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WalesOnline 9th Feb 2015

This article was taken from WalesOnline: 9th February 2015
© 2016 Media Wales Ltd

Tries on debut for Commonwealth Games ‘runaway’ from Uganda now playing for a Welsh rugby club

Benon Kizza and Philip Pariyo playing for St Peters RFC after vanishing from last year’s Scottish games

A Ugandan rugby player who went on the the run after the Commonwealth Games scored two tries on his debut for a small Welsh rugby club.

Philip Pariyo and Benon Kizza have both started playing for Cardiff’s St Peter’s RFC, as revealed by WalesOnline on Sunday.

The two men vanished in Scotland last August amidst rumours they were working in a Glasgow car wash.

Pariyo has already played for St Peters and scored two tries while Kizza was substituted.

The pair failed to fly home to Uganda with the rest of the team at the end of the Games and the Uganda government began an investigation into their disappearance.

The Ugandan sports minister spelled out at the time: “We shall find them and make sure that they return home.”

But after claiming asylum the pair – who had been in the African nations Sevens team – ended up in Cardiff where they met with bosses at the city’s St Peters RFC.

The Uganda Rugby Union has told Wales Online they do not approve of the move.

“We have actually signed them now and they are playing for us,” club chairman Joe Sweeney said this week.

“We have gone through all the bureaucratic procedures and everything and they are signed as St Peter’s players.

“Phillip played last Saturday and scored two tries. Benon was subbed and was on the bench.”

Saturday’s away game against Porth Harlequins represents a sharp contrast with Uganda

The two players spoke to club officials after they were housed nearby.

“Not far from our field is a hotel used to house asylum seekers,” Mr Sweeney said.

“I was approached by Communities First and asked if some of the asylum seekers could use our field to play football.”

Communities First is a Welsh Government body focused on tackling poverty.

“Because we are a community club we said yes,” Mr Sweeney said.

“One of the players approached our coach and mentioned he played a bit of rugby.

“It was noticed he was an extra gifted rugby player and we spoke to him about why he was here.

“It transpired he had been at the Commonwealth Games playing for Uganda and while here he and his mate decided to seek asylum.”

Red tape – then we signed them

St Peters moved to sign them.

“There was a bit of bureaucracy but we have signed them now.”

Mr Sweeney believed the players had been granted asylum for “a period of time.”

A source said: “It’s a tragic story which has turned good.”

The pair decided to stay because of personal and political reasons. They were “petrified” of a “potential backlash against them,” said the source.

When they were found by the club they were barely able to feed themselves.

Philip Pariyo in action on Saturday

“They are now eating better,” the insider said. “They were going a day-and-a-half without food.”

It is understood the pair are missing their families desperately.

“The one guy, Benon, has a sick daughter, back home,” the source said.

“I don’t think the WRU need a big hoo-ha about it. They do not want too many people looking into it.

“They are playing now because the WRU have given the OK.”

Uganda Rugby Union not happy

They are now staying at a house “we have done up for them”.

“We have given them everything for free and got them out of their housing mess,” the insider said.

“They are working for a valeting firm on minimum wage and the people that own the house have been good to us.”

The Uganda Rugby Union was unimpressed by the move.

“They have not sought our authority as a union, they have not been cleared by the union,” Ugandan rugby coach Yayiro Kasasa said.

“What happened is that when we came for the Commonwealth Games we signed a code of conduct in order to come over.

“But they never returned to Uganda, they ran away.

“They remained in the UK and broke our code of conduct.”


Philip Pariyo in action on Saturday

At the time Uganda’s sports minister, Charles Bakkabulindi, said: “We shall find them and make sure that they return home.”

“You have to clear people through International Rugby to play for another club,” Mr Kasasa said.

“But in this case they have found their way to the team they are playing for.”

He had no idea “what reason they gave for staying there”.

“They thought it was right for them to stay and find a better way of living,” Mr Kasasa said.

“We have never said no to anyone who wants to go out of rugby here but they have to seek the audience of the rugby union.”

World Rugby, formerly called the International Rugby Board, declined to comment.

But a source said: “This is likely to be a matter between the URU and the two players. Do they have the right to stop them playing?

“We don’t know.”

At the time of writing neither of the players were available for comment.

Mr Sweeney said: “Their legal people have told them not to speak to the press.”

A Home Office spokesman would not discuss the players’ asylum status.

“We do not routinely comment on individual cases,” he said.


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