Kabras’ player transition programme the way to go

Kakamega Governor Fernandes Barasa awards Kabras Sugar after winning Kenya Cup title

Kakamega Governor Fernandes Barasa (centre) presents the Kenya Cup trophy to Kabras Sugar captain George Nyambua (right) after beating KCB in the final at Kakamega Showground on March 11, 2023. 

Photo credit: Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Meanwhile, Kabras’ victory is a breath of fresh air for the sport that’s been struggling to get ample following outside Nairobi.
  • What we seriously need now are world class facilities that will ease the pressure off the capital city and help the spread of the game.

In an exciting weekend of Kenyan sport, Kabras Rugby Football Club defeated KCB RFC 19-9 to retain their Kenya Cup title at the Kakamega Showground  on Saturday.

It was a sweet victory for the sugarmen who had previously faced the bankers five times in the final, drawing bouncing cheques on all occasions.

The Kakamega Showground venue attracted one of the largest crowds ever seen in a rugby fixture outside Nairobi.

Kabras and KCB thus proved that with the right corporate support, Kenyan sport will easily attract the crowds.

But what stands out is Kabras’ commitment to player retention, development and post-career support, something that offers our stars hope for the future.

In most of Kenya’s largely amateur and semi-professional sports, player transition from the active game into retirement is a painful process and many stars fail to adjust, sinking to horrid lows.

However, West Kenya Sugar Company — the parent company that runs Kabras RFC — has made a bold attempt to address this transitional challenge by offering soft landing for their players, post-career.

Almost two years back, I sat down with West Kenya Sugar Company Managing Director Tejveer Rai and could see the passion he had in developing sport and offering the stars viable income during and after their playing careers. 

His company runs three sugar factories, namely Kabras, Olepito and Naitiri sugar factories.

“We have put in place mechanism of ensuring that once a player retires from our rugby club, he is absorbed by the company as employee to continue with life comfortably,” says “Tej”, himself an avid sportsman whose rallying career was, unfortunately, cut short by a bad accident that saw his WV Polo R5 roll on the second day of the 2021 World Rally Championship Safari Rally in Kedong. (I wish “Tej” well as he continues with his recovery).

“Tej” is happy that players absorbed into post-career office jobs discharge their duties diligently, riding on the discipline of sport to build other professional careers.

“The management of the club communicates to the company about players about to retire then start making arrangements of incorporating them and deploying them to the departments or sections they are able to work as per what they studied in university or college,” adds “Tej.” 

West Kenya Sugar Company has subsequently launched a university/college scholarship programme for players to pursue courses of choice with over 30 stars currently enjoying the benefits of this programme. 

“After rugby, the skills and knowledge they are getting will enable them work as professionals,” explains “Tej.”

Some of the former players absorbed into West Kenya Sugar Company employment are Nick Barasa, Edwin Achayo, Dan Mwangi, Bramwel Mayaka and Robert “Bobby” Kweya.

Ex-international Barasa is currently the Deputy Electrical Manager attached to Kabras Sugar in Kakamega, while Achayo is in the Public Relations and Communications Department as a Public Relations Officer, besides being an assistant coach at Kabras RFC handling talent identification and development. 

Mwangi is in the Finance Department as a Sales Representative, while Kweya works in the Information and Communications department as Projects Administrator.

Mayaka is a Juice Clarification Supervisor while another star, Kevin Keegan, is a Sugar House Production Supervisor, both under the Process Department.

These ex-players formed the bulk of the team that won Kabras their first Kenya Cup title in 2016, beating Impala in the final, and their employment is an apt appreciation of their contribution.

It’s also worth noting that some of the Kabras RFC players, like Achayo, are sugarcane farmers who supply cane to the West Kenya Sugar factories.

Achayo states that being involved in farming had turned out to be a best way of also preparing for his future after rugby.

Other corporates running elite sports teams ought to emulate “Tej” and his West Kenya Sugar Company project to help motivate our stars.

I know KCB and Kenya Pipeline Company,  inter alia, also have similar models that ought to be amplified.

Meanwhile, Kabras’ victory is a breath of fresh air for the sport that’s been struggling to get ample following outside Nairobi.

What we seriously need now are world class facilities that will ease the pressure off the capital city and help the spread of the game.

* * * *
A big thanks to the management and colleagues at Nation Media Group for last Friday’s surprise reception to celebrate my 30 years at Nation Centre. 

It has been a roller-coaster three decades but, thankfully, quite fulfilling and I thank God for the blessings.

I most sincerely thank you, our loyal readers, for making the ride worthwhile.

Let’s raise our glasses and toast to many more years in sports journalism! Cheers!

Makori is the Managing Editor (Sports) at Nation Media Group ([email protected])