OPEN LETTER TO SPORTS CS
EDITORIAL OPINION: By Zack Oloo
Amb Amina Mohamed
Cabinet Secretary for Sport, GOK
Dear Ambassador Mohamed,
Allow me to address you through this public note on an issue of great importance to the rugby fraternity.
A little more than halfway through the season Shujaa, a name coined by David Round-Turner for a Safari Sevens festival side, is poised for relegation from the top tier league of the HSBC World 7 Series. It will take a miracle to save them and one begins to question the wisdom of the men and women in charge of the game and the decisions that have been made under the bandwagon of “shortage of funds”, to get us to the brink of oblivion.
To recap, the current Shujaa team is an amalgam of new faces with no international experience whatsoever – making them fodder for the opposition. This situation was brought about by a disagreement between the Union and the veteran Shujaa players who all then opted out of the team. The Govt did little to help when your predecessor, Echessa, clearly out of his depth, entered the fray like a bull into a China shop and completely scattered any chance of reconciliation.
I have watched the ongoing horror show by the “new lads” under Paul Murunga with dread as to how it will end - in tears for all!
The lads are talented but are not up to the requirements of what has become a modern day gladiatorial contest of brain and brawn where hoary veterans mix with supremely talented newbies to secure success as evidenced by most of the successful sides like the All Blacks, the Blitz Bokke, Golden Eagles and the Fijians. Our freshers are clearly not up to the task and there is only one way to save the team from relegation – recall the big boys, the heavy hitters!
A quick look at what relegation entails will help us take a considered view of the matter. Firstly, Kenya has been a core member of the HSBC 7s Series elite contest from inception in 2009-2010 and has never missed a round. As a result Kenya has been recognized as a Rugby 7s world power and the Kenyan Rugby fraternity and indeed Kenyan public has come to expect Shujaa to perform to lift the country out of its perennial political and socio-economic funk.
The win in Singapore in April 2016 was received with an outpouring of joy and pride and marked one of the rare occasions when any team other than Athletics Kenya wins anything on the World stage. The boys were widely feted by all including the President and unfortunately spoilt and fattened for the slaughter.
Relegation from the HSBC 7 Series is no small matter and a history of the subsequent fate of relegated teams is a stark chronicle of despair - it takes great effort to secure promotion. The cost of relegation is especially high if you consider the knock-on effects of sponsors fleeing and the effort required for promotion.
Shujaa would face the Qualifying Tournament in Hong Kong that in 2018/ 2019 fielded Japan, Uganda, Chile, Georgia, Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong, Germany, Zimbabwe, Ireland, Cook Islands, and Jamaica - a trial by fire! The path back for Kenya, if relegated, is fraught with obstacles and hurdles and would require team restructuring for optimal performance which is an euphemism for “bring back some of the veterans”!
It is imperative that KRU descends from its perch on Mt. Olympia and speaks to the Rugby fraternity, including the errant veterans, with a view to saving Shujaa from relegation. The twin medium to long-term objectives of the summit should be to once and for all convince rugby players in Kenya that playing for Shujaa, or any other national side, is first and foremost an honour and that fortunes shall not be made whereof.
Second, that we can improve the game for the good of all, and in particular the players, if we pull together. This will require that KRU Board members with suspect reputations/ records stay away.
The next round of the HSBC Series, the Hong Kong 7s to be held on April 6 2019, is the biggest and most prestigious event in the World 7s Series calendar. I wish to call upon you madam to convene an urgent meeting comprising all past Shujaa players [last five years], three man representation from KRU, Ministry reps, three Rugby Patrons, three Chairmen of Kenya Cup Club, three former officials of KRU and three legends of the game.
The short-term objective of the meeting should be to thrash out remuneration issues for the squad and to agree on the selection of a fresh side to compete in Hong Kong. Three weeks is about the usual training term Shujaa gets and time is of the essence.
PLEASE DO NOT ALLOW SHUJAA TO BE RELEGATED!
Kenya 15s Trialist 1984
Former Hon Secretary, Mwamba RFC
Former Coach, Mbaraki RFC
Former Fixtures Secretary, KRFU
Former Hon Secretary, KRFU
Member, Rugby Patrons Society
13 March 2019