Man At The Center – David Orato.
It is a few minutes to one of the biggest games on the Kenyan rugby calendar, you are just from officiating the Eric Shirley encounter, earlier on in the day you had played and coached at the Nationwide fixture.
As you walk off, looking forward to the post-match pleasantries and like most, waiting for the big derby, here come the technical benches from the two biggest clubs in the country, running after you.
“It is funny how it happened. I was assigned the ESS match against Quins vs Impala at 14:00hrs.Earlier I had played & coached for Bulldogs RC against Swara RC at noon. After the ESS game between Quins II vs Impala II, I was heading for the showers and an ice cold Tusker and ‘mchezo ya meno ‘ was on my mind after playing for 50 min and officiating for 80 min straight.”
“Then I saw the technical bench of Quins and Impala approaching me and thinking, what did I do during the ESS game? Just to be informed that I was appointed to referee the Kenya Cup match.”
“At first I thought it was a joke, but reality hit me once I was given the microphone by a Zuku Tv crew member. A rugby match had to be played and I was the one who was trusted to do the job. The rest happened between 16:00 hrs -17:50hrs at the RFUEA grounds on Saturday 20th 2018.”
This is the story of one David Orato, the man who was at the center of the Ngong road derby this past weekend. A fixture that is the preserve of only the best and bravest of referees, most admit to dread the day they will look at the allocation table and see their names next to this fixture.
Orato however took it in his wide stride, assisted by the Kenya Harlequins and Kenya U19 Team Manager, Jimmy Mnene and Mary (Impala Saracens Rugby Club Academy Lady’s team) he put whistle to mouth. Delivering a game to remember.
Who is this man, David Orato? When I asked when his rugby story started, he bore only the fondest of memories..
“I started playing rugby back in high school (Dagoretti High School) way back in 2001 – 2004 and up to date our team still are the deadliest team ever in terms of win rate.” I am not sure he has ever heard of the mighty Patch Machine of 2006, I digress.
Immediately after high school, he joined Impala in 2006, playing in the ESS side first, before earning promotion to the top flight as a lock and back row, positions he held until 2016. Describing his decade at Impala he had this to say, “I think I was too good that I mostly played as an impact player,” amid laughter, “That gave me the opportunity to assess the game and every time I went in, something special always happened.”
You mentioned that you coach the Dagoretti Bulldogs RC, how did you get into coaching?
“I started coaching Dagoretti High School immediately after completing the same institution. Sadili Oval was my first real coaching experience in rugby, Sports Science, High performance sports coaching and performance.”
“With the assistance and guidance of former Kenyan Head coach Mike ‘TANK’ Otieno and the partnership with Sadili Oval and KRU, it gave me an opportunity to work with Kenya 7s, Kenya 15s, Strathmore Leos and Kenya U19. Just to add, I was the first S&C coach at Impala Saracens RC.”
“After my days with Implala Saracens RC, which I still believe retired from at a very young age,” After the running I saw him do on Saturday, I agree. “It was only fair to share my skills and professionalism and mature the next generation of rugby players, DAGORETTI BULLDOGS RUGBY CLUB was born.”
“We are currently playing at the Nationwide Nairobi Region. Even though we don’t have a sponsor and operate with minimal resources, we have the most dedicated young rugby players who will go places. Am also the rugby coach at FRENCH SCHOOL, Nairobi and immediate Dagoretti High School Coach.”
That is a lot of hats you wear Mr. Orato, so do you have any coaching qualifications?
“Yes I have, not only in coaching but also officiating, I have done all the online and face to face modules of rugby coaching and accredited Level 1 officiating. (Coaching 15s L1 & L2, S&C L1 & L2, 7s L1 & L2, Keep rugby Clean, the list is endless.”
Most if not all of us thought you had a very consistent game, but how was your experience officiating at the Ngong road derby?
“It was an awesome experience and I was honestly honored to do the match. I always believed refereeing was easy, but it actually requires a lot of understanding of how modern rugby is played and how different teams play their brand of rugby. You have to police the laws without interfering in how they want to play.”
And how would you rate yourself? “I have reviewed the whole match, twice and I honestly don’t think I made any decision that could have in any way interfered with the outcome of that match. I have also learned from different feedback from other coaches and the technical staff of both Quins and Impala.”
Based on your experience, would you consider adding refereeing to your multiple caps?
“As I coach in my different encounters with rugby, I also do referee but this was my first ever official match. I am that guy who views any challenge I face as an opportunity to improve my previous best, so challenge accepted.”
We couldn’t let Orato go without asking him about the highlight of the match, the brawl, could he have handled it differently?
“Rugby being a contact sport and this being a derby, all the emotions and passions were expected. The circumstances leading to the brawl were very unfortunate, it happened very fast and got out of control once everyone got involved. The players who were involved were sin-binned and both captains were cautioned. Luckily no damage was done, but players should understand and consider the safety and well-being of themselves and their opponents.”
Finally, a word to KRU and KRRS, we really hope that you two can come to an amicable solution, sooner rather than later, we cannot afford to have a repeat of this. You two cannot do without each other, as we all cannot do without trained and competent referees in this sport, we might as well play turn to playing touch rugby.
To the courageous souls that stepped up to take up the whistle throughout the leagues on match day six, a special mention to Collins Injera, we salute you all and hope that we will not be calling upon you to referee this weekend.