Safaricom Sevens is billed as Kenya’s and to some Africa’s premier rugby event. It celebrated its 17th birthday this past weekend.
Since 2000 I have not attended the tournament but this year I broke my hiatus and was at Nyayo Stadium all of Sunday to sample the rugby and atmosphere.
These are my reflections:
1. Nuturing of talent. It was great to see Under-12, Under-14 and the University teams.
2. The coach has a bigger selection of international quality players available to pick from going by the standards of Morans (2nd placed) and Shujaa (3rd placed).
3. The expression of patriotism was amazing. Folks donned national flag colors, got painted, carried flags. In a country where tribalism is rife, that was refreshing to see.
4. I was socialized into rugby on Ngong Road. Therefore I was skeptical on the move from KRFUEA. Also wondered on the security. After Sunday I was sold on the move. Nyayo Stadium has potential. It just needs to get nurtured.
5. The security has intense, had to endure six body searches before entry into the stadium.
6. Safaricom did try to relieve the fans of the torture from the sun by providing branded mini-umbrellas, big umbrellas, helmets and hats. For that I applaud them.
7. Russia (the stands directly opposite the VIPS) was ROCKING! It was a-laugh-a-minute.
1. The KK guards were pretty rude.
2. The rule about no food and drinks from outside was not uniformly enforced. The group I was with have to give away fruits and water. Imagine our surprise when we got into the stadium and folk had sandwiches, bottles of wine, vodka and all manner of food and drinks from outside.
3. Speaking of food and drinks, the vendors at the event charged exorbitant prices. Seeking to take rugby to the masses should also include vendors being considerate to mwananchi.
4. On Friday and Saturday there was limited coverage on mainstream media as Gor v AFC grabbed all the headlines. This was slightly remedied on Sunday though.
5. A well-manned social media account preferably twitter would have come in handy to enable fans plan their day by providing match day fixtures and times.
6. Only VIP and hospitality sections were tented. The fans in the rest of the stadium were left to open to the vagaries of the intense sun. How much would it cost Safaricom to provide tenting for all?
8. Got into Nyayo at 9.30am. Matches were already on-going. Fans were steadily streaming in. However mounds of garbage from the previous day were gathered at various points around the stadium awaiting collection. This finally happened at around 11am.
9. Also noticed that the Coke vendors directly in front of Russia had tattered branded umbrellas. Not a good look for a major event.
10. It was ironic that Safaricom sponsored the tournament but Safaricom cellphone internet was a matter of chance. Half the time I could not log on.
11. This was the first major rugby event that I have attended that I did not see Arigi, the staple of Kenya rugby for the last 15years. What happened to him? Who are the new people running the cheering squad? They are not cool. Ministry of Rugby do something!
12. In related news, Come baby come is now a rugby chant. How now?????
13. 90% of folk there are clueless about rugby and are there for the carnival. The carnival fans are great but wish the numbers of folk who get rugby would get to at least 50% of the crowd.
1. The dispensing of the branded merchandise was handled badly. Officials threw the Safaricom merchandise at fans in the stands who then scrambled for them, this would easily have led to a stampede.
2.Most fans are clueless about old school rugby songs. Aren’t they being sang in school, uni or club rugby matches? It would be very sad if the songs which are our heritage were to die off.
3. The women in minis, heels and makeup. Honey, it is rugby. Jeans, shorts, sandals/sneakers will do.
This was my 7s moment (the two were seated next to me in the stands and were speaking in Kiswahili):
Chic: (Sips beer, puffs cigarette) Do you understand the rules of this game?
Chic: I have no absolutely idea. I just come to look at the well-built guys in tight shorts running around.
GOD BLESS KENYA!