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Infectious Kenyans invade Las Vegas
One of the main attractions of Sevens Rugby is its intensity: fourteen minutes of non-stop action played by 14 super fit players and a referee that can handle the pace of the game.

This intensity is one of the big drawing cards for supporters at the eight IRB Sevens World Series tournaments, as well as the hundreds of other tournaments all over the world.

Enjoyment is a certainty on the sevens circuit, and having a large Kenyan support is certainly another.

“They are always very good and seem to travel in huge numbers,” said IRB Sevens Manager, Beth Coalter.

“The Kenyans are loud and colourful. At every tournament there is a cluster of them.”

The Sam Boyd Stadium, nestled in the outskirts of Las Vegas and enjoying the sublime backdrop of the Spring mountains, is currently benefitting from its own Kenyan visitors.

About 1,500 have made the trip, 50 or so flying in from Nairobi and the rest students in the US.

Noisy crowd

Richard Omwela is chairman of the Kenyan Rugby Football Union. Sitting in the middle of the noisy crowd, many are unaware of his position.

“I’ve heard people say that the KRFU officials wouldn’t know a thing about this; that the Chairman would never be here with them. I smile,” he says with, in fact, a huge laugh.

Omwela, a lawyer, had “a business meeting in New York City, which got delayed and delayed until it somehow coincided with this tournament.”

Another laugh.

He is certainly enjoying his time here.

Two rows below him is Ernest Waweru, who at 24 is studying for his Masters in Economics in Baltimore, Maryland.

Waweru has rented a house in Las Vegas for the week with 15 friends. He has been to all four USA Sevens events since moving here.

“We start organising it with a lot of anticipation. Emails, phone calls, whatever it takes - this is such a fun weekend,” he said.

Seasoned travellers

Unrelated to US President Barrack Obama’s family ties to Kenya, there are three Kenyan Exiles teams in the country. One is in Boston, another is in Dallas and a third is drawn from the East Coast Kenyans.

“We enter different Sevens tournaments and try to have as much fun as we possibly can,” explains Waweru.

Kenyans tend to stick together at tournaments, becoming one huge red mass of noise, but the way they enjoy the rugby also attracts others to join them in the stands all over the world.

Five thousand have already confirmed attendance at the next stop of the IRB Sevens in Adelaide next month, and England’s RFU actually make provisions for them for the London tournament - a whole block will be made available as they normally buy their tickets on the day.

“We are looking into ways of organising events around the Sevens tournaments; a lot of supporters are contacting us for gear,” argues Auka Gecheo, the KRFU’s General Manager who is also out here as a fan.

“I do believe we can generate a lot of good things for our game thanks to this.”

The fans are certainly well organised here in Vegas. From Thursday through to Sunday, Kenyan nights were set up at three different venues; their parties even have Kenyan DJs.

In fact, the USA Sevens weekend is one of the biggest gatherings of Kenyans anywhere in the country.

“This city is great; I’ve been on some 40 IRB Sevens tournaments and this is certainly one of the best,” said Mike Lucas, Vice Chairman of the Kenyan Harlequins Club.

“We are having a great time and coming to the Sevens is a great excuse to leave for a week. We are fanatics, who cares that it took me 28 hours to get here!”

Eloya tutashida, eloya tutashida, Ha! Hee hee hee haa, hee hee hee haa, eloya!,” sings a guy with a T-Shirt that reads: ‘Rugby is the second most powerful thing in the world. The first is a Kenyan’.

He is supporting his side to victory. And Kenya did not disappoint him, beating England in the quarter-finals before falling to New Zealand in the semis.In the opening day of the USA Sevens the team won its first two matches, beating Chile and Scotland, but narrowly lost to Samoa.

The support never stopped. After all, most of them are members of the International Fanatics Board, as their T-Shirts read.

“As players it is great to know they are there,” says captain, Humphrey Kayange, sentiments echoed by Dan Lyle, the Tournament Director here in Las Vegas: “For us as organisers it is also great to know that they will be here. They have viral ways of organising themselves.”

The growth of the game in Kenya is evident. The growth of the support base at tournaments is also noticeable and what that generates among the players and supporters is passion, fun and enjoyment. (IRB)


Source: Daily Nation

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