes career saw him selected in the famous side that played at the 2001 ICC Trophy in Toronto, Canada.
He also had a stint in England where he played for Long Ashton CC in Bristol for six years from 2003 to 2008 in the UK. He is now mainly into golf, kitesurfing and fitness.