Michaelhouse first team hockey and soccer captain, Head of House… Mubeezi Lubinga has a great personality, people are naturally drawn to him, but he backs that people ease through his deeds. Let’s find out more…
Mubeezi, great to have you on KZN10.com! You have spent your high school years at one of South Africa’s flagship educational institutions. What has your time at Michaelhouse taught you, what have been the biggest takeaways that you feel will stay with you well into the future?
Featured image: Personality and example powers the Mubeezi Lubinga brand of leadership.
“Thank you, Sir, I am honoured and privileged that you asked to interview me. To answer your question, aside from the etiquette – the manner in which one must conduct oneself in society – I have had the pleasure of meeting such incredible people here at Michaelhouse.
“There are many talented boys at Michaelhouse and what I have taken away from them is: If you want to achieve something, it is possible, as long as you truly believe it. It sounds like a cliché – and it is something we all hear – but it is so true, and it was only after meeting and watching extraordinary sportsmen, pupils and musicians that I actually came to believe it.
“In fact, had I learnt this cliché was true earlier in life, my life at this point may well have been very different, in the sense that I would have chased my dreams with more intent, knowing I could actually achieve them.”
Well, you have done pretty well as it is Mubeezi, so mark it down to the learning curve that (unfortunately or perhaps fortunately) never ends.
So, as the Michaelhouse first team hockey and soccer captain: What’s it like being the go-to man, the ‘leader of the pack’?
“I like to think that my enthusiasm and passion brings out the best in my team-mates.”
Mubeezi is Head of Farfield House – at Michaelhouse there are 8 Houses so 8 Heads of House, with the Head Prefect above them. Each House has House Prefects as well.
So, one of the school’s leaders, Mubeezi started the hockey season and his role as first team captain at centre link before moving to his preferred position of centre back. “I enjoy centre back because I like the defensive responsibilities the position brings but I know, too, that I can offer value on attack.”
A massive Manchester United fan, on the football field Mubeezi’s role is a little different: “I play left wing-back. It enables me to attack down the wing but I do have to get back and defend. I add value to the team by putting in crosses and being a target in the box for corners and set-pieces.”
Mubeezi has certainly caught the eye of hockey selectors over the years and had he been available for the KZN Inland U18 side this year my gut feel suggests an SA Schools A or B cap would have been a distinct possibility. Mubeezi also wasn’t available for soccer selection – matric preliminary exams take precedence in this young man’s mind.
There has been a steady progression through the ranks. KZN Inland U14A selection was followed by Inland U16A for two years and U18A last year. Mubeezi was also selected for the SA U16B side while playing in that age group.
“I loved playing the fast-paced hockey at Interprovincial Nationals and it was always one of the highlights of my hockey season. Unfortunately, I have never won an IPT. In the KZN Inland sides I played in, we finished runners-up in the U14A age group, third and second in my two U16A years and second last year, for the U18As (Inland lost the 2017 final to Western Province on the Kearsney College Astro). When I played for South Africa U16B we played Namibia and two other South African sides.”
In the initial stage of his high school soccer career, Mubeezi represented Midlands and then gained selection for KZN U14 (in football there is no KZN Inland and KZN Coastal but as in rugby the greater Pietermaritzburg and Durban regions are combined for national tournaments).
KZN Inland U14 hockey selection at that time meant that Mubeezi had the rare opportunity to experience both the hockey and soccer vibe at national tournaments – and the hockey experience is the one that sticks more in his mind.
“The soccer experience was much different to that of a hockey IPT and I have to admit I enjoy the whole vibe and experience of a hockey IPT more.”
Midlands U16 selection was the next step on the Mubeezi Lubinga football journey. As with hockey, Mubeezi did not make himself available for selection at a higher level this year.
So how many years and how many matches has Mubeezi played first team hockey at Michaelhouse and does he feel his game has developed since the debut match?
“I’ve played first team hockey for two years, and have played around 36 games if I am not mistaken. My game has evolved almost completely since my debut. I feel I have grown as a player, adding far more value to the team over time, a more complete player.”
Unsurprisingly (I was privileged to be in the right place at the right time – it was a wonderful occasion) there is no hesitation from Mubeezi as to his most memorable hockey game in the Red and White colours of Michaelhouse.
“It has to be this year’s 4-2 victory over Hilton on Aitken’s Astro, for the simple reason that we hadn’t beaten them in two years and it was my last Hilton/MHS on our home Astro.”
On the soccer front, at the time of writing Mubeezi had around 21 first team games under the belt in this the second of his two-year stint in the side. “My influence in the team has changed a bit – more a defensive role than previously, while as a senior player there is more accountability.”
And yet again it’s a Hilton/Michaelhouse that stands out. In this case, as Mubeezi’s fondest soccer memory.
“My most memorable game for Michaelhouse would have to in grade 10 be when we (U16A) beat Hilton 7-1 on Meadows. There was a powerful synergy amongst us that day and that was my best performance in a football match… and it was even more significant in that it was against Hilton.”
Having watched quite a few of their matches, I felt that the Michaelhouse first hockey team had a pretty good season but at the same time an uneasy feeling persisted that it could have produced more. Would Mubeezi agree?
