Loving rugby to the bits

You will find them at every Protector Heathens and Uganda Rugby Cranes game blowing their vuvuzelas and cracking all sorts of jokes. How they came to be known as local rugby’s most vocal fans is an interesting bit.

Edward Kiwanuka and Eric Wabwire are the real definition of ‘fans’. With their physique, you would actually mistake them for rugby players. But they are not.

How it all started
Ten years ago, Kiwanuka was a football coach for Mukono Under-14, a youth team. At right about the same time, Wabwire was a prospective boxer and Martial artist, until he quit after sustaining several injuries. However, their love for rugby started in 2007. Kiwanuka says it was by ‘accident’.

“One day, I was passing by Kyadondo Rugby Club. The place was branded because Heathens was going to play against Kobs which is the country’s biggest game. I decided to watch the game. It turned out to be enjoyable and I also liked the place,” says Kiwanuka.

The rest is history. He started frequenting the place to watch Heathens’ training sessions and gradually became their fan.
For Wabwire, matters of the heart drove him to the game.

“There was this girl I liked. She used to like hanging out at Kyadondo Rugby Club. I started going there with hope of getting her but failed. I just found myself liking the place and got stuck there to date.”

More than just fans
In 2007, they first heard that rugby fans were going to Nairobi for Elgon Cup, they decided to join in. They followed the Rugby Cranes to Nairobi after digging into their pockets. But there were few Ugandan fans hence the team suffered a lack of support and ended up losing.

On return, they decided to rally behind Heathens and mobilised fans to travel with the Rugby Cranes during the annual Elgon cup played between Uganda and Kenya on a home and away basis.

After losing the 2007 Elgon Cup away leg in Nairobi, the two thought the team needed more fans in the stands.

From then, whenever they are going for a game in Kenya, Kiwanuka and Wabwire collect Shs250,000 from each Cranes supporter willing to tag along.
“Approximately 50 fans respond to their plea. We then top up the collected money with Shs2m. We use this money to hire a bus and stock it with drinks to keep our colleagues engaged while on the journey,” says Wabwire.
Financial contributions
As diehard fans of Heathens, their support does not just stop at blowing vuvuzelas. EandE also chip in with some financial support. “For instance, if there is a player that Heathens want to buy, we collect some money from fellow fans and the club tops up on that. We also organise fundraising games to facilitate the club’s welfare, on top of that, we print Heathens T-Shirts which we sell during the games and give the proceeds to the club,” says Kiwanuka.
Best and worst moments
For Wabwire, every time Heathens gets onto the pitch, nothing beats the feeling he gets.

Kiwanuka’s best moment was in Nairobi during the 2012 Elgon Cup at RFUEA Grounds, Ngong Road.

“It rained heavily and the fans deserted the pavilion looking for shelter. I stayed at the touchline with an asthmatic gentleman.

Although we lost the game, I left a happy man, owing to that man’s passion. Seeing him risking his life for the love of Uganda Cranes just washed away all the pain of losing,” recalls Kiwanuka.

Heathens’ loss to Crocs in the Protector Super Series final at Kyadondo early this year remains Wabwire’s worst moment as a rugby fan. “We all thought we would win. In my view, David Kirabira, the referee, sided with Crocs and we ended up losing. My brother (Kiwanuka) attempted to attack the referee but we restrained him. That loss still haunts me.”

But supporting rugby has its dares. According to EandE, Ugandan rugby fans do not give it their all. “Fans are not as passionate. This is not good for the players. When they see us cheering and dancing for the team, they just think we are mad men making noise,” explains Wabwire.
One of Kiwanuka’s future plans is being a Heathens board member.

Both Kiwanuka and Wabwire rate Heathens’ fullback Phillip Wokorach higher than any other player locally. “The boy is a joy to watch, he always entertains with his dazzling runs and sidesteps,” admits Kiwanuka.

Beyond rugby
As a result of supporting, Kiwanuka was the obvious choice to feature in a Protector Condoms aert. Protector, being the sponsors of Heathens, could not look any further for a better choice. For the same reasons, he was also selected to audition in an upcoming mini-movie on HIVAids awareness that is to run on Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC).
For Wabwire, most of the rugby fans go to his car garage, Caesar Motor Garage, for mechanical repairs, which he all owes to his involvement in rugby activities.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor