From slums to sevens, the lionesses of Kenya’s rugby team are impeccable

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The kibera slum outside Nairobi seems unlikely to find an international athlete, but for Kenyan rugby sevens star Diana avigno, this is where she calls home.

Kibera, the largest urban slum in Africa, has an unemployment rate of 50% and only 20% of its houses-mainly mud and corrugated roofs-have electricity.

There is one toilet for every 50 houses and only recently two tap pipes were installed.

“In order to survive there, you have to get a job, a paid job, because you have to pay the rent,” Awino told CNN World Rugby. “You need to feed your family. It’s really hard.”

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Awino was undoubtedly part of the Kenya team that won the African women’s sevens in Botswana last year, an anomaly in kibera’s population of 2.5 million.

She lives with her nine-year-old son and family. She had to make sacrifices to realize her dream of serving her country.

“I usually see my son at night,” she said. “Or perhaps in the afternoon. I have to go to their school to see him because if I train in my club at night, when I go back I find him asleep.

“It’s really hard… I want to change where I live. I thought it might be better than me to move somewhere.”

Read: New Zealand beat Sydney sevens twice

The Kenyan women’s team mates, nicknamed the lionesses, won the African title and competed in the commonwealth games – ranking sixth – and now hope to qualify for the world rugby sevens series. That will mean more money and regular matches against the best teams in the world.

The men’s side offered a vision of how far the Kenyan team could go in rugby’s shortened format after winning the first Singapore world series in 2016.

However, finding new female recruits can be difficult and changing perceptions of rugby can be a challenge.

“Some people think, ‘oh, I don’t want my daughter to play this game. It’s very practical and very crude for the ladies, ‘” “explained Philadelphia captain Orlando.

“But once you get there, you feel its effects, physical – it’s addictive. It makes you more competitive, it makes you a beast of a woman.

Orlando scored against Canada in Kenya at last year’s commonwealth games.

The recent launch of the Kenya women’s league has helped foster talent, especially outside Nairobi.

The players come from a variety of backgrounds, but Orlando, who was part of the Kenya team that competed in the 2016 Olympics, insists that once an individual becomes a member of the lions, they become part of a larger family.

“We all wore the same sweatshirts, the same boots, and we played with the same ball,” she said. “It doesn’t make you think, ‘I’m from the slums, I can’t adapt to this game. ‘it’s all about the talent at the end of the day.

“Team spirit, solidarity – we fight each other. If anyone has a question… Maybe they’re having trouble paying rent, and we’re getting together to raise money for them, because we need them and we can’t leave them alone. ”

During his nearly seven years at Lionesses, Kevin Wambua has overseen a great improvement.

Teams such as New Zealand, Australia and England have been able to give full time contracts and state-of-the-art training facilities to their sevens, but Wambua thinks his team can outcompete its more prosperous rivals.

Read: from South African townships to Springbok Sevens

“” I’ve seen them leapfrog since 2012, when some of them couldn’t even catch the football and are now actually world-class hitters,” “he said.

“These players have sacrificed a lot. Some of them come from far away and wake up as early as 4am for training… Some of them even walk training.

“Some of them have to leave their children at home and some have to balance school and work. It is this flexibility and sacrifice that makes them unique.

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