May 22, 2008
Arrested development
By Robert Madoi

He sat by the dinner table at Imperial Royale Hotel, his green blazer making him look every inch the corporate figure he is. The two trophies that local rugby governing body, URU had given him were competing for space on the table with his bottle of Tusker Malt Lager. Black Label tickles his fancy, but on this evening the man local ruggers call 'Double D' was forced to make do with a lager.

Last week, it seemed like Ugandan rugby’s box-office giant David Dobela alias ‘Double D’ was going to make do with yet another forced change days before Saturday's first leg Elgon Cup match against Kenya at Kyadondo. During the aforesaid dinner at Imperial Royale, Dobela's forehead crumbled into a frown when MTN Heathens forward Scott Olouch was named on the national team, the Rugby Cranes' party. "Have his nationality issues been sorted out?" Dobela, Rugby Cranes' coaching director, asked his sidekick - Yayiro Kasasa.
Kasasa nodded 'yes.'

But if Dobela thought that was the last of his worries, he was wrong. Last week, an avalanche of things from the just-concluded Guinness Rugby League last week snowballed, and threatened to give Rugby Cranes' Elgon Cup prospects a monster hand-off.

This avalanche is what forced national skipper Adrian Bukenya to don a Kobs RFC jersey, jeans and snickers at the Imperial Royale dinner. "I'm supposed to be wearing the national blazer and all, but I chose to wear the Kobs jersey for a reason," Bukenya said, his small eyes bulging behind his spectacles. "We are not happy."
'We' in this case connoted Kobs. But why the heck would Kobs be so annoyed yet they had just won a record 10th league title? Kobs chairman, Arthur Mugweri shed light on why his club was so livid when he sent URU an anger-laced email last week.

In the email, Mugweri cited a number of "indiscretions" that rival club G4S Pirates had committed and yet escaped with impunity. Among the key issues, Mugweri surveyed the match-fixing issue that allegedly had Pirates' chairman George Mbalu ask Nile RFC not to honour their game with Kobs. It is alleged that Mbalu did this to derail Kobs' title hopes then.

Sources say that Mbalu and Pirates got a slap on the wrist after the dicey issue was deliberated by URU's executive committee. Mugweri wants Pirates to "be docked points from next year's league competition", and "[Pirates] officials to be severely sanctioned."

Other issues that Mugweri raised in his email to URU are "the erroneous statistics" that were fashioned to show that Pirates scored more tries than Kobs in the 2008 league.

Kobs is also perturbed by the fact that Pirates recruit young "on the pretext that" they can use the move to the club as a stepping stone to play for the national U-19 team and also "get extra points to [join] Campus."

The issue of using Pirates-leaning referees like Ramsey Olinga ("the assistant coach of Pirates II") and Foxxy Ojiambo to officiate crucial league matches has also left a nauseating taste in the mouths of Kobs officials.
It was against this backdrop that Mugweri decided to do the unthinkable. A painful decision, he said, but one that he needed to do to force URU into action.
"This kind of environment is not suitable for our players to develop and play rugby," Mugweri wrote in his email, adding, "Therefore; until these issues are addressed comprehensively the players of Kobs will not participate in the Rugby Cranes' assignments."

That meant Rugby Cranes risked playing Saturday's game without the services of Bukenya, Victor Wadia, Edmond Tumusiime, Timothy Mudoola, Allan Musoke and Tonny Luggya. All these Kobs players command berths in Rugby Cranes' starting XV.

With fires stoked, URU vice chairman William Blick rushed in with a bucket of cold water. "Let us sit and come up with a way forward. We should be working as a team," Blick wrote back to Kobs.

They did sit down, Sunday. "Yes, we resolved everything. Kobs players have agreed to play," URU secretary Paul Nyangabyaki said. "It was just one of those unfortunate things."

URU is said to have turned to International Rugby Board rules - that forbid players from pulling out of their respective national outfits - in a desperate effort to close the Pandora’s box.

Thankfully, they succeeded. Now, Bukenya says not even that sorry episode will put paid their Elgon Cup chances. "We are good to go," the leggy skipper concluded.