NAIROBI, Kenya, September 23- The Safaricom Sevens that ended on Sunday had to go on as a bold statement that Kenya cannot bow down to terrorists following the deadly Westgate Mall siege that has so far claimed 68 lives.
Being a magnet for thousands of fans over the years, there were those who held the annual rugby sevens jamboree that was mentioned as a potential target in tweets from the Al-Shabaab group that has claimed responsibility should have been stopped.
But although the partying was muted as compared to previous years, the Safari 7s went on to its conclusion and Bob Collymore, the CEO of the title sponsors, explained why the annual sevens rugby showpiece was not halted despite the atrocities that befell innocent shoppers at the prestigious mall on Saturday.
“Following my discussions with the management team, the Kenya Rugby Union and senior members of the Government, we made a decision to continue with the Safaricom 7s tournament.
“This decision is informed by a sentiment that as Kenyans we must stand proud at this very critical time for our country.
“This tournament represents more than just Rugby; it represents the face of Kenya to the international community and sends a message that those seeking to destroy our way of life did not and will not succeed,” Collymore said in a statement released on Sunday night.
National team Shujaa reclaimed the Main Cup after stuffing Australia Renegades 40-7 in the final to clinch the crown they last lifted in 2010.
The deadly siege that started at 12:00pm (+3GMT) on Saturday when the tournament was gearing to be at full swing affected some fans who were on their way to the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, that had stopped at Westgate to stock on provisions.
In the aftermath of the frantic mayhem that ensued, television images of fans bedecked in the national team’s colours were spotted among those involved in rescue missions in television footage with others reported dead or injured.
British invited side, England Royals withdrew from the tournament on Sunday to flee the country on security grounds following the attack that has shocked the world.
Their action gave the other local side, Morans, a bye to the semis before they lost to the Australians to deny an all-Kenyan final.
Players involved in the tournament took time off on Sunday to donate blood to aid in the outpouring countrywide effort of support for those affected by the deadliest terror attack in Kenya since the 1998 bombing of the US Embassy in downtown Nairobi.