Even though he is named after France national team and Manchester United icon Erick Cantona, MMUST RFC flyhalf Erick “Wokos” Cantona wants to retire a rugby legend.
Wokos (short for Wokorach) as his peers like to refer to him owing to his game and skills similarity to Uganda and former Kabras player Phillip Wokorach has risen to become a key figure in the heart of the varsity-side halfback department.
The students have managed three wins out of eight in just their second season of top flight rugby, and Cantona is in race for this season’s top point scorer.
Like the Manchester United legend, Erick Cantona grew up playing football. He even represented his school Kanga High in numerous Under-16 football tournaments before finally switching to rugby. He recalls it was his friend Timothy Ochieng, who introduced him to the game.
“My rugby journey started in 2016 at Kanga High school in Migori County. My best friend Timothy Ochieng was the one who introduced me to the game. He would always drag me to the rugby field every time he went to training sessions and that’s how the interest grew and I fell in love with the game,” he recalled.
His football background quickly saw him assimilated to the halfback unit of his high school team due to his kicking proficiency, playing at flyhalf or fullback, the two positions that he currently can play.
Cantona admits his biggest fear, owing to his little body frame back then, was the scare of getting injured in the game as he was starting up. His parents also, did not conform to the idea of their son involvement in a physical game.
I was a little boy and rugby was for the big boys. I was always concerned with this and it made me scared of getting injured. Also, my parents felt like it was going to occupy most of my time and I couldn’t focus with my studies so they did not really like the whole idea,” he said.
At Kanga, Cantona admits he received close to zero accolades and trophies but this did not taint his ambitions, zeal and commitment for the game. His memorable moments he said, was everytime he stepped onto the field.
“It was always an honor every time I stepped into the field in the school jersey. This is my most memorable moments of my high school life. It made me who I am today,” he said.
JOINING MMUST RFC
He immediately joined Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology after high school in 2019, having qualified to pursue a degree in Biochemistry. This was how his MMUST RFC chapter came into being.
Then featuring in Champiosnhip, the second tier league, Cantona confirmed it was the competition in the MMUST Rugby team that attracted him to the side. This, he said, grew to become his driving force.
“MMUST was my first club fresh from high school. I joined the team after being placed by KUCCPS to pursue a degree at the university. That is how I learnt about the team and at it has been fun ever since. There’s a lot of quality in the team and you just have to be at your best to be in the playing unit,” he said.
At MMUST, Cantona has had equal shares of both his best and worst moments. The 26-8 loss to Kisumu RFC in the 2019 KRU Championship playoffs, goes down as his worst moment, while promotion to Kenya Cup for the first time after downing Mean Machine back in March 2021 is his best.
HOW COACHES AHAYA, ASILA HAVE IMPACTED CANTONA’S RUGBY CAREER
Cantona owes his growth in vast progress in rugby to both his coaches, Dr. Ochieng Ahaya and John Asila, terming them as “instrumental” in his last four year stay with the side.
“They saw the potential in me and helped me get the best out of it. They are the reason I am the player I am today,” he said.
To him, nothing stands above representing the national side Kenya Simbas in his list of his dreams. That, he said, is his biggest target, together with going international and playing for any of the South African Super Rugby side.
Locally, Cantona is a big fan of Kabras back Kevin Kegan and his fellow team mate Elvis Amunya. Internationally, he admires and looks up to South Africa and flyhalf Handre Pollard, Together with England and Harlequins halfback Marcus Smith.
“Kevin Keegan’s relaxed style of play and his composure with ball in-hand is always phenomenal. Elvis Amunya is also another player I look up to because of how he attacks off the fullback position and he has played the father figure role for me in the team. Internationally, I adore Marcus Smith for the flair with which he plays and Handre Pollard for how he commands the game at flyhalf.” He said.
When not playing rugby, Cantona loves a quiet afternoon of listening to music and dancing. To his fans he says, “I would like to thank you all for the support and for the love. I promise you more good performances. To my fellow young players coming into the game I urge you to keep the grind and the hard work because at the end of the day it’ll pay off.”
Erick Cantona Fact File
Name: Cantona Eric Ouko
Age: 22yrs old
Playing position: Flyhalf/Fullback
Course: Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry
Year of study: 4th year
Favorite meal: Fried chicken and fries