The Cabinet Secretary for Youth Affairs, The Arts and Sports, Hon. Ababu Namwamba has shown his support for Shujaa ahead of the ninth leg of the 2022/23 World Rugby Sevens Series set for 8-9 April in Singapore.
Talking to the team on Friday via conference call, Hon. Namwamba said, “I know that we are not in the best of places in terms of the state of the game, but I am encouraged, as philosophers say when you are at the bottom of the pit…there’s no other place to go but up. “
“I want the players to be very clear in their minds that the whole country is behind them, watching them, cheering them on. We are cheering you on because rugby sevens is a national brand, a national pride. This is something that brands this country to levels that we cannot even quantify in financial terms. For you to be out there, to don our national colors and to play for Kenya is an honor for you, and is a big honor for this country,” said Hon. Namwamba
He also pointed out the significance of Kenya’s participation on the series, saying, “You know, of course, that Kenya is the only black African country in the World Rugby Sevens Series. The position we occupy, and who we are geopolitically on the African continent and in our region is something that should inspire you to know that Kenya holds a very special place in this series. The risk of losing our premium position is something that we must guard against at all cost.”
“As you prepare to enter the field, you should know that you will be continuing a very proud tradition that has been standing strong for 19 years. Kenya has been part of this series since 2004 and I want you to look back and be inspired by some of the great names that have won that uniform you’re wearing between 2004 and now. I want you to remember people like the late Ben Ayimba, who proudly wore that uniform and proudly stood for Kenya. I want you to remember people like Humphrey Kayange, who is now a Director. He flew the Kenyan flag and continues to stand out to represent Kenya and to continue the heritage that we are very proud of as a country. People like Andrew Amonde and Collins Injera who have proudly won the shirt. Look at those past heroes, great players, great Kenyans who have proudly worn the uniform you are wearing today and elevated Kenya to a very premium status globally. I mention those names to ask you to walk the path they have walked proudly for Kenya previously. We want to mention Nelson Oyoo and your team in similar light for having proudly stood up to fly our flag.”
Hon. Namwamba reassured the team of continued support from the Government, saying, “I want you to know that besides the KRU, I want you to know that you have a Government that is very serious about sport. The Government led by President William Samoei Ruto has placed sport at the heart of the national conversation, the national agenda. Be assured of the support of Government and we will be waiting for you. The President is aware that you are in Singapore, he is aware that you are facing a huge challenge. You are on the edge of the precipice, placed 13th with 30 points. Ahead of you is Uruguay on 39 points and slightly further is Spain on 40 points. You have to overhaul them; you have to start it at this Singapore tournament.”
“Fortunately, you are going to go head to head with some of these guys and when someone is ahead of you, and you go head to head with them, you have no choice, you have to beat the guy. We will be cheering you on and we will be waiting for you here. I want you to meet the President when you come back because I have asked him to stay up and cheer you as you play in this series. When you get back and have secured our place at this elite table, I want to come back and tell the President that you did it. “
“I want to share the spirit of Easter with you, to wish you a happy Easter and to tell you, just like Christ sacrificed for us, you are in line of sacrifice for the motherland. Please run on to that field proudly wearing the Kenyan flag and fight to the last ounce of your energy. We must maintain our position at the rugby sevens high table and you are the fellows to do it,” Hon. Namwamba concluded.
KRU Chairman Sasha Mutai said, “I think the boys have heard you and have heard the call of the nation and I am sure they will not disappoint. It is when your back is to the wall that you the real man fight.”
Mutai and Hon. Namwamba reiterated the need for the squad to play to the best of their ability in Singapore.
Shujaa legend and former captain Humphrey Kayange, who is the KRU Director in charge of the sevens program also weighed in, saying, “I want to encourage the boys. We’ve played together, we’ve shared the battlefield and moments like this are the moments that bring out your true characters. It is a privilege for you to wear that shirt. Go out there this weekend, enjoy your game, do your best and the results will follow through. Very few Kenyans get to wear that shirt. You have been privileged, it is a huge honor as you go out. We are rooting for you this weekend and expecting good results over the next couple of days.
Current captain Nelson Oyoo in his remarks, said, “Thank you for coming to us in our time of need. We have received words of encouragement and we are grateful for the reassurances in terms of support, both from the CS and the KRU Chair. It has been a good week of preparations in Singapore and we give ourselves a fighting chance on Saturday and Sunday.”
Shujaa are currently placed 13th on the series with 30 points and are out to secure their status by finishing at least 11th overall after the penultimate round of the series in Toulouse.
This will outrightly secure their status for the 2024 series which will be whittled down to 12 teams after this season.
They start their campaign on Saturday 8 April with a match against France at 6.20am before playing USA at 9.24am. They will close out their Pool C fixtures with a match against Uruguay at 1.07pm.