The Sunday Mail
Deputy Sports Editor
SO, what is in a name?
Identity or choice, or a combination of the two?
Well, for Matthew Oworu, the answer to this question is a bit more complicated than many could ever fathom.
For starters, as the 20-year-old rugby starlet puts it: “A lot of people spell and pronounce my name with a U after the W and that is wrong. It is spelt Oworu and pronounced oh-wo-ru.”
Born in Canada to a Nigerian father, Akins, and a Zimbabwean mother Maria Oworu, Matthew owes a lot of what he is today to the three countries.
Today he is on the cusp of a promising rugby career, albeit in and for Canada.
For a better understanding of the complexities of this young rugby talent, one would have to start in the present, go back to the beginning and work themselves up again.
Oworu is a fringe rugby player in Canada, having recently been selected into the probables squad, with word going round that he has impressed so far.
The young player was born in Canada on July 29, 2000.
He started his education at St Jerome Elementary, before his parents made the decision to relocate to Zimbabwe.
It is in Zimbabwe that the young Oworu was first introduced to the sport, with his Nigerian big frame attracting the rugby coach at Lewisam Primary School in Chisipite.
“Rugby was not my first choice as I grew up in Calgary, and the sport had not really picked up at the time.
“Rugby was mostly played in Vancouver, and so my brother James and I played basketball and a little football.
“When I moved to Zimbabwe, I think in the fifth grade, my Physical Education (PE) teacher took one look at us (Matthew and James) and invited us for rugby practice,” he said.
It took a while for the two to warm up to the sport, but once they did, the Oworu siblings shot into the spotlight.
Going on to move to Churchill, the younger Oworu soon found himself in the Bulldogs first team, and then Zimbabwe’s age-group teams between 2017 and 2019.
He then played for Zimbabwe Under-18 Craven Week in 2017 and 2018, captaining the side in the latter year.
His brother James received some Zimbabwe Under-18 and 20 national team call-ups.
Matthew Oworu played for the Pitbulls’ Under-21 side and thrust himself into the reckoning for a future Sables call-up.
Sadly, it was not to be, as the 20-year-old opted for Canada instead.
“The move to Canada wasn’t really much of a choice, as that is where I was born.
“The plan was originally for us to go and learn in the Zimbabwean school system and then move back to Canada for university.
“My citizenship was what really drove the move more than anything else,” he said.
“In as far as the Sables’ prospects were concerned, it was just a matter of bad timing. Prior to this (Canada), I never went to a Sables or Cheetahs call-up. I was called once, but turned it down for educational reasons.
“I wanted to focus on school and, sadly, when I did finish, I then moved back to Canada.”
While Mathew Oworu still views basketball as his first love, with the late Kobe Bryant being his favourite, he is ready to give rugby the good old college try.
On his recent call-up, Oworu said: “My reaction to the Canada squad call-up was more of excitement more than anything else.
“This is the highest level of training that I have ever been exposed to, and it has given me a sense of responsibility to do the best I can.
“It has been a rapid learning curve for me, as a lot of information, and not enough time, is being thrown my way.
“I am just taking one day at a time and learning as much as I can,” he said of his new experiences in the Canada camp.
He targets to make it into the Canadian squad for the 2023 World Cup, graduate from university and secure himself a sustainable professional contract in one of the world’s top leagues.