Opinion: Game of Rugby Is Still a Classist and Elitist Sport in Kenya

Opinion: Game of Rugby Is Still a Classist and Elitist Sport in Kenya

Hillary Lisimba
updated at April 12, 2023 at 7:53 PM

I don’t know about you but when I see a group of boys in my area with the oval ball passing around between them, always struggling to get to more than five of them, I can’t help but feel how misplaced they are.

Kenya beat Germany 12-5 at the Nyayo Stadium to reclaim the Safari Sevens title.
Shujaa celebrates reclaiming the Safari Sevens title. Photo: Kenya Rugby Union.
Source: Twitter

I’m not talking about my rural area; there you will find chicken milk faster than you will find the oval ball. You will be lucky to find more than two rugby fans, I excluded.

I’m talking about one of the major towns in the country of which I’m sure is true for many other towns in the country.

I’m persuaded to ask this question after watching the latest edition of the Safari Sevens.

The 23rd edition of the series that Shujaa cruised quite comfortably, I must say, clinching the main cup after blanking Germany 12-5 at the Nyayo Stadium.

While we are barely out of COVID-19 restrictions, I must admit that the event pulled quite a sizable crowd of spectators.

Dismal attendance

I, however, wondered whether, knowing the capacity of the stadium, more effort would have been made to fill the stadium.

The tickets which retailed at KSh 400 had not gone up for sale as of October 26, much to the frustration of the fans on Twitter.

The newly revamped Nyayo stadium has a capacity of 45,000 give or take. If the Kenya Rugby Union were being optimistic, they were targeting close to KSh 18 million in gate collections for a single day if they would have sold out.

Needless to say, they didn’t get to quarter capacity on either day.

Elitist sport

Don’t get me started on complimentary tickets, which begs the question; is rugby an elitist sport?

What would have been the harm in lowering ticket prices and releasing them to the market earlier in a bid to get more spectators in?

Staging the spectacle at Nyayo Stadium which is so close to the Central Business District, anything lower than the KSh 400 during a pandemic would have gone a long way in improving the attendance of the spectacle.

School rugby

Rugby Sevens was admitted as a formal sport in secondary schools in 2004, to date how many schools in your locality are playing it?

Fifteens have been with us longer, how deep is it? Are the day schools playing it? A well-documented example of class and elitism in rugby is documented in the histories of all leading tier 1 schools.

Rugby in the country has the capacity to become a religion, but there is a perfect pyramid scheme of large private schools like St Marys and traditionally elite schools like Lenana, Mangú and Alliance.

Some of the schools that have produced rugby stars are Kijabe, Dr Aggrey High School, Kisumu Boys, Vihiga High School, and Nyabondo High.
The game of Rugby is not very common in schools, especially primary. Photo: Kenya Rugby Union.
Source: Twitter

There, of course, exist exceptions like Kijabe, Dr Aggrey High School, Kisumu Boys, Vihiga High School, and Nyabondo High that have produced stars for the national Sevens Team despite not having won the school national title themselves.

Whilst there are plenty of enthusiastic rugger-loving Kenyans as you will find out on Twitter when team Shujaa is doing exploits in the HSBC `sevens series, I don’t think the sport has been made accessible to them locally.

The writer is Justine Mugwimi Njeri, a regular writer of opinion pieces. The views expressed in this piece are his and do not necessarily represent the position of TUKO Media Ltd in any way.

Hillary Lisimba photo
Hillary Lisimba