Lots of people never forget their firsts. Their first time driving, their first time picking up a rugby ball, and certainly not their first time donning the national team jersey and going ahead to win a major tournament that had proven elusive for others in the past. This is the story of Beldad Ogeta, currently one of Kenya’s most prolific wingers.
Beldad first picked up a rugby ball at Bungoma High School, after which he joined one of the country’s top clubs, the Menengai Oilers. Back then, the Oilers were a championship team, and his raw power and directness are probably some of the qualities that turned the heads of the coaches at the Oilers.
They probably saw him as a weapon to unlock stubborn defenses. A weapon they utilized effectively even after they gained promotion to the Kenya Cup.
It, therefore, did not take very long for the then Kenya U20 management to notice him, and he was called in for trials. “I did not believe it (the callup) at first, it had always been my dream to play for Kenya at any level, and I knew this was just the beginning,” says Beldad, now an accomplished Kenya Simbas International.
He made it to the training squad, then the final squad that was to take part in the 2019 U20 Barthes Trophy tournament, and eventually, he made it to Paul Odera’s first 15 for the tournament. His tenacious power runs with the ball in hand eventually helping Kenya wrestle the championship away from the Namibians at a packed KCB Grounds. He scored a brilliant try, by the way…
But what made that team tick? “Most of us who made the team had already met in high school games, so it was easy for us to form a connection. We also bonded well given that we had a residential camp at Brookhouse International School just before the tournament.”
According to Beldad, three key things played a role in Kenya winning the coveted U20 Barthes Trophy. “As a team, we really wanted to win, and then the fans came through for us. Of course, playing at home has its advantages. The fans showed up and rallied behind us, which is something that gave us the confidence we needed for those tense moments,” adds Beldad.
“We also wanted to make history. Our coaches kept on motivating us throughout the tournament, and we knew that we could be history makers, at home, in front of one of the most passionate crowds in the world.”
The Junior World Trophy in Brazil
The winner of the U20 Barthes Trophy represents the continent in the Junior World Trophy, but as fate would have it, Beldad could not travel with the team to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as he was nursing an injury he sustained just three days before the trip.
“Despite scoring in the final here in Nairobi, I did not make the trip to Brazil due to an injury I sustained last minute while training with my club. But I was happy that my replacement for that trip was also my teammate at club level, Timothy Omela,” says Beldad.
Very few can claim to have what Beldad has. A burst of power and strength while at the same time leaving his opponents in his wake with his turn of speed. Very few can cause teams problems the way he does, steamrolling defenders at will while also possessing that extra edge when it comes to finishing. Something that has earned him the nickname Laumape after the famous New Zealand midfielder Ngani Laumape.
The injury setback did not shut doors; on the contrary, doors opened so wide that he could not believe it. But not without a lesson or two in patience. “After recovering from the injury, I got called up for a few trials with the Kenya Simbas, first in 2020 and then in 2021, but they did not all materialize due to the global pandemic that was COVID-19.” In 2022, I did not make it the first time, but when the team was heading to South Africa to play in the Currie Cup First Division, I received a call-up.”
Since then, Beldad has grown from strength to strength, even earning a call-up to the final 31-man squad that took part in the Rugby World Cup repechage tournament in Dubai last year.
To the Chipu class of 2023: “Anything is possible. Use the home advantage to the fullest. The fans will show up, and it will be up to you to make them proud. We are celebrating our win four years later; it is always good to be part of history. I wish them all the best,” adds Beldad.
Beldad is now a full Kenyan international, having played for the Kenya Simbas at the Rugby World Cup repechage tournament in Dubai last year. To Chipu class of 2023, Beldad did it, All of You can also do it!
– Article by James Njenga Macharia/U20 Barthes Trophy Media Team