NAIROBI, July 8 – Kenya Under-19 rugby team’s dreams of featuring in the Youth Commonwealth Games in Samoa were tossed out of the window after their slot was taken up by another team.
In a sequence of sorry events, Kenya Rugby Union (KRU), National Olympics Committee-Kenya (Nock) and the Government are blaming each other in explaining how the aspirations of the side christened Chipu, were dumped from the competition in cruel fashion.
Kenya were replaced in the YCG following a letter written by an official in the Ministry of Sports stating the country would not be attending this year’s games.
This delivered the shattering blow to the team that was invited to the competition ahead of continental giants, South Africa, after recent seasons of success in the shorter version of the game, including back-to-back Rugby World Cup Sevens semifinals in 2009 Dubai and 2013 in Moscow.
Kenya was among only eight countries’s scheduled to vie for honors at the Samoa Games in September.
Speaking to Capital Sport, the Under 19s head coach, Paul Odera, decried the missed opportunity saying it would be difficult to raise the spirits of the affected players.
“One must think about how the Government has set aside billions of shillings for rugby stadiums but yet cannot send a youthful side to Samoa to fulfill their dreams.
“This fateful decision could even affect them in other areas of life as well as their rugby careers. Their parents are equally disappointed,” the former Kenya international lamented.
National Olympics Committee-Kenya (Nock) Executive Officer, Stephen Soi further confirmed the decision to lock out the Kenyan team was irreversible despite efforts to appeal.
“After the Commonwealth Games Foundation received the letter, they immediately offered the slot that was given to Kenya to another nation who happily accepted and confirmed they would attend the event.
“As Nock, we had no choice but to accept our rugby team could not go to Samoa and we are preparing those that are,” Soi who was the CEO of Kenya’s team to the 2012 London Olympics added.
On his part, Commissioner for Sports, Gordon Oluoch admitted budgetary constraints enforced the decisions with the forthcoming African Games (formerly All Africa Games) having taken the huge chunk of fiscal funding available for national teams.
“As you are aware, Kenya sends the largest contingent to the African Games and this year’s Congo Brazzaville edition is round the corner. Kenya Rugby Union had no other source of financing to support the team.
“When federations approach us for assistance, we evaluate their requests based on what is available, we can’t promise to send out a team and there is no money to do it.
“Federations like Athletics Kenya for example, come in with their sponsors and our work is to supplement what they have and we have seen them send teams to every event they are invited. KRU should consider the same approach,” Oluoch who is a keen rugby enthusiast, explained.
KRU were requesting full costs to cover the team including local and overseas allowances, air fare, accommodation and related expenses for the players, technical and medical staff.
There being no assurances the affected Under 19 side would secure additional funding outside State sources, the decision to write the letter withdrawing from the CYG was written.
Kenya did appeal the decision but to their dismay, it was too late as their replacements had confirmed their participation.
As the shattered youngsters attempt to collect the pieces from their heartbreak, another rendition of tired blame games provides no direct answers to where a solution lies.
It’s another blow to KRU that in April lost main sponsors Safaricom and Bamburi Cement in quick succession over claims of financial impropriety where one wonders whether the embarrassing situation would have been averted had they been on board.
Unless there is an upturn in management of the sport, rugby will continue bleeding from lack of resources with the possibilities of cutting short budding careers.