“Our season this year was definitely an improvement on last year but I feel we could’ve done a little bit better with the team we had. When we travelled to Uplands for the ISHF (Independent Schools’ Hockey Festival) we did have one or two games which I feel we could’ve done better. But the biggest disappointment was our 5-0 loss to St John’s at Michaelhouse. That just was not our day.”
Unfortunately a chance for KZN10.com to watch the Michaelhouse firsts soccer lads of 2018 hasn’t become a reality as yet. So what sticks out for Mubeezi this year and what will be recalled when he catches up with his soccer schoolmates on Old Boys’ Days in the future?
“We have had a good year so far. The St David’s tour was a disappointment but at the time of our discussion here, we remain unbeaten in KZN after beating, Northwood, Kearsney and Hilton.
“We have the Maritzburg Cup coming up after our half-term break (this BIG Weekend in PMB and Midlands soccer takes place at Howick High from Friday, August 24 to the Sunday, August 26 Finals Day) and then we finish the season against Westville, which could well turn out to be our toughest game.”
So who are the Michaelhouse firsts hockey players that Mubeezi feels have had a particularly good year?
“The first name that springs to mind is Ben Rebeck. He had a spectacular season and I cannot wait to watch him play next year in his 3rd year of 1st team hockey. In terms of discipline and determination, Thabang Moephuli and Dom Leslie are two people who displayed these values through and through – and Angus Ferguson, being the top assister, had a memorable final season too.”
As with hockey, I think it’s fair to say that a soccer team is only as good as the team dynamics. Given the aforementioned, as far as firsts soccer is concerned, and granted that the season is by no means over, who – so far – are the players in Mubeezi’s team that he feels are having enterprising seasons?
“Levin Kamau and Thabo Dlamini are both having unreal seasons and it is no surprise Thabo was selected for KZN. Our team is much younger this year but the grade 11’s have really stepped up to the plate and that is one of the main reasons we remain unbeaten in KZN.”
Given his love for both, this is a BIG question: Which of hockey and soccer does Mubeezi prefer? Or is that an unfair question – do they each have their own attractions?
“In all honesty I have grown to prefer hockey over soccer. Nevertheless, each sport has its attractions.”
Mubeezi, as mentioned, I have yet to see you play soccer but what struck me in the numerous House firsts hockey matches I was privileged to watch this year, you exhibit a remarkably cool, composed temperament – and lead by example. Traits that are inherent in your make-up and no doubt iterated on the soccer pitch.
Further, you possess the calling card of all outstanding players – unhurried, measured in your actions… which, as far as is possible – given the inevitable “unforeseens” that make sport such an attraction – bring about the desired intentions. Have you always had these enviable characteristics in your game or has it been something you’ve worked on, were you once a bit of a hot-head (lol) on the park?
“I have never been a hot-head but I have played in many teams with hot-heads!” Mubeezi chuckles.
“Seriously, I feel I always had the characteristics within me that you mentioned, but they really came to the fore towards the end of last year. I guess the more I play and train, the more confident I get – and that confidence allows me to play the game at my pace, enables me to take control. It also allows me to keep my cool in difficult situations during games.”
So at what age did Mubeezi start playing soccer? And which coach has had the most influence in growing his game – and how?
“I have been playing soccer all my life but for the first time competitively when I was about six years old. This was for a football club in Polokwane. The coach that had the most influence in growing my soccer is probably Michaelhouse’s Mr Ian Crawford. Mr Crawford simply gave me the freedom to express myself – and that season with him was my most successful season to date.”
When did the hockey journey begin? “I started playing hockey when I was 10 at Clifton Nottingham Road. “Our Michaelhouse first team coach Mr (Richard) Snowden has had the most influence in developing my game. I think it’s because Mr Snowden was meticulous with his appraisals and he wanted to see my game flourish – and that just encouraged me to get better and improve everywhere I could.”
Mubeezi’s next answer made me smile! “I always felt my worst games happened when my older brother, Edgar, was watching! Simply because I felt under pressure for some weird reason! However, my younger brother (2018 first team and Old Mutual iWYZE Hockey Nationals U16 Player of the Tournament) Mugabi was a massive boost for me, as well as my mother and my U16A coach, Mrs (Tanith) von Mayer. The memorable wins were infinitely better with the support of these people.”
Mubeezi Lubinga, the Head of Farfield House as Michaelhouse, is planning to study at UCT next year. And in terms of sport? “I am undecided on playing soccer competitively, I am leaning towards playing it socially. On the other hand, I do plan on playing Varsity Cup hockey, so my competitive hockey career will continue.”
It’s been a pleasure talking to you, Mubeezi. Anything else you would like to add?
“Thanks again, Sir. There is a highlights video of our hockey season, which is available on YouTube at the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jI9UBFpjt9E if you or anyone reading this interview is interested.”
Thanks Mubeezi, I will make a point of watching it. Best wishes for your grade 12 exams and for what lies ahead in a future that offers you so many possibilities.
Michaelhouse has done you proud. You have done Michaelhouse proud.
For more about Michaelhouse the school, check out https://www.michaelhouse.org/