Broke but upbeat. The woes of Kenya Lionesses


Kenya Lioness rugby 7s head coach Mike Shamiah (C), Director of Squads, Oscar Maingi (L) ...
Kenya Lioness rugby 7s head coach Mike Shamiah (C), Director of Squads, Oscar Maingi (L) and captain Kate Abilla address the media at the RFUEA grounds on March 30, 2016. The team will do duty in France this weekend. Photo/Oliver Ananda/www.sportpicha.com

Cash-strapped Kenya Lionesses will depart for the final round of the 2015/16 HSBC Women’s Sevens Series in Clermont-Ferrand, France without being paid their allowances arrears for two months but still determined to put on a good show.

The Rio 2016 Olympics-bound players revealed on Tuesday afternoon after their final training session they have not received a single penny since they last played at Hong Kong while it also emerged their management led by head coach, Mike Shamiah have not paid for five months.

“I love playing for my country with much pride. Sure everyone who knows me will cheer me on but when I come back, I sneak back to my place since have got nothing to show off for. I also clean clothes for people and do other odd jobs to sustain my family and also get some bus fare.

“I can barely afford three meals a day, mostly I rely with what they give us to eat after training and go to bed,” a player who sought anonymity for fear of being thrown out of the team confided to Citizen Digital ahead of the team’s scheduled departure for France on Tuesday night.

“How do they expect us to perform if you can’t eat or have a settled mind?” She lamented.

At their final training session, it was evident the girls were almost being compelled to go through their paces but they managed to put on a brave and cheerful face for the media.

Unlike their Kenya 7s male counterparts, who enjoy sponsorship from the National Carrier Kenya Airways and are guaranteed bonuses and allowances most Lioness players rely heavily on the little they make from national duty.

“It’s so sad that we have to rely on a well wisher to assist us from World Rugby and we don’t have training gear. Why can’t the Government even support us, yet Shujaa are sponsored and have a better life than us?” our source added.

Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) Richard Omwela admitted that the girls and their management have not been paid and their coffers were empty to offset the arrears.

“Without sponsors where is the money going to come from? They are still an amateur team and no sponsor has shown up with interest to finance them. The federation has got no money to pay them. Where do they want me to get me the money? My pocket?

“They should bear with us until we find a solution to their money problems. In the absence,” Omwela scoffed when contacted.

Their automatic qualification to Rio Olympics helped the Lioness team get some help with the logistics’ of the tournaments including ticketing and accommodation from World Ruby.

“World Rugby is looking at how they are going to fund the women’s team before they go for the summer Olympics in Brazil. Once they through with Series in Clermont-Ferrand they shall be taken by the world governing body to Rome, before going to Rio,” the chairman added.

Kenya is in Pool A where they shall play against Spain, England and USA.

Despite losing easy games to their opponents’ Lioness coach, Mike Shamiah is hopeful they shall perform well despite the resource challenges.

“It’s a tough pool but very interesting, we are going to play a good game against our opponents. We have prepared well for every team; our first match is against Spain we hope have a running game with a little of physicality, second game is against England which one of the top women’s rugby teams,” the coach.

“Our mental strength has been a big challenge to us but slowly by slowly have tried to improve their mental strength because we have been losing easy games which we crucial in our preparations for Rio.

“This time we are going to travel two days earlier since the other challenge is acclimatization, which really costs us very much. I’m not worried about my players being fatigued since it will be easy to shake it off after they have done the captain’s run to polish up on team work and communication,” the tactician added.

As the 18-year-old, Nakuru RFC’s Grace Adhiambo blends in with the team, team captain Cate Abilla believes they shall have enough time to settle in the tournament.

“My team is well prepared and this time we have travelled early enough we shall be able to concentrate on the matches more, previously we used to be jetlagged and we were easily de-motivated.

“Though I know England will really challenge us we won’t go down without putting a spirited fight,” the skipper confidently added.

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Story By Charity Wanja
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