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DEMYSTIFYING RUGBY: Shamas Rugby Foundation popularising the sport among youth in Nairobi

RUGBY By - ERICK OCHIENG’ | January 22nd 2014 | 3 min read


Shamas Rugby Foundation founder Azim Deen (third from right) with some of the young rugby players during a fundraiser cocktail at a Nairobi hotel, recently. [PHOTO: JONAH ONYANGO/STANDARD]

The success of Kenya Rugby Sevens team is quickly inspiring many young children to take to the sport.

It is due to this success that Shamas Rugby Foundation (SRF), a junior rugby initiative started in 2009, is popularising the game among the youth in Nairobi.

This year, Shamas Rugby Foundation based at the Kenya Harlequins grounds, Nairobi, hopes to spread its wings to reach more aspiring rugby players in Nairobi and its environs.

According to the foundation’s founder Azim Deen, the institution is currently running a project in Nairobi’s Kangemi and the city’s Eastland’s area.

The foundation, which aims to give hope to children between ages 5-15 from across the vast Nairobi slums, recently began conducting rugby clinics in Eastlands with the help of three female coaches from the region.

“Each coach has been allocated three primary schools where they introduced the sport and are now training the children rugby thrice a week,” Deen told FeverPitch.

The schools have joint training sessions on Saturdays at Nairobi’s Ofafa Jericho grounds. Surprisingly, more girls have embraced the programme and this has inspired SRF to intensely develop girls’ rugby.

Two other clinics have been held in Mathare and Kibera slums since June 2012. SRF is targeting to introduce the game in 30 primary schools in Nairobi this year.

Regular participation

So far, schools identified are Msedo, Brilliant, Excellent, Genesis, Pilot, Caso Upendo, St Michael, Nesco Academy, Ayany, Rail Educational Centre, Stara Academy, Toi, Ofafa Jericho, StPatricks, Rabai and Dr Krapft.

“Once we establish regular rugby participation in these schools, we will hold a Primary Schools Rugby Championships,” says Deen.

Deen says he appreciates the help from the Nairobi County Sports and Education Cabinets, which are helping him spread the game in private to public primary schools.

The foundation, formerly run by the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU), has already given over 350 children an   opportunity to attend a high profile rugby tour in South Africa last August.

This, Deen says, was made possible by the cordial relationship between the foundation and renowned South Africa’s International rugby talent scout, Jerome Paarwater.

“With the help of Paarwater, the children will be taken back to the Western Cape Sports School this year,” said Deen.

Western Cape Sports School gives children from poor backgrounds, who excel in rugby, a chance to train rugby in an elite setting.

“We will start working on our second tour shortly and the children from all our rugby clinics will undergo selection. Having established good links with the coaches at Western Cape School, we hope to discuss plans to invite them and other international experts to Kenya. Their experience will be invaluable to our coaches and young players,” Deen says.

Last year, the children had an opportunity to watch a high profile international match between Springboks and Argentina, when they visited Cape Town.

Because of goodwill from individual and corporate sponsors, the foundation will by next year roll out its first ever full scholarship to talented players.

While appreciating the roles played by parents, teachers and coaches, SRF is encouraging sponsors to come on board to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds realise their sports and academic potentials.

Deen is grateful for the General Accident Insurance and I &M Bank, through their director Sachit Shah, for jointly sponsoring SRF to the tune of Sh1 million annually.

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