KAMPALA. When the 2014 Uganda Commonwealth contingent touched down at Entebbe International Airport from the Glasgow games last August, two faces were missing.
The missing were Phillip Pariyo and Benon Kizza, who both had been part of the 7s rugby side that made the Bowl semifinals, where they fell 35-0 to Canada. Their fashion of disappearance was not something new as in the past Ugandan sportsmen have made it a habit to vanish while on national duty overseas.
After six months, the two turned up playing for St Peters RFC, a suburban rugby club in Wales. Pariyo has of late turned into a local hero scoring tries for fun. The two rent a house in Cardiff and have taken it on as their new home.
How it all began
Pariyo, who was the mastermind of the plot, claims he had plans of returning to Uganda with the rest of his teammates after the games.
“I was told that some people in Uganda say I planned the disappearance even before we set of for Glasgow but that’s a lie,” he said.
“I wanted to come back and be with my family and friends just like anyone else,” One day as Pariyo was enjoying his lunch in the Commonwealth village where all athletes resided, he was approached by Ryan James, a welsh coach and the two instantly connected thus kicking off a friendship that would change Pariyo`s life for good. “He seemed good, friendly and also asked a lot about Ugandan life in general especially rugby. We really talked a lot about many things and he talked me into staying.
“To my surprise, he had been watching all the Uganda games and he had seen me play and I guess that’s why he befriended me in the first place,”
Despite initially being scared, the former Toyota Buffaloes winger admits that it was hard for him to turn down the opportunity after Ryan had promised to sort out everything and make life easier for him if he agreed to stay and play rugby for his side.
“All he begged me was to follow his instructions if I wanted to stay and I just did exactly whatever he asked me. I did it because I hoped things would be better than they were back home.”
Pariyo recalls Ryan asking him to try and convince Kizza into staying as he had also been following his performances on pitch. “He was a friend of mine at first then Kizza, but that all came about by seeing our performance on pitch.”
The 23-year-old also recalls the first weeks after staying as stressful and trying because they were moved from place to place as Ryan was processing their documents.
“At some time we had to be separated to facilitate the smooth running of the whole process. Kizza was taken to London while I stayed in Wales.
Pariyo also told some of his teammates that he was staying back in Europe although he asked them not to reveal to anyone.
“I had people I trusted in the team. I got to them one by one and explained to them the development and I asked them not to tell the coach as chances were that he would sabotage my plans.”
After the dust had settled Pariyo and Kizza finally felt at home and could live normal lives without fear of being hunted by authorities.
“We live normal and happy lives. It’s not true that we had to first seek asylum like a tabloid in Uganda stated. We move freely without restrictions.”
Pariyo has even gone back to school while Kizza has found himself a job with renowned car company Audi, working as sales personnel in one of their warehouses.
Now a student at a construction training college in Cardiff, he’s studying heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration. It is an eight months course.
“I had the chance to work but I chose school because such chances rarely come and the Welsh government is paying my tuition.”
It seems like Pariyo is destined for bigger things as his coach approached him a fortnight ago and broke some good news to him.
“He told me scouts had been monitoring me all this time and that anytime from now I might be taken for trials at Newport Gwent Dragons RFC, a professional rugby union regional team.”
Pariyo does not regret the decision he made as he’s gradually becoming a better rugby player and life has never been more comfortable than it is in Wales.
“I have widened my rugby knowledge by far, the rugby here is faster and structured unlike in Uganda, the number of phases teams go without an error is incredible,” he says
“The peopl have been friendly, respectful and they make me feel loved,”
The winger who spends his free time hitting the gym, walking and touring parks. He promises to visit Uganda for a short time in September.
“I want to come and visit my parents, play some games for Buffaloes and also go for the Safaricom 7s.”
SOURCE: Daily Monitor