Paul Treu, I am Sorry
You know the thing about articles is that they are opinions. An opinion might be taken in different ways but at the end of the day everyone is entitled to one.
I recently wrote an open letter to KRU, Kenya 7s and Paul Treu which got mixed reactions, which elevated to a phone conversation with yours ‘treuly’ and finally a breakfast sit down that allowed us to share notes and pick each other’s minds. Jeff Koinage loves to say, we need to talk, because the moment we stop talking, is the moment that we start fighting.
“Why always me?” a question that controversial football star Mario Ballotelli has printed on his T-shirt that he shows off after scoring goals. Sarcasm bagged with a pinch of humor, all in one. Well Paul Treu has found himself asking the same question more than once with no sarcasm neither humor to it. This is how our conversation went.
We meet at the hotel lobby and what a gentleman he is, I must say, as we get to know each other and talk a little about how the weekend games went on. From his tone and his sentiments he feels very encouraged with the performances and he has so much hope.
At this point I am not sure what to think or what is going through his mind. From his demeanor he has no hard feelings and the fellow is all smiles and making jokes. As we walk to the breakfast table everyone we meet on the way is happy to say hallo and whisper a few words to him. He is never too busy for anyone, a character very rare for such a man and his position. Wow!
In all the small talk we finally find ourselves talking about the article, as I explain myself and the angle of my approach and what made me write it. The truth of the matter is that we live in a harsh world where we are judged by our actions and statistics first before anything, that is how I basically approached the article.
The manner in which he addresses his players, tweets and makes demands as a whole. All those formed an opinion about him as a coach and a person.
He takes the opportunity and gives his thoughts, “You know something Maurice, being head coach of a foreign country is not easy. It is not for the faint hearted or those with thin skin,” he says.
“I have read worse and that is when I was in my own country.” He goes on to say that he believes that dialogue is important because when you are given much power, a lot is expected.
He points out that he has learnt a lot about how Kenyans are passionate about the Kenya 7s. He is under no illusion to believe that Kenya 7s is his. He knows that it is a family that has been built over time with the help of so many people, as he quotes the article.
He believes that it doesn’t have to be his way or the highway, it only has to be the right way. Another character of his that I picked up that was very humbling. In life you can focus on the wrongs that you believe have been done to you, or you can focus on the positives and make a difference because two wrongs don’t make a right.
Before Kenya 7s
He takes me through his time as South African coach and I finally understand one of his tweets from a while back which went something like, “Which Kenyan style is this you keep talking about? Where has it gotten you?.”
He says that in South Africa he was also asked the same question many times and he never had an answer for it. He goes on to explain how he has never known any kind of playing style and his approach with the Blitz Bokke was to find out how to approach situations and solve them.
He goes further to elaborate that it is not about doing it the Kenyan way or the South African way but it’s about doing it the right way. The right way when he was down south was by conducting extensive research of successful opponents, looking at successful businesses and applying them to the South African 7s.
He brought the South African 7s side from whopping boys to eventually circuit winners by doing research on how to approach situations.
He dissects more into the South African 7s and the difficult decisions he had to make by dropping some of the most experienced players and retaining players who were ready to die for the cause and follow the solutions he had found. As he continues to narrate, I have a feeling of de javu and the question comes again, “Why always him?”
He shares some statistics on how while with the South Africa 7s, he eventually managed to beat New Zealand thrice in as many tournaments and bagging in more than 100 points. Something no one else had achieved then. He says that before that time, he had faced a lot of ridicule and attacks but he stuck to the course and success was the final result.
He really admires the Kenyan culture of sevens, back in South Africa there are only a handful of sevens players because more emphasis is placed on the fifteens mode. Unlike Kenya which has a local 7s circuit which all local clubs take part in, South Africa only has one sevens tournament held annually. This was one of his biggest challenges when it came to assembling players who could fit to his game plan.
He strongly believes in mentoring others, as he humbly mentions that the current SA 7S technical bench, which recently won a gold medal at the Common wealth games, was under him at one point.
Neil Powell, the current SA 7s head coach was once Treu’s player, his assistant was a student he personally brought in. An achievement which to me, is bigger than winning any trophy. A weakness we Kenyans suffer from. Many current leaders and coaches look back and hardly have a trace of their footsteps, which is very sad because if it is lonely at the top you haven’t done your work as leader.
Kenya 7s and the harsh environment
He gives his take on the whole players’ stand in matter and regardless of the whole uncertainty of the Kenya 7s and the stakeholders he is upbeat about the future of Kenya rugby.
He says that for the first time since he arrived all the stakeholders said enough is enough and acted according to what moved them. His views are that this could be the turning point for Kenya rugby.
He wants to create the right culture in rugby to know where we stand as a team and as a country. He felt put between a rock and a hard place trying to be the intermediary between the union and players and on the other hand, Visa deadlines approaching and his need to assemble a team for Gold coast.
He takes some time to clarify the whole stand off, and how he never enforced anything on anyone and no one ever came back to give him their thoughts, then all of a sudden it was public news.
At this point you can see his disappointment because the respect he had for very many people had been lost. In all that he carries a lot of positives and says it was a learning curve that he welcomed well for the future.
After Benjamin Ayimba, he will be the second coach in seven years to take the side for a second season. He speaks very highly of Mr. Ayimba as he remembers when Kenya 7s beat South Africa for the first time.
He compares the number of players that Ayimba called up, with the limited resources he had and how they had grown. I am suddenly reminded of the biblical story of Moses and Joshua. I mean Moses delivered the Israelites from Egypt, just as Ayimba took Kenya 7s to tier one status but Moses never reached the Promised Land. Could Treu be the Joshua we have all been waiting for? Only time will tell.
From my conversation with Mr. Treu I quickly bought into his vision and what he wanted to achieve for Kenya rugby, something I must confess I felt indifferent from the get go.
He is a man who finds himself in harsh environments and never deters or lose enthusiasm to achieve his goal. And as I now look at the whole situation I wonder why it had to go the way it went.
Mr. Treu handled the situation the best way he knew, but I have my reservations about the locals around him. This is not the first time that the National team has gone on strike. As former Kenya sevens Team Manager Newton Ongalo put it, “We always boycotted training, but never ever did we turn down a chance to represent our country.”
This could have been handled differently and years to come people might eventually realize the impact it had on Kenya Rugby.
Jesus was crucified by the very same people he came to help and it is only years after they realized his importance and his purpose to humanity. Mr. Treu might be under fire and attacked by people like me and you but we might realize in years to come that his goals and vision was for the ultimate good.
In my previous article, I asked you who you were Mr. Treu? Allow me to answer this. I believe you are just a man like any one of us. A man desperate to achieve his goals, A man who has dedicated a lot of his time and energy to master his craft, a man who is bound to make mistakes like anyone else, but by virtue of holding a public position, your mistakes are bound to be amplified and scrutinized more.
As I refer to my previous article on local and foreign coaches and how foreign coaches have been unable to break the barriers of winning big. I slowly had a change of heart and felt that Mr. Treu might be one of the first men to break that barrier.
The truth of the matter is that he might be the right man for the Job but he might not get the job done. What I am now certain of, after talking to him is that if he doesn’t deter from his vision and goal he will either take us to the promise land or he will groom someone who will.
I finish with this, I do not take back my previous articles because unlike me who has had the privilege of talking to him and getting to know him, many might not get that opportunity.
Thus moving forward many will write about him banking on hear say, actions and results. Many will be negative and some positive it’s the sacrifice one makes by the power bestowed unto him. With that, haya basi!!!!