Pint-sized Abedeen, giant in rugby
Posted Wednesday, May 2 2012 at 20:10
- Condolence messages flow in tribute of primary teacher who died doing what she loved and excelled in
There was one achievement that would give one instant distinction in the Kenya women rugby team: beating Abedeen Shikhoyi.
An accomplished ball getter, who loved the rough and tumble of rugby, Abedeen’s better known repertoire was excellent tackling. Few with ball in hand could go round, or through her.
“Beating her was very hard. Any player who went past her could really boast about it,” Kenya women’s coach Sammy Kemmey said. For a pint-sized, four-foot eight-inch player, Abedeen had that rare quality of bull dog tenacity and quickness of feet that made her an instant success at rugby, a game she picked very late in life.
“When Abedeen first came to Mwamba about 2007 it was easy to notice her. She was so athletic and she could run very hard. Tackling her was hard,” Kemmey said.
Within a year the talented Abedeen, a teacher at Friends Church, Eastleigh, was knocking at the door of national selection. She was also such a fast learner Mwamba entrusted her with duties of mini-rugby coaching.
Born 27 years ago, Abedeen grew up in a large household of four brothers and six sisters. She spent her early life in western Kenya and schooled at Lusui Primary and Makhokho High School in Kakamega County before completing training as a primary school teacher.
Full of boundless energy Abedeen joined Jericho based girls’ soccer side Makolanders when she moved to Nairobi.
Makolanders has produced several Harambee Stars players and Abedeen looked destined to wear those colours. Instead she ventured into the unknown. “Rugby is fun. You can kick the ball, ran with it, tackle someone. We enjoyed it,” Abedeen’s Kenya teammate Adelaide Nasambu said.
Abedeen played for Mwamba before making the Kenya team in 2007. But it was 2010 that her star began to shine. She was picked as 15s and 7s captain understudy to Celestine Navalayo.
Playing hooker and even loose forward, she guided Kenya in retaining the Elgon Cup in 2011 and was instrumental for Kenya Sevens when they advanced to the final round of the World Cup qualifiers after reaching the finals in Botswana where they narrowly lost 7-5 to top dogs South Africa.
“She was an outstanding captain who understood her players so well,” Nasambu said.
“She was very hard working who got us to get what we wanted,” Kenya international Doreen Remour said.
“On the day before the match she told us she knew the Ugandans hard marked her but she had done gym work and was ready for them. She even sung as a Christian song. It is like she had a premonition.”
Player died last Saturday
The Kenya captain died last Saturday after succumbing to a spine injury she got while playing for Kenya against Uganda in the first leg of this year’s Elgon Cup a week earlier.
Condolences from the rugby world have flowed. “To lose an individual as prominent as a national team captain must have struck a blow to the heart of your game but please be assured that Abedeen and the sport of rugby in Kenya are in the thoughts and prayers of the South African Rugby Union,” Sarfu chief officer Jurie Roux said.
“How sad. Commiserations from the Rugby Football Union,” RFU vice-president Bob Reeves simply said.