I had a one on one interview with Uganda rugby 7s national team captain, Micheal Wokorach and he talks about his achievements, best moments and hardships in the game of rugby.
Who’s Micheal Wokorach and where are you born?
I am called Michael Wokorach. I was born in Kampala Mulago hospital, I have lived in Kampala all my life but am a man who comes from Pakwach district and also some little of Gulu, so I am Nilotic purely from the Luo land.
Take us through your education back ground.
I studied in a school called Kiswa in Bugolobi Kampala for my primary and I resided in Bugolobi for about 20 years.
I joined Kibibi, a moslem school in Butambala, Mpigi district for my high school. I left the school after one year because my parents thought it was far and it being a moslem school yet am a Christian and I joined Merry land for my senior two till I finished my O level.
I did join St Lawrence Cream Land campus for my A level. After my high school I was supposed to join Makerere University but I didn’t get the course I wanted so I had to go Nkumba University where I did my procurement and logistics and graduated in 2012.
When did you realise that you had love for rugby, like what was your starting point?
I was like 12 years because I was in p.7. I used to stay with my aunt in Nakawa flats and my cousins used to play rugby and the pitch was just near it was just a matter of crossing the road so one time I was like let me go watch rugby and I picked interest from there though I was ball boy at that time.
I first kicked my rugby ball in 2002. And the help of my home boys at that time the likes of Kiiza Benon, Opa cheered me up. We did introduce rugby at Merry Land when I was a student and it grew big.
And at St Lawrence my rugby just advanced to another level and I loved the game more. St Lawrence used to play schools competitions and I was captain of the team. I did play for Buffalos club for a short time when I was still a student at St Lawrence and when I got done with high school, I immediately joined Heathens and where I have played for now 14 years.
How do you describe your rugby journey?
I would describe it as an awesome one, I have achieved a lot personally not only with the country but also my club Heathens.
I can say have put myself in the top most where I loved to play and am glad I have moved without getting threatening injuries and am still trying as much as I can to continue playing not until my legs can’t handle.
Which teams have you played for?
I played for Buffalos for a short time and now playing for Heathens. I have never played abroad however I did try going for training there but things didn’t work work out so I am Ugandan based.
Are you optimistic Heathens will be winning this year’s trophy?
Definitely everyone can see this because Heathens has put up a good performance all I can say it’s a done deal.
Where do you see Ugandan rugby in the coming 5 years?
I think Ugandan rugby has really grown and from the achievements we have had, and the Africa Rugby 7s trophy we won on the 24th April 2022 at kyadondo ground, Kampala.
It made us African Champions for the third time. Sponsorships are coming in and the budget for rugby Uganda has been increased from Ugx. 300Million to Ugx.1 billion and with this, in the next five years, Rugby will blow up.
Who was your favorite player that attracted you to play the game of rugby when you were still young?
For my case, I was just dragged to play the game, I didn’t know anything about rugby but I had to learn from my friends Benon and Opa who are still playing the game. They helped me so much that I loved the game and I started to like players; like Mathias Ochwo and the late Sogyi.
Why was they your favorite players?
Benon, was a good full back player with great skills and talent. Mathias who was once captain the national 15s team was also a good player and he did motivate me a lot because every game to him was like a final either on the national team or heathens.
Can you share with us a memory of them playing a particular match ?
I remember while in Nairobi, Mathias played extremely well and he was MVP and the late Sogyi would also put in efforts to make sure Uganda wins.
Which player have you admired most during your career?
My brother, Phillip Wokorach because he does exceptional things on and off pitch at times I even wish I could rewind years so that I can try out some of the things he does, I mean the way he handles his rugby it’s so professional and I feel happy for him and he has done a lot for Uganda.
What do you and Phillip Wokorach share in common because every time we talk about rugby, the two of you pop up?
First of all Phillip is not my blood brother but what we have in common is that we love the game of rugby and we give in a lot of dedication and we believe in God so much because without Him we wouldn’t do what we are doing now and to make sure the country shines.
Uganda just hosted the Africa Rugby 7s and you happen to be team captain, How do you feel being captain?
It’s an honor and to me I feel it’s the best team have played with because these guys are so talented and for the 13 years have played for Uganda, this is the best team I have played with, so much talent not so much experienced but they have much love for the game and on the team, I am the oldest so they see me like their father.
I always advise guys whenever they seek help because this is the future for Ugandan rugby and I pray to God, big doors open for them so they can play some professional rugby in the Europe.
Congratulations upon winning the trophy, how easy was it because you guys made it look easy?
Everyone thought it was easy, but the hard work we put before the tournament it’s the one that made it easy for us but I can tell you it was a hard tournament because we trained for about 3 months to better ourselves for the tournament and I can say the hard work took us where we were supposed to be and by the time of playing games, everyone knew what to do and the fans outside saw that we made it look easy but there was a lot being done behind the scenes.
You guys were in training for 3 months and Phillip came a week prior to the tournament, How did he get up in the set up that fast?
Like I told you, Phillip is an exceptional talent, versatile player he is so by all means he had to be on the team. We thank God for giving us Phillip he’s just a blessing. And by the time he came here he was very fit because he was playing in their league so he was good to go.
Why do you guys call Kenyans the noisy neighbors ?
Fans are always noisy, the way we call Kenyans noisy neighbors it’s the same thing to them at their home and it’s worse because they even abuse us by calling us banana boiled idiots simply because we eat smashed matooke.
Who was the toughest opponent in the tournament?
We all came to this tournament knowing the strongest opponents that is Kenya and Zimbabwe because remember Kenya are the former champions of Africa rugby 7s, they won in 2019 in Cape Town after beating us.
To everyone that watched the games, our semi final game against Kenya was the hardest but we put in a lot of energy to win the game because we knew once we get passed Kenya, Zimbabwe would easily be sorted we knew.
How was the mood in camp like the mere fact you were playing at home with such a huge crowd?
I don’t know how I can thank the fans but the fans played a huge role in driving us forward, have never seen Kyadondo in my 14 years I have played having the amount of fans that came to support us during the tournament.
Just know it was a good mood in camp and Phillip came in with new motivational words from France and boys were geared up to bring it home.
From your observation as captain, which player do you think did put up an outstanding performance and what made him different?
Every player did their role however Aaron Ofoyrwoth had a storm of a tournament. That boy has been criticized so many times that he cost Uganda with many yellow cards and so on.
For Phillip Wokorach of course we expect him to do that and the rest of the guys were also good but my MVP of the tournament was Aaron.
Why do you think the Uganda rugby 7s national team achieved things it did successfully?
I think the way the team was managed, first of all from choosing the right technical team, the union coming up to support us where we needed money, allowances being paid in time and that, those were driving forces for us to win the tournament.
What was your individual highlight in the competition?
My highlight was when Phillip broke and there is a young player we have called Arinaitwe, Phillip broke the line and he was going to score but he called this boy he gave him the ball to score. These are moments that such young boys need.
And then what was your highlight for someone?
The big tackles Adrian Kasito put in, there is a big Kenyan player called Buffa, he’s feared on the World Series because he’s a beast actually they call him a moving buffalo but am glad some small players put up a collective efforts to stop him and one of them being Adrian, that was a star moment for me
For how long have you played on the national team?
I have played for 13 years on the national team and have played with three different generation and this is my 3rd because i am much older than the boys but then it’s good that am still putting up my hand to give services to the country and I can only go till my legs allow. Have represented my country with my biggest heart ever.
The team qualified for both World Cup and Common Wealth games. How many World Cups have you played at?
This is the second World Cup we are going for in Cape Town, the first one was in 2018 after qualifying in 2017 still in Kampala winning against Zimbabwe still. We now want to get used and start qualifying for World Cup every time.
What’s that unique thing Ugandans should expect that the team hasn’t been putting up at the World Cup?
Definitely the Ugandans have seen what boys are capable of, they expect a lot from us and we shall not disappoint them. There is a lot for us to do as we head for World Cup and I pray every one stays in the finest form but before World Cup we have the common wealth games at the end of July.
What’s your biggest achievement in the game of rugby?
Playing at the World Cup and my other achievement was captaining the whole Uganda contingent during the common wealth games in Australia, I was the overall captain of team Uganda.
Many people out there think, rugby is a dangerous game, have you ever suffered any injury that ruled you out of the game?
In 2016, I fractured my jaw and it was a hard moment for me because had to go for a surgery, they had to wire my jaws together with metals because that’s the only way the fracture would heal and I didn’t eat solid food for about six weeks. I was on a liquid diet and I lost about 10kgs during that period and that was the time I thought I should retire from the game. But I talked to a few people and advised me to keep playing the game since I was a young boy then.
Do you regret playing rugby over another game?
Never because it has opened so many doors for me and it has made me a more modified person. I can tell you it’s a best game I ever chose.
If you were the Uganda rugby union president, what adjustments would you want to do to promote the game of rugby in Uganda?
I would want rugby to become professional, in the way that they get stake holders who can invest in the game because rugby is a sport that it’s bringing more trophies and victory to Uganda and it’s being known on the world map.
Which other game would you be playing if it wasn’t for rugby?
I did try out both football and volleyball but things didn’t work out but I think I fell so much in love with basketball. I grew up in Bugolobi and it’s a basketball area.
In your last words , what advise would you give to young kids who are just starting to play the game of rugby and look up to you?
To all the young kids who are trying to engage in this beautiful game, please follow your dream, follow what you want and follow what your heart says.
I know there will be so many obstacles stopping you from playing the game but just keep pushing. Train hard, play the game, be determined and never give up but all in all put God first because it’s God who gives us the strength to play this sport and protects us from the bad injuries and you will achieve what you want.
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