Giant-felling Kenya Sevens team gets VIP reception
Business at the busy Jomo Kenyatta International Airport came to a halt as a carnival mood rent the air on Tuesday when the triumphant Kenya Sevens rugby team returned from Singapore.
The Qatar Airlines plane carrying the team from Doha landed shortly after 2.30pm and taxied to the VIP area, where team captain Andrew Amonde exited to a rousing welcome amid song and dance.
Among those who welcomed the team were Sports Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario, Kenya Airways chairman Dennis Awori, Kenya Airways chief executive Mbuvi Ngunze, Kenya Rugby Union chairman Richard Omwela and Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko.
Kenya stunned Fiji 30-7 to win the series on Sunday. It was the first time for the team to win an event in the World Rugby Sevens Series, having reached the final twice in 2009 in Adelaide and in 2013 (Wellington).
Staff of Kenya Airways, the team’s sponsor, frantically ensured those on board and the welcoming party donned jerseys in the national carrier’s colours before they disembarked with Amonde holding the glamorous trophy aloft.
The team had a brief interview with television stations that were relaying the arrival live before heading to the Kenya Airways wing for a photo session as they jetted back aboard Qatar Airlines, the sponsors of the Singapore leg of the series.
After the photo session, the team left the normal arrival lounge to another rousing welcome, this time from family, friends and other well-wishers. They were chauffeured away from the airport in two stretched limousines, courtesy of Mike Sonko Rescue Team, and six outriders before landing at Ole Sereni Hotel, on Mombasa Road, for lunch.
Mr Ngunze announced the airline’s reward to the 17 players of $1,000 (Sh101,000) each, Mr Wario said his ministry will give the team Sh2 million while Senator Sonko pledged Sh100,000 for each player. He said President Uhuru Kenyatta will host the team on Wednesday afternoon at State House, where sources hinted at another Sh1 million awaits each player from the President.
Awori, a former KRU chairman and Kenya Sevens player, said it was a humbling experience for him, having been in the team’s first players that won the Dubai Sevens in 1982 and defended it in 1983.