Sasha Mutai: I'm the change Kenyan rugby needs
What you need to know:
- Sasha lost to former KRU chairman Richard Omwela by two votes in 2017 when he garnered 22 votes against Omwela's 25.
- The 45-year-old quantity surveyor took another stab for the top seat in 2019, but again lost to the current KRU chairman Oduor Gangla when he polled 20 votes against 33.
"There is nothing impossible to him who will try," said Alexander the Great.
That statement can best apply to Alexander Sasha Mutai, fondly known as Sasha Mutai in rugby circles. He has unsuccessfully tried to be Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) chairman twice.
Sasha lost to former KRU chairman Richard Omwela by two votes in 2017 when he garnered 22 votes against Omwela's 24.
The 45-year-old quantity surveyor took another stab for the top seat in 2019, but again lost to the current KRU chairman Oduor Gangla when he polled 20 votes against 33.
On his third attempt now, the track is wide open for him, no hurdles to clear or challengers in place.
Gangla has opted not to defend his seat during the elections slated for Friday at the RFUEA.
Joe Onsando, who was the other contestant for the top seat, seems to have developed cold feet, leaving Sasha as the only contender for KRU chairman position.
But is Sasha the panaceas to the woes bedeviling Kenyan rugby?
“The feeling across rugby is that it’s time for change and I am the preferred change,” said Sasha, who was a director at KRU for four years in 2006 to 2010 and vice chairman from 2012 to 2014.
“That is the time when the big change happened in Kenyan rugby. We had a good, unified working team,” said Sasha, adding that the current relationship between KRU board and clubs, referees, and the corporate world is polarised.
“The ship has been sinking and nothing is working with sponsors having shied away. Referees have not been paid even with the Kenya Cup behind us,” noted Mutai, who is determined to unify the rugby fraternity regardless of who is elected.
“We need to play rugby on the field and not the court corridors or boardrooms. It worked before and it can work again. We need to pull together in one direction,” said Mutai, who was speaking during the NTV’s Monday night live sports show SportOn! hosted by Bernard Ndong and James Wokabi.
Mutai said that there is still hope that Kenya Sevens will survive relegation, but said the team needs a steady environment that has been lacking hence the decline in performance.
Mutai is also confident that Kenya Simbas can make it to the 2027 Rugby World Cup with the Kenya Lionesses also making it to the 2025 Women’s Rugby World Cup.
“The team used poor facilities, the players’ allowance and salaries were a mirage before the recent return of SportPesa. You really can’t blame players for the decline,” said Mutai.
Mutai said he has had a candid talk with Sports Principal Secretary Jonathan Mueke and that Kenya Sevens will train at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani for free.
Mutai said he also held talks with Kenya Sevens coach Damian McGrath last week on what should be done to give them a fighting chance in the remaining legs of the World Rugby Sevens Series.
Besides the provision of facilities, the team needs technical boost especially in the set-pieces.
Mutai said there is a possibility that England Sevens player James Rodwell might be brought on board to assist McGrath.
“I have told them to put it in writing since we want to run the game like a business,” said Mutai.
In his long-term plan, Mutai said he will move away from sponsorships to striking partnership, adding that he wants to bring back the confidence with the corporates.
“It’s awkward when board members insult sponsors with players too concealing sponsors names on their jerseys. We must remedy that, “said Mutai, noting that he will engage Viva Africa, a specialist legal and financial tax consultants for advice on partnerships.
Mutai said he will fully support the newly appointed Kenya Simbas head coach Jerome Paarwater, saying he was then KRU vice chairman when he was first engaged back in 2014.
“I might not be part of the decision that brought him back but Paarwater had good credentials as a coach, having almost guided the Simbas to the 2015 Rugby World Cup after beating Namibia,” said Mutai.
Mutai said he will push for the acquisition of the title deed to enable them start the process of building a rugby stadium put up at the MISC.
“It’s not possible to develop the current rugby venues since virtually all are private properties,” said Mutai.
Further, Mutai also detailed his plans to have prize money for Kenya Cup rugby league and the regional Enterprise Cup for the first time so as to spur interest.
Mutai, a former Mean Machine and Kenya Simbas back, said he will initiate talks with the Ministries of Education and Sports with a view of having permanent rugby development programs in primary and secondary schools.