Playing rugby changed my life

Wednesday, February 1st, 2023 07:55 | By
Phoebe Akinyi of Kenya Lionesses outside. PD/ SHADRACK ