A few weeks back, Kigali was blazing in the glory of hosting some of the finest footballers that Africa has ever produced.
A star studded crew led by Barcelona’s Samuel Eto’O (who this writer considers the best striker in the world) and Didier Drogba were in town and many Rwandan football lovers were literally dying to catch a glimpse of the African stars.
This feeling is a universal one and is boosted by the fact that every game or even profession produces stars that we grow to adore and love like small gods.
Thousands of Rwandans have been joining the rest in the world to mourn Michael Jackson. In the sports world we have so many stars that have broken so many records and become big icons or even brands.
You just have to look at basketball’s Michael Jordan or the big Shaquille O’Neal to know what I am talking about. Tiger Woods for golf while the Williams sisters are queens on the tennis court.
Usain Bolt may seem a new name on the scene but he truly belongs among the greats. We should not forget Muhammad Ali in the boxing ring or Pele and Maradona on the football pitch.
In rugby circles, New Zealand’s Jonah Lomu is still a bigger brand than England’s star kicker, Johnny Wilkinson. In the little known game of cricket (at least in Rwanda), the list is incomplete without names the native of Trinidad and Tobago, Brian Lara.
Brian Lara is a household cricket name considered by many to be the most charismatic cricketer of his era having set so many records and having had a blissful career that bordered on perfection and artistry.
At the beginning of June, he visited Rwanda and Uganda to boost the profile of the game in the two countries.
As one who went to school in Uganda and more so in the premier cricket playing school, Busoga College Mwiri, meeting Brian Lara was a much cherished moment indeed.
Just like most Rwandans would feel having a chat with Lionel Messi or Christiano Ronaldo, I also felt extremely humbled in the presence of Cricket’s finest.
My moment came as a surprise indeed. I left for Kampala with a friend who wanted to tour Kampala. While on the bus, I told my friend that both Lara and I were heading to Kampala on the same day.
My friend being a Jamaican, certainly knew a thing or two about Lara whose international career was with the West Indies team that comprises of countries like Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and other small islands.
As part of our itinerary, we visited the royal tombs in Kasubi. However just before we could get in through the main entrance, a sleek Toyota Land cruiser drove by and stopped.
Then Brian Lara himself stepped out. I was lost for words and for a moment my excitement became a little unbearable.
Soon we were inside the huge hut structure listening to what the tour guides had to say about the culture of the Baganda and the significance of the royal tombs.
Meanwhile, I was now trying to figure out how I would steal a moment with the cricket great. After the explanations from the guide I stood outside the tent and realised that it would actually be possible to talk to him on his way out.
I started a chat with a gentleman who was working as his chauffer. This jolly man informed me that Lara was an approachable person and told me not to fear confronting him.
The moment he stepped out of the tent, I approached him and introduced myself as his namesake and big fan. I asked him why he was not wearing Digicel, the shirt sponsor for the West Indies team and he told me shyly, “That was then.”
This was a veiled reference to his rather early retirement.
I later managed to steal a photo opportunity with the great cricketer who was dressed in his favourite colour, green with neatly pressed black trousers and sneakers.
And by the time he left the tombs, I was more than contented with the meeting; I never bothered to look out for him again in Kampala or even when he came here in Kigali.
In this era of facebook, it was almost impossible for me not to post the photos on my site in an album aptly titled “Brian meets Brian.” Meanwhile, my good friend Oscar Kabatende is still waiting for his moment with Jonah Lomu.