Rugby National team relegated

Ababu Namwamba, the cabinet secretary for sports, has cautioned against producing an emotional outburst in the wake of the national rugby team Shujaa's expulsion from the famous HSBC Sevens Series, where they had competed for more than 20 years.

Ababu, who was addressing yesterday at his Nairobi office, said that rather than focusing on temporary fixes, the union (KRU) must go back to the source of the issue and build on suitable mechanisms to be ready to face subsequent powerful teams that would rule the sport internationally for many years.

In order to assure future success, we must examine our institutions in all sports, not just rugby. The fact that we were demoted to the HSBC Sevens Series hurts. But it does not need a hasty response, he said.

Legendary Kenyan rugby players, including former captain Dennis 'Iron Man' Mwanja and Humphrey 'Tall' Khayange, have since spoken out about the team's devastating elimination from the HSBC Sevens competition.

Mwanja, who is presently in Madagascar on a mission with the women's Kenya Lionesses, stated that people in charge of the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) had degraded the sport of rugby, for which most players had made significant sacrifices in order to advance and succeed.

"The game was taken away from the players who constructed it with blood, sacrifice, and love, and it has since turned back into dust.  When we elevated Kenya to core status 19 years ago, we didn't anticipate this to come to an end," Mwanja said.

It will take some time for most rugby fans to process the tragic results, according to Khayange, a former Olympian and Hall of Famer with the national team who was just elected as a director with KRU.

Gibson Weru, the head coach of the Menengai Oilers and a former national team captain, bemoaned the lack of player advancement and leadership in the national team structure that contributed to the steady demise of the once-famous Shujaa club.

Denis Ombachi, a former Shujaa stalwart who scored the go-ahead try against Zimbabwe to advance Kenya Sevens to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, said that Kenya needed the core status for pride and the chances that came with it.

"We required that core designation for pride, but for me, it's all of the possibilities that come with it that will change my life," he said. "You have no clue how many people depend on the system for their livelihood."

The Shujaa's achievement in the HSBC Sevens series upset another former Kenyan sevens star, Lucas Onyango, who said the squad had no justification for making excuses.

"This is one of Kenya's rugby history's most tragic days. During a period when Kenyan rugby players were paid ahead of the individuals who came before them and battled for player rights, some of us were paid little and anticipated winning medals. We try to make all kinds of justifications while we sit here," Onyango stated.

"Having clowns running the ministries and sports organisations got us here," he concluded. "We are fixated on having foreigners lead our lives at all times but are unable to support our own boys who have proven themselves capable of doing so."

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