Born for the pitch – meet rugby star Arthur Owira

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020 00:00 |
Arthur Owira fends off another player during a tournament. Photo/Courtesy

Shujaa winger ARTHUR OWIRA, 28, is working his way back to the national team, two years after a traumatic femur shaft fracture he suffered while playing in Australia. His younger brother ALBERTO OWIRA, an upcoming rap artist who goes by the stage name Golden Kid or ‘Ng’amarach tells us more about him

It has been two years since the Kenya men’s rugby Sevens team, Shujaa winger Arthur Owira fractured his right femur bone when the team faced Zambia in the Commonwealth Games’ group stage in Gold Coast, Australia.

 The injury was so bad that the television director covering the match wouldn’t replay the scene on the huge screen mounted at the stadium.

It is 15 months after the incident that Arthur played his first competitive match during the Kabeberi sevens in July 2019 at Kinoru Stadium.

The incident robbed Kenya Sevens of a dedicated and talented winger who was just getting started.

However, the 28-year-old is working his way back to the national team after recovering from the painful injury.

Arthur’s younger brother, Alberto Owira remembers too well the fracture that pinned the winger in bed for months, denying him great pitch moments and how he beat the injury so fast, likening it to his childhoold life where they knew him as one who overcame challenges so fast.

“Arthur is the fourth born in our family of six and was a fun loving kid, an attributed he has carried on into his adult life.

He is tough on me too, as you would expect of a big brother. Right from childhood, Arthur loved sports and physical fitness.

I never doubted the path he would take after growing up. I knew, as sure as sun rise he would somehow be involved in sports and he chose rugby while in high school,” says the 26-year-old Alberto .

Passion in sports

He says his brother had a normal childhood, cheeky, and always getting into trouble with his brothers in their far flung Nyawita village in Kisumu town. 

And just like any young boy in the village, he played football. Arthur, however, paid more attention to what was happening in local and international sporting scenes, than did the others.

Alberto Owira, Arthur’s brother. Photo/Courtesy

He would barely miss the sports bulletins or fail to read a sports story in the local dailies.

 A former Kenya Harlequins player, his rugby journey can be traced back to little known Ramba Boys High School in Siaya county where he was also a 400 metres runner.

He tried his hand at club rugby at his home’s Kisumu RFC, as his school team was not as good, but never made it to the team.

 Believing in his talent, his father brought him to Nairobi where, in 2010, he landed at Harlequin under the then coach Edward Kinyany and Charles Cardiovilis.

He was handed his debut match in an Eric Shirley final match, which proved to be too big a stage for the novice as his side went on to lose to Homeboyz RFC.

 “He was good at rugby and when his trials in Kisumu yielded no playing chance, he moved to Nairobi where our father helped him land a club.

At first, my parents wanted him to get a job after school to take care of himself. While we, his siblings, were excited to see him playing, my parents were not happy because of the nature of the sport.

However, he managed to win dad over. However, our mother, to date, has never watched him play,” narrates the rapper.

 Arthur rose from his disappointing debut and learned from his then teammates who were rugby stars.

Among them were Sydney Ashioya, Victor Sudi, Patrice Aguda and his mentor Willy Ambaka. 

By 2012, the Kenya Commercial Bank RFC player  had captured the attention of rugby lovers in the country. He bagged the ‘Most Promising Player and Harlequin’s Player of the Year Awards that season.

 At the time, Arthur was staying with his father at a hotel in Nairobi’s River Road.

The two were renting out a room, alongside five others, as he shared a bed with his father for Sh200 a night’s sleep.

He would later stay with friends until 2013 when he managed to make enough money off playing to afford his own place.  

Rise to the top

 Being in that uncomfortable situation of living in a hotel and being housed by friends was the driving force for Arthur to work on reaching the club’s paid ranks so he could be his own man.

After a stellar performance in the 2012 rugby season, the 28-year-old made his national team debut and first international try against Russia at the Cape Town Sevens in December 2017. 

 Arthur’s injury at Gold Coast in 2018, as Shujaas faced Zambia in the Commonwealth Games’ group stage, was scary for the family.

Top on the player’s mind as he lay on the ground waiting for help to arrive was the opportunities that had just gone with the wind after such an injury.

Alberto admits that was the first time he was seeing his brother injured in his eight years of club and international rugby. 

“If he had been injured before, he had managed to keep it from us. We had to be there for him in his recovery journey that took 15 months. I have to admit the idea of convincing him to quit was not farfetched.

 However, he was determined to get back to doing what he loves. Two months after the surgery, he had ditched the crutches and was doing short runs as part of his physiotherapy routine.

With such determination, we had no choice, but to support his recovery journey,” adds Alberto.

 The Kenya Cup champions’ player missed out on a professional deal to Sweden due to the injury, however, he still dreams of playing either in the USA or Australia in the near future.

More on Lifestyle