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Lorenzo Louis: Jack of two trades

Mon, 14 September 2015 23:09
by Andreas Kathindi

Most athletes by their teenage years will focus on one particular sport in an attempt to excel at one thing rather than being a jack of all trades. 

21-year-old Lorenzo Louis is one of the very few to have been capped at a professional level, both as a rugby and football player. 

Coming straight from a historic victory of Namibian Rugby’s Premier League with the University of Namibia (Unam) rugby club, Louis has just embarked on another gruelling and long season in a completely different sport with the Unam football club. 

Under the mentorship of Ronnie Kanalelo, Louis’ Unam FC formerly known as Ramblers, kick off their season against Civics on 12 September and FNB Orlando Pirates on Sunday. 

However, just a few weeks ago, he was wearing the green of the Unam rugby club, where he scored 15 points to help the club win their first-ever premiership title. 

A fullback in rugby and a left-winger in football might be strange to some, but Louis says it all comes naturally. 

“I come from the location, and in Katutura, playing football in the street is second nature. Everybody does it, but soon afterwards it became clear that I had some talent for it. 

In 2004, I went to the Pionierspark primary school. I had a white friend who played rugby and to fit in with the crowd, I also started playing rugby,” he explained. 

It was during those years that he discovered that he also had a very keen love for rugby, and continued to progress in it. To a degree, he dropped football for some time. 

His progress was such that in his high-school years, he earned himself a scholarly transfer from the Academia secondary school to the Windhoek Technical High School with the aim to play rugby for them. 

In 2013, he missed out on selection for the traveling squad for the International Rugby Board (IRB) junior world rugby trophy held in Chile. 

That decision, like any hot-headed youth at that age, left him heart-broken and he decided to quit the team. 

“I felt very disappointed because I thought I was good enough to go with the team and play. So, I dropped rugby for a while and decided to test myself in football again. I had a trial with Unam FC when it was still called Ramblers, and I happened to make the team,” he continued. 

In January 2014, he became a Ramblers’ player and that season also helped his team to an eighth-place finish in the Namibian Premier League, back when that league only had 12 clubs. 

When Ramblers was acquired by Unam, he found himself bumping into some of his former rugby teammates as the Unam rugby team had their training immediately after the football team. 

“Some of my friends who were playing rugby invited me to train with them, and I obliged. Before I knew it, I was back in the team. The coach really liked me and kept calling me back,” Louis recalls. 

Of course, playing two sports under two different coaches does not come without its complications, and neither of his coaches were thrilled with him playing the ‘other’ sport. 

As he is under contract with Unam FC but not with the Unam rugby club, he is much more obligated to perform the wishes of his football coach. 

But as the rugby season is luckily over until next year, he says choosing between the two is a decision he will have to make when he reaches that bridge. 

However, he would like to continue doing both in the meantime if time permits. 

Louis is also a former paramedic, a profession he had to quit due to the long shifts and the fact that it clashed with his sports. 

Of course, besides the heated stares from his two coaches, playing two sports professionally can take a toll on an athlete. 

He has had several red cards in his footballing career due to his hot temper and aggressiveness, the latter being a direct result of playing rugby. 

“In rugby, they allow you to be a bit more aggressive. You can charge at players, but in football it is absolutely not encouraged. 

So, when I got frustrated while playing football, I would lash out by being aggressive, and it landed me in trouble with the referees,” he stated. 

Another challenging aspect is the fact that while rugby requires some weight on a playing field to make and handle tackles, footballers, particularly attackers like him, have to be fast and light on their feet. 

This part of course also helps him in rugby when scoring tries. 

In the meantime, he still dreams of playing for both the Brave Warriors and the Welwitschias. 

However, he concedes that the prospect of representing Namibia at the Rugby World Cup seems to be a more appealing aspiration as it is more realistic at the moment than representing Namibia at the FIFA World Cup. 

Besides his athletic goals, Louis also dreams of becoming a fire fighter.