•Shujaa join France, New Zealand, Argentina, Fiji, Australia, Uruguay, Ireland, and the USA in the star-studded Paris line-up.
•The lads, who proudly made us the kings of Africa, overcame pre-tournament favourites South Africa 17-12 in a scintillating final that witnessed a lot of fireworks.
On Sunday, the Kenya Sevens team, Shujaa, became the ninth men’s side to confirm their slot at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games after winning the Rugby Africa Sevens 2023 in Harare.
The lads, who proudly made us the kings of Africa, overcame pre-tournament favourites South Africa 17-12 in a scintillating final that witnessed a lot of fireworks.
They now join France, New Zealand, Argentina, Fiji, Australia, Uruguay, Ireland, and the USA in the star-studded Paris line-up.
The final three places will be decided via the Oceania and Asia qualification round and the Olympic repechage tournament. This is good news, especially coming from a team that experienced heart-wrenching disappointments, including missing out on the inaugural HSBC SVNS following their shock defeat to Canada in London in May.
Shujaa finished ninth at the previous Olympic edition in Tokyo and were 11th on their debut at Rio 2016.
The last time the team made the country proud was in April 2016 when they stunned Fiji 30-7 in the final of the Singapore Sevens to capture the nation's first World Rugby Sevens Series victory.
Before the feat, the Kenyan lads had twice reached the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup Sevens. As we celebrate another milestone in our rugby terrain, it should not be lost on us that the Kenya Sevens were earlier in the year relegated from the World Rugby Sevens Series for the first time in 23 years.
The ugly turn of events means Kenya must now go through the Africa qualifiers, and later the 2024 World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series to grope for promotion to the 2024/2025 Series.
The relegation means that there will be no funding for Kenya from World Rugby. Kenya Sevens earned their maiden invitation to the World Rugby Sevens Series in the 2000/2001 season where they cemented their position as a core team in the 2004/2005 season.
Indeed, several factors have contributed to Shujaa's woes in recent months including incessant board wrangles at the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU), withdrawal of sponsors, and occasional go-slows staged by national team players over unpaid dues.
KRU’s boardroom wrangles culminated in the resignation of Mwangi Muthee as chairman on December 17, 2014, after four years of service.
While quitting, Muthee cast aspersions on the integrity of some of the members he was serving with on the board. He also purported a conflict of interest in the supplying of kit to Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) and questioned how airline tickets worth millions of shillings were procured outside the established KRU channels.
Muthee was at some point accused of ruling with an iron fist after he fired Kenya Sevens head the late Benjamin Ayimba and replaced him with Mitch Ocholla after key squad members threatened to desert the team in protest of his management style.
Shujaa has also witnessed a high turnover of national team coaches, leading to inconsistency in the results posted on the international stage.
At least 10 coaches have served in the team over the past decade. The relevant authorities must swing into prompt action and capitalise on Shujaa's splendid performance at the African championships.
All the factors that threaten to negate the team's past achievements must be addressed with finality.
We hope that the recently elected KRU leadership, led by Sasha Mutai, will establish adequate measures to steer the team to unprecedented heights.