Triumphant Kenyan sevens players return home to a heroes’ welcome
Traditional dancers greet the Singapore Sevens champions when they land in Nairobi as the nation celebrates first World Series title
Traditional dancers greeted Kenya’s winning rugby sevens team Tuesday when they landed at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, as the country celebrated its first victory on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
The dancers – some donning the Kenyan flag – lined up on both sides of a red carpet as the players stepped off a flight from Singapore, where they won their first series tournament by beating Fiji 30-7 on Sunday.
The result adds Kenya to the list of teams in the running to win the inaugural Olympics tournament in Rio de Janeiro later this year.
Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, who had indicated he will personally receive the team, was not at the airport with officials saying he was held up.
Sports cabinet secretary Hassan Wario, who welcomed the team, urged them to help Kenya increase its Olympic medal tally which traditionally has come from track events.
Coach Benjamin Ayimba said in a TV interview the team had gone without pay for five months due to financial troubles involving their main sponsor Kenya Airways, but despite this they were able to stay focused.
“When you talk about patriotism, my boys are the most patriotic,” Ayimba said.
Wario said the government will give the team $20,000 (HK$155,000) to settle the backlog of players’ allowances.
Speaking at the airport, captain Andrew Amonde said they have become a team others want to beat.
“I know it is going to be a difficult journey ahead because every team is going to be on to us, we just have to focus as a team again and get everything right again,” said Amonde.