Kenya 7s commonly referred to as Shujaa has over the years put Kenya on the world map with meticulously impressive performances in the world sevens series. The optimum came in 2016 when Shujaa outclassed Fiji to lift the Singapore sevens trophy, in what seemed like a new dawn for Kenyan rugby.
The win pumped fresh breath into the system, fans were now more optimistic of a bright future and more young men and women wanted to join the sport with dreams of donning the national jersey.
Fast forward to the 2018/2019 season and Kenya are 13th on the world series rankings with a paltry 26 points with just two legs left to play amidst a player and union standoff that saw many senior players opt out of the squad. Shujaa are not out of relegation danger yet and will have to summon all courage when they head to London and Paris and at least make it to the quarterfinals, a feat they are yet to achieve this season.
Collins Injera is a man who many can say has seen it all having donned the national colours for more than a decade now, beating all odds to become Kenya’s highest try scorer in the series. Injera has gone on to become an icon among many young players. He is among the senior players who did not agree to the new contracts and has gone on to stay away from national team duties even as the likes of Andrew Amonde, Dan Sikuta, Eden Agero and Nelson Oyoo made a return to the squad. Billy Odhiambo, Sammy Oliech and Willy Ambaka are the other key names missed the trips to Hong Kong and Singapore
Speaking to Planet sports podcast Injera said staying away until their demands for better pay and playing environment were met was a step that the senior players felt was necessary so as to lay a better foundation for the upcoming players. The Mwamba RFC flanker who is confident of the talent that the young possesses even with relegation being a major possibility this season.
“It is very unfortunate that I could not get involved this season, as you know we are having contractual issues with the union. It has not been a smooth riding season, at the moment we are 13th, battling it out with Wales and Japan. It is sad having been there from 2006/7 and just looking at the squad right now and the position and relegation maybe is a possibility, it’s really sad. It’s quite unfortunate we could not come to an agreement in terms of contractual issues.” he said.
“At the moment we have very young talented boys in the team who are really putting up their hand, I would have wished to play with them just to nurture them and help them grow, but again it is what it is. We are in that position now and we just have to make sure they keep playing good rugby and hope we finish on top of Wales and Japan.”
“If we had sorted our in house issues and maintained the core group that was there last season and add a few guys who are really performing well in this current set up, I don’t see why by now we should not be competing for a top-four spot. It is our own undoing, we let our issues come into play and now we are suffering our own misfortunes.”
According to the former Vihiga High school man, it was not about any individual or selfish interests but a longing to see the sport turn professional and some recurring issues dealt with once and for all.
“At the moment am at peace, when I joined the team it’s not that we did not have issues, they have been there but somehow we have always found a way of working around them. I think it reached a point where we can not keep hiding behind the issues and just moving forward because that means even the younger guys who are coming up will find the same issues. we have been in a lot of standoffs ever since I started playing the sport, even before I started playing the sport, there were standoffs between players and the union.”
“It is a culture we need to get rid off so that the sport can be professional. We are always on that brink of breaking into a professional set up then somehow something happens then we go down, issues here and there, players standoff, union maybe getting rid of a few players. It’s just been the same cycle through and through and I think it reached a point whereby players said enough is enough. For us to be able to go around this the real issues have to be addressed, we can’t keep coming back to the same things year in year out.”
“It is hurting the sport as well. What has been happening is maybe there’s a standoff and the senior most players are sidelined, we bring in fresh blood and after some time the new and fresh blood are now experienced and they can demand for better contracts, better environment, then they are sidelined again and we bring in new players. It is sort of the same sequence year in year out and it reached a point guys said enough is enough. If we can’t address the real issue it doesn’t matter who will come in as a sponsor or who will be in the team because it will be the same issues that will be hurting them.”
“I am not fighting for any individual interests, it is for the better of the future of the team, for the upcoming players to find a good environment and a good set up to be able to perform to their optimum.”
Listen to his full interview here: https://soundcloud.com/user-254462305/s2-e11-collins-injera