What you need to know:
- Robert Madoi says: While sterner tests lie ahead, Uganda’s No.10 can hold his head high for now.
One of the most lovable aspects of Ivan Magomu’s ascent is how haphazard it has been. The idea that sport is broadly supportive of its flawed geniuses refuses to go away entirely.
Call it a proverbial second bite at the cherry or – more pointedly – shot at redemption, sport for the most part refuses to be a tale of missed opportunities. It does not punish us according to our iniquities.
You will remember the mercurial cricketer Kenneth Kamyuka bouncing back from off-field transgressions that cost him the national under-19 captaincy. He went on to write in broad brushstrokes some – if not the vast bulk – of Ugandan cricket’s greatest chapters.
Magomu’s story, in all its richness, emotional highs and lows, is testament to the dividends that are realised once a particular sport – the hand egg in this case – remains faithful to an accommodating approach.
There are various moments in his career when this hardly straitjacket fly-half committed self-harm with conscious volition.
He made a habit of chafing on the nerves of his colleagues and observers alike. It soon became clear that those Magomu had hurt wanted nothing to do with him.
Most observers did not shy away from stating what appeared obvious: it was curtains for this mercurial talent. A few others however held that while rugby turned its back on Magomu, with a hint of impatience, all would be forgiven. They were right on the money.
Last weekend, Magomu captained Uganda as it scored a convincing 53-12 win over Ghana in a Rugby Africa Cup at Kyadondo Rugby Grounds. Many that watched the Pool C encounter came away with the belief that the new Rugby Cranes captain has matured in thought and deed.
After failing to convert Faraji Odugo’s early try and minutes later find touch, change was the only recourse. At least in the book of every dispassionate observer. Thankfully, this was an assessment with which Magomu himself swiftly concurred.
That act of selfless devotion showed just how the No.10 is willing to match the scale of a challenge with maturity. He had the presence of mind to know that throwing toys out of the pram would be counterproductive. Instead, he served the Rugby Cranes cause with strident fidelity.
You need not to wait for history to judge a captain who vents anger at personal tribulations a colossal failure. Rugby is a game of fine margins. It can be quite punishing on reputations. If a captain fails to – pun intended – think on his feet, the prospect of things going south becomes all the more apparent.
This is a fate that befell Asuman Mugerwa during his short-lived stint as Rugby Cranes captain. In one particular Test match against Kenya in 2019, Mugerwa persisted with Philip Wokorach as kicker even when it was conspicuous that the talented fullback had not come with his kicking boots.
Uganda mirrored Mugerwa in his lack of direction and substance by losing at the hands of not just Kenya but also Zimbabwe.
Ghana, of course, cannot be mentioned in the same breath as Kenya and Zimbabwe. Magomu is no doubt acutely aware of this. The adjustments he nevertheless mustered up last weekend show that he will grow in his new role as national captain.
Besides the switch in kicking duties, he did not allow the absence of a 16th man to mine destructive impulses. Many observers had expected him to have a stinker seeing as his playing style appears to derive a powerful thrust from the roar of fans. He did the basics at a turn, albeit in a somewhat stuttering backline.
While sterner tests lie ahead, Uganda’s No.10 can hold his head high for now.
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