The Growth Of Rugby
The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts – C. S Lewis.
Rugby was once a drug sold only to those who could afford to speak, listen and act in the language of the queen. The few blacks who tried a hand or two at it faced huge scorn, smeared with racist slur.It is a fact and no one is manufacturing this. Ask KRU’s Tank Otieno. If I ever lived in those early days, trust me, I would have receded to my football corner.
At the moment, Rugby is the opium of the nation, the elitist tag slowly tearing away and ‘Guys of Saints’ can now suffer at the hands of Ofafa Jericho, 13 year old Kids in Kibera can play a game of touch on that dusty pitch, Kids from the French school can freely mingle with others who live in the slums of Kawangware at a competition. A lot has changed ever since Chester Williams(the black pearl) put on the Springboks green and gold jersey.
7 years ago, I, Simon Odongo (Homeboyz), Washington (Kenya Harlequins), William Ambaka (France) and Evans Kyalo (Machine) happened to be amongst a small number of some of the first ever rugby players to play at the KRU development programme over the school holidays. At that time, training sessions were conducted by former Kenya XV fullback and boot master Eric Situma and sometimes by former hot shot Edward Kiiru .
We were hungry for the ball, some of us walking long distances to get to the RFUEA. With the little knowledge gained from the holiday sessions, we armed our high schools with technical skill. The picture at the moment is different. Every weekend, numbers in their hundreds attend not only the holiday sessions but also the Sunday afternoon sessions.
Children from low income areas of Nairobi have formed community teams, walk with rugby balls tucked in their armpits loud and proud. They don’t want to play touch rugby, they insist on contact, the back yard gym has become a basic part of their evenings, tournaments are their adrenaline pump. The under 19 trials last year smelt of a rugby carnival with thousands wanting to try their shot at the Jersey.
They don’t bother about what to eat, Rugby is their haute cuisine. What I don’t understand is where this enthusiasm disappears to after these young hearts leave High School. Notable names include Maseno School’s 2007 savior Gramwel Bunyasi, Kakamega High’s 2008 hot steppers and speedsters Branton Shikami and Arnold Kipkorir respectively.
Are they among that bunch that pops beer cans at the stands? Do they become the cheerleader who begins that ‘who is your mother referee song’? Is someone secretly buying our junior rugby players and selling them to a foreign nation? Maybe we have not made Rugby that attractive to play after High School. Maybe we have made it enticing and captivating to slide on a pair of geek shades, khaki pants with a skimpily dressed lady in tow to come watch, tweet and drink our hearts away. Maybe that is how we have started branding our rugby.