Why Liyosi is determined to officiate at Rugby World Cup

Referee Noreen Liyosi (left) with her colleagues Beril Akinyi and Brian Kipkoech after a recent Kenya Cup match in Nakuru. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

When she’s at the centre of the pitch, one hardly believes she can manage matches better than what other experienced referees in a male-dominated profession have done in the past.

And when she takes to the pitch, she does her job with vigour and a lot of passion that has made her become the centre of attraction.

That is World Rugby Level Two Nakuru-based referee Noreen Liyosi for you.

Liyosi attained the World Rugby Level One Certificate in 2017 followed by the World Rugby Two Certificate in 2019.

The 31-year-old Liyosi is a darling of fans and players of different teams in Kenya Rugby Union’s Kenya Cup League owing to her seriousness, strictness and fairness that comes in equal measure.

In return, it has made her to get on well with all senior and junior clubs in the domestic leagues.

And it is because of such reasons that she has been preferred by Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) to officiate some of the tensioned packed matches in the Kenya Cup League and National Sevens Circuit for the past five years.

But her love for rugby did not come by mistake for Liyosi who is a teacher by profession but determined to become the first-ever Kenyan female referee to officiate at the Rugby World Cup.

“I’m determined to succeed and officiate at the Rugby World Cup in what has eluded many of us in the continent. It is not difficult to succeed in it but I’m driven by deep love and passion for the game. I believe in my ambition to serve at the global tournament someday,” Liyosi told Standard Sports during a recent training session at Nakuru Athletic Club.

In order to achieve that, Liyosi must first attain World Rugby Level Three Certificate that will allow her to be a globetrotter in the World Rugby international championships.

Liyosi, who commenced her career at the primary school level did it with passion that one day attracted the attention of Kenya Lionesses head coach Felix Oloo who enrolled her into Nakuru RFC Age Grading Academy.

Referee Noreen Liyosi looks on during a Kenya Cup match between Menengai Oilers and Blak Blad in Nakuru. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

“This is where I have honed my skills before I graduated to officiate in the local scene but officiating at the global showpiece is my ultimate ambition. It’ll not matter how long it takes but it starts with continental circuits in Rugby Africa matches that gives exposure before I proceed to the global level,” stated Liyosi.

Liyosi doubles up as assistant referee in Kenya Cup League and National Sevens Circuit Division One matches.

In Africa, she has officiated at the World Rugby recognised tournaments like World Universities Games in Namibia and Victoria Falls Sevens in Zimbabwe both hosted in 2018.

Kenya and South Africa scooped the Victoria Falls Sevens and World Universities Games’ titles respectively.

Asked why she ventured into officiating at the tender age, Liyosi said: “I broke my leg in one of the matches and the painful process of healing influenced my attitude towards refereeing as opposed to playing”.

She was injured while playing for Nakuru RFC in a league match against Homeboyz in the 2016/2017 season. She took three months to heal.

“Coupled with the love for the sport, it is the reason, I’m still in it,” said Liyosi.

“I fell in love with rugby because it was entertaining compared to other disciplines. I also wanted to try my luck in a sport that had very few female players but I’m happy the numbers have gone up.”

Asked how she controls emotions in a tensioned-packed and competitive match, Liyosi said: “I’m always cool but very strict and fair to all teams. Without fear or favour, I’ve managed to deliver my work exceptionally and I fell this is the way to go as a referee.”

World Rugby Referee Africa Educator Lameck Ongati who trained Liyosi is proud of her development. He also trained Beril Akinyi who has emerged as one of Kenya’s best female referee.

“She (Liyosi) is an industrious lady on and off pitch who is very disciplined in her work. She is bound to go places,” said Ongati who has toured many countries in Africa in the training of referees.

As a lady player, she first learnt safety measures before she fully got engaged into the sport.

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