My Tusker Safari 7s Memories

It is the week leading up to the 2019 Tusker Safari sevens and I don’t remember the last time I was this excited about the tournament, oh wait I do and it remains my best memory of the Tusker Safari sevens, best part is I did not attend the said edition.

A Safari 7s poster from 08.

It was ten years ago, sometime in mid June, ahead of the 14th edition, when it was last referred to as the Tusker Safari sevens and was the highlight of the Kenyan sporting calendar. The previous year the Kenya sevens had beaten the Emerging Springboks in the final, they had just finished 6th in the then IRB sevens series(08/09), and a young lad by the name of Collins Injera had literally taken the world by storm, finishing the season as top try scorer.

I was a couple of years fresh from high school, with little else to do, I literally lived and breathed rugby and the Safari sevens was the epitome of not only the sport, but the entertainment calendar in the country. In 2007, I remember watching in the evening news, as the star comedy group Redykyulass, landed in a helicopter at the center of the pitch. It was the talk of town for a very long time, still is.

I remember myself and couple of friends, promising ourselves that we would attend the Safari sevens the following year, 2008 came, found us broke and left. Then came 2009, we were still flat broke but, we were not going to miss this one, or so I thought.

I had put together an elaborate plan, which involved asking for money from my big brother who introduced me to the game, surely he would understand my desire to attend the tournament. I only had one problem, he was based in the US of A. Among many other things including time zones, Western Union, the local cyber guy and solid reasons why I deserved the cash, I was quite confident that I would pull this one off.

A day ticket was going for 800 bob (FYI we never complained), so by my calculations I needed around 2 thousand bob for the Saturday, I was never raised a greedy man so I opted to forego the Sunday. Also in true hard working fashion, I had saved around 700 bob, so I only needed 1300, but I asked for 1500, it sounded better.

Collins Injera goes for a try during 09 Tusker Safari sevens semi-finals match against Samurai at RFUEA ground.Photo/CHRIS OMOLLO

A week to the tournament, with the city literally buzzing as it awaited for the tournament, I sat down at my local cyber in the late evening, past closing time, to draft my email to the big bro (WhatsApp ni wewe). I juiced every lyric I could conjure, as I still hadn’t forgotten my mail writing days in school. I knew he would see the email when he got up and would probably reply immediately, but I gave it 24 hours just to be sure.

The very next evening, I again spoke to the Cyber guy to wait for me after I got off training so that I could check my mail, nothing, next day, nothing…it was now three days to the tournament, I had almost given up all hope. Then on the Thursday, big bro replies. ‘Hehe OK, will sort you, check kesho ama Sato morning!’ The joy I felt at this moment, wacha tu.

From this point it was a game of wait and see, my pals had already made plans on what time they would leave, what mat they would wait for and such like things, ‘Oya msinisahau, bro amedai anatuma kakitu..’ I finally replied on Friday morning. I literally spent the whole day Friday at the Cyber, refreshing my email inbox (it took a good minute, or so to refresh my mail, which cost 10 bob, but I had 200 bob to spare, remember?)

Friday 9PM, hakuna anything, so I gave up and went back home, still hopeful, I even picked what I was going to wear the next day and had it ready. In the morning I woke up to a text, hoping that it was the bro notifying me that he had done de ting. “Ole yondi yohi kusi..” (get someone my age to translate this) the text read, it was from one of my friends, I smiled but I could feel my heart breaking slowly.

I got up, freshened up, had breakfast and dressed up, ready to go to the cyber first then to the RFUEA. I was the first at the cyber, opened my mail, nothing, only Facebook and Hi5 notifications. My pals came, told them to go ahead that I would catch up later. Refresh, nothing, refresh, nothing…I probably broke one of those mouses that had a ball inside.

Action from 2009

It was around noon and hope had now turned into despair, anger and disappointment, as I walked back home, I met a sister to one of the pals who we were to go with to the Safari sevens, “Haiya kwani walikuwacha na vile umedunga?” I almost cried, but I just smiled and walked past, got home then went straight to bed. I would be lying if I said that I did not cry on that day.

I later woke up, went back to the cyber, nothing, after which I went to the ka local and exchanged what I had left for several mugs of keg accompanied by a sachet of coffee and a straw. Sunday was here, after church, I had to sit through stories of how an estimated 5,000 packed the RFUEA grounds and the best part is how guys lined up at the village to dance to Soulja boy’s Crank That, I absolutely loved that dance. Overall a total of 10,000 people attended the tournament, except me.

It took me a while to get over missing the 09 Tusker Safari sevens, where the Kenya Sevens beat the Emerging Boks, 40 – 19. The next year, I attended every single day of the ‘Safaricom Safari Sevens’ and watched that Sidney Ashioya last gasp try in the rain, I have not missed a Safari Sevens since and have been lucky enough to have worked for the tournament secretariat and organising committee.

This year, I am excited for two main reasons, I finally get to experience the renowned Tusker Safari Sevens and maybe just maybe, I can line up at the Tusker village with a couple of guys and dance to something hata kama ni Kwangwaru, so that I can finally rest my 09 ghosts.

It will be the first time in a while, that a full strength Kenya Sevens, now Shujaa, will be on show alongside the young exciting talent we witnessed at the World series and the local Stanbic sevens series. They will be up against some very formidable sides, the Blitz Bokke, Spain, a mean looking Samurai, Western Province and Blue bulls to mention a few.

Ticket prices are quite friendly, 600 bob if you click here now..then there is the, parteh after parteh!

Oh the bro did send the money, but on Saturday afternoon, his time, which was almost midnight here, when I was keg deep, I only found the email on Monday evening as the Cyber never opened on Sunday.

Feel free to share your 2009 Tusker Safari Sevens memories in the comments section below, or any other editions you might hold fond memories of.

See you at the RFUEA grounds this weekend, ama?

P.S For any big brothers/sponsors etc, please tumeni pesa on time,ni sisi watoto tunaumia. Kwa wale hawatatumiwa, keep it here for the highlights from this year’s tournament.

KWISHA… Nimeruka Nje!!!

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