Joel Omotto @OmottoJoel
Innocent Simiyu has been reinstated as coach of the Kenya Sevens team following the intervention of Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa.
Simiyu parted company with Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) last Thursday for allegedly supporting players in their decision to mask off the Brand Kenya “Make it Kenya” logo from the front of their jerseys at the Paris Sevens early this month, sparking shock and anger among rugby enthusiasts in the country.
Following the outcry, many have been calling for Echesa’s intervention and he yielded to those calls by summoning KRU board of directors led by vice chairman Thomas Opiyo and Chief Executive Officer Ronald Bukusi for a meeting before meeting the players separately.
And after the meeting, a statement sent to newsrooms said they had resolved that: “Innocent Simuyu be reinstated as head coach of the sevens Shujaa national team. The ministry to work with KRU on the pending payments of their salaries and allowances. In future, the federation to be consulting the ministry before such key decisions are made.”
The decision is a relief to Kenyans who feared the prospects of Shujaa at the Sevens World Cup to be held in San Francisco, United States next month where the team is among the favourites.
Simiyu had led the team to their best ever finish in the World Rugby Sevens Series where they finished with 104 points after reaching two Cup finals in Las Vegas and Vancouver where they lost to Fiji on both occasions.
The tactician is said to have stormed a meeting on Wednesday to stand for his players, saying they should not be victimised for the action in Paris.
On Thursday, Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala had ordered for the cancellation of the Sh20million Brand Kenya deal over what he termed breach of contract.
Balala registered his disappointment following the embarrassing situation during the Paris leg of the World Sevens Series on the weekend of June 9 and 10 where Kenya Sevens players played the entire tournament with the branding of their shirt sponsor, Brand Kenya, concealed. Shujaa blocked the “Make it Kenya” brand allegedly in protest against non-payment of Sh4 million to the players.
The incident led to a back-and-forth between KRU and Brand Kenya with the former seeking answers as to why the players were not paid yet part of the money had allegedly been wired to the latter.
“I was really pained to see a country being betrayed in a global competition because of people failing to be patriotic to their motherland. Today (Thursday) we order that contract to be cancelled,” said Balala last week.
However, KRU has defended themselves, saying the team left before the money from Brand Kenya had hit their accounts and that the players were aware of this development.