- Published on 12 June 2019
Kenya's first deaf rugby team has its sights set on making an international impact, despite training without funding, with just the one ball for practices, and only mismatched pre-loved shirts to wear.
The recently-established outfit, supported by the newly-founded Kenya Deaf Rugby Association, trains every Sunday. Its inspiration is the success of Kenya's normal-hearing national rugby side, the Simbas, which is ranked 32 in the world and only failed at the last hurdle to reach the 2019 Rugby World Cup Finals taking place this September in Japan.
Deaf rugby is reasonably well established in Canada, Australia, and the UK, but it is a fledgling enterprise in Kenya, held up by enthusiasm and currently without any sponsorship. The founder of its Association, Maurice Okwatch, explained to the Voice of America website this May that the team, which has been training in the capital Nairobi for just one year, has yet to play a game and has to make do with second-hand kits. The team's normal-hearing coach communicates through sign language.
“When I formed this group,” said Okwatch, “I tried to look for funding but it was very difficult, and the committee ourselves we decided let’s chip in, so we bought a ball as a committee.”