In rugby 7s Vancouver exploits, a lesson for our national curse

Tuesday March 13 2018

Rugby Sevens

Waking up before the crack of dawn — and that after only a couple of hours sleep — to watch Kenya play Fiji in the finals of the Canada leg of IRB Sevens circuit was worth it. PHOTO | BEN NELMS | GETTY IMAGES | AFP 

By Macharia Gaitho
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Waking up before the crack of dawn — and that after only a couple of hours sleep — to watch Kenya play Fiji in the finals of the Canada leg of IRB Sevens circuit was worth it.

Although Kenya lost, the heroic performance of the team did wonders for renewal of my faith and pride in this great nation.

In Oscar Ouma, Collins Injera, Willy Ambaka and the other heroes putting blood, sweat and tears on the line at Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium over the weekend, we found a selfless patriotism and nationalism that far transcends the selfish misrule our so-called leaders condemn us to.

We are reminded that our heroes in various fields of sporting endeavours are the true ambassadors of the Kenyan spirit.


They are the ones we all ought to look up to as exemplars of the Kenya we want; much more than we should look for leadership and guidance from the likes of President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Or the rest of the pack pursuing their places at the feeding trough — including Deputy President William Ruto and opposition co-principals Kalonzo Musyoka, Moses Wetang’ula and Musalia Mudavadi.

In Vancouver and the previous leg of the circuit in Las Vegas, we saw that the Kenya 7s is back where it ought to be, matching superpowers such as New Zealand, Fiji, Australia, South Africa and England.


If you have little clue about rugby and its power hierarchy, imagine our national football team, Harambee Stars, playing in an international competition at the same level as Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Italy and France.

You may also want to cast your eyes back to a bygone age, when the Kenya field hockey team closely matched giants such as India, Pakistan, the Netherlands and Germany.

Kenya 7s reaching the final in Vancouver was, therefore, no mean feat. It was also proof that the historic victory in Singapore last April was not a fluke.

Of course there can be no room for complacency. Kenya will only continue playing at that level with renewed dedication, constant pursuit of excellence and regular regeneration.


Meanwhile, this armchair pundit has noticed something over the past few years on development of Kenya 7s worth sharing: The Kenyan game has traditionally been built on speed, agility, ball handling and passing — and what can only be described as trickery.

Slowly, as witnessed with the Vancouver exploits, there has been an evolution towards strength and power. That is not necessarily bad.

Willy Ambaka or Oscar Ouma in full flight will send the biggest Kiwi or Fijian scampering for cover.

Nobody wants to be hit head-on by a freight train!

That sheer force has, indeed, led to many of the victories we have witnessed but sometimes dexterity would have worked better.

There were too many occasions when our players attempted to barge their way through opposition defences with brute force when finding gaps to slip through or playing the ball out to overlap prospects would have provided better options.

This is a lesson that could be well applied to our political situation.

For far too long, political competition in Kenya has been dominated by fierce rivalries, mostly personality- and ethnic-based, that easily descend into bloodshed.

In the past few days, we have seen the enigma of Kenyan politics do it again.

In putting aside the rancour and hostility of the past year to reconcile with President Kenyatta, Mr Odinga has, in vintage fashion, confounded friend and foe alike.

The two principal rivals, heirs of a dynastic feud that dates back to their fathers, have called a truce that will, hopefully, restore sanity and calm in the wake of another disputed election.


Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga are showing us that there is a way beyond endless displays of muscle and brawn, that giving way a little will often win more than the ‘my way or the highway’ mind-set.

This truce will only be meaningful, however, if it seeks a cure to our national curse of ethnic politics, exclusion, greed, corruption and unequal development.

It must not merely provide the opportunity for a few individuals to gain admission to the kleptocracy.

What we most need is an honest national dialogue, preferably under the guidance of neutral players, rather than a power-sharing deal hurriedly cobbled together for selfish, short-term interests.


[email protected]   Twitter: @MachariaGaitho