Shujaa turn attention to Olympics after avoiding world series relegation

By Machuki Sundaa

Kenya’s Johnstone Olindi is confident of his side can qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after they avoided relegation from the HSBC World Sevens Series.

Olindi and fellow youngsters Daniel Taabu and Vincent Onyala scored 381 points between them during the series and are among players whose efforts went a long way towards keeping Shujaa among the core teams next season.

They finished 13th out of 15 core teams, with Japan at the bottom. Speaking to The Standard, Olindi said he was grateful for the chance, with the immediate focus being preparation for the Olympic qualifiers.

“Making my debut for the national team was definitely one of my best moments since I begun playing the sport. It is always every player’s desire to don the national team colours and I thank the technical bench for giving me the opportunity,” he was quoted as saying.

“We are now focused on the upcoming Africa Sevens and we shall try and win the tournament because we know there is a reward of qualifying for next years’ Olympics in Japan.

“One important lesson I learned is that there is no easy match in the series and every team you face is always up to the task. You will be in for a rude shock if you underrate any opponent.”

The African Sevens will be held in November in Johannesburg, South Africa, with Zimbabwe, Uganda, Madagascar, Zambia, Tunisia, Senegal, Morocco, Namibia, Ghana, Botswana, Mauritius, Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria also in the mix.

Former sevens coach Benjamin Ayimba, who led the Kenyans to the Singapore title in the 2017/18 season amassing 104 points, said the Kenyans suffered over the season because of a lack of adequate preparation.

“You can’t go to a competition if you are ill-prepared because good results are always worked for. The team didn’t have a good pre-season and that was evident throughout the Series,” Ayimba said to The Standard.

Shujaa’s season begun on a low note, marred by a payment dispute between senior players and governing body KRU that led to a boycott of training and the first six legs of the 2019/18 season. Although some players did return, having finished last in four outings meant they were always going to finish towards the bottom of the standings.

KRU has its work cut out for the world series next season, with chairman Oduor Gangla extending an olive branch to the disgruntled seasoned players ahead of the Olympic qualifiers.

The Standard quoted Oduor as saying: “We (KRU) gave them an offer and they turned it down. Our rationale is very clear and we gave the best amount we could afford. The contract is voluntary and you can’t force it on the players.

“We have extended an Olive branch to everyone. We are not going to say that, ‘No you are not welcome’. Everyone who is capable and willing to play for the country is welcome because this team is for everyone.”

Main photo: YouTube

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