Kenyan rugby will never beg, but come on Sports Ministry, fund Kenya Simbas

John Kubu

Kenya Simbas player Jone Kubu (centre) stretches during a team training session at RFUEA ground on June 21, 2022.

Photo credit: Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • All the same, the Simbas, under coach Paul Odera, may just book at ticket to the the 2023 France finals, and it is unlikely you will hear them gloat that they did it without government support. They will just do their job with pride and honour.
  • It is a rugby thing.

Back in my younger days, I used to read, eat and sleep rugby.

Weekdays were for training – team exercises on the field, plus personal sessions working on gaining strength in the gym or endurance running on the road.

Weekends were fully dedicated to the match day, no matter what. Whether there was an important family function like wedding, get-together etc, rugby came first.

I once lost a job in Nairobi after skipping a day of work on a Saturday to go play in the Driftwood Sevens tournament in Mombasa for KCB Rugby. My employer was certainly no amused.

My only disappointment was we lost to Kenya Harlequins in the semi-final.

Damn! We had a very good team and believed we would win the tournament.

My sister, God bless her, whom I used to live with then, often wondered in bafflement at my dedication... and foolhardiness I think.

You see, I would come home, practically every match day, carrying a limp, a bruise, a swelling, or all the three.

Effects of the rough and tumble of the game I loved so much. Our pitch surfaces were, and still are, not the best to make a hard fall.

“Look at those injuries you are carrying. Why do you go back to this game!?” she always admonished me, concern written all over her face, whenever I came home, bearing the aches and pains, proudly and stoically.

I had no answer for her. When I think back, it is hard to explain this relation with rugby.

It is the same way with faith; for those who have it no explanation is necessary, for those who do not, no explanation is possible.

“We do it because we love the game,” former Kenya Rugby Union chairman Mwangi Muthee would always say.

I guess there is something about the rugby fraternity that almost makes them homogeneous in character.

The habits of a rugby guy in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand et al are all the same.

When did you see a rugby club out in the street with begging bowls looking for funding?

Fund their preparations

I remember some years back when the Kenya Sevens had qualified for the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games and wanted the government to fund their preparations.

The union boss then Richard Omwela told me they had formally asked for assistance to no avail.

He strongly stated that, though they needed the financial assistance, what they would never do was go camping at the Sports Ministry offices pleading for alms like a common street beggar.

Pride and honour of rugby.

While officials of football, volleyball, hockey, for example, are always quick to hold press conferences crying loud to the government for help lest they fail to honour some international assignments, rugby’s quietly go about their business with the little resource available.

Case in point was the two months the national rugby 15s side, Kenya Simbas, spent in South Africa in April and May playing in the Currie Cup First Division.

This was part of Simbas’ preparations for the final round of African qualifiers for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Who do you thing funded the South African outing and the programme before that? Rugby well-wishers

The union, lacking an official sponsor, recently admitted it was looking for funds for the final phase of the Simbas’ preparations before the eight-nation straight knock-out qualifiers in France starting on July 1.

Just like the Rugby Football Union of East Africa ground was built through a harambee effort, another appeal has been made to the greater rugby fraternity to donate money for Simbas’ preps.

Through the group “Friend of Simbas” led by a doyen of the local game, Dickie Evans, the Kenyan rugby family has been told that at least Sh10 million is needed to get the Simbas into training camp ahead of the final push for history.

Kenya will face nemesis Uganda in the quarters on July 2 with the winner squaring off in the semis against the winners of the match between Senegal and Algeria.

The other side of the draw has Namibia playing Burkina Faso and Zimbabwe tackling Cote d’Ivoire.

The Currie Cup-hardened Kenya Simbas are on to something here. Look back eight years ago. I

n 2014, the Simbas almost qualified for the 2015 World Cup, stunning favourites Namibia 29-22 in their first match in the final round of qualifiers in Antananarivo, Madagascar.

Kenya duly thumped the host nation 34-0 in their second match, but inexplicably lost 10-28 to Zimbabwe when they just needed to avoid defeat to qualify for their first world finals.

Superior points

Simbas tied on 10 points with Namibia, who however went through on superior points scored.

Kenya’s preparations this year mirrors that of 2014. Then, under South African coach Jerome Paarwater, Simbas toured South Africa where they featured in the defunct Vodacom Cup as Simba XI, playing seven matches.

As a Kenyan on the streets would say, timu imeiva -- “the team has been cooked well”.

This is a national team on the brink of qualifying for a first ever world cup.

The government should be paying for every penny of their preparation expenses. After all, what is the Sports Fund there for?

No national team should go begging for what they are entitled to by law.

All the same, the Simbas, under coach Paul Odera, may just book at ticket to the the 2023 France finals, and it is unlikely you will hear them gloat that they did it without government support. They will just do their job with pride and honour.

It is a rugby thing.

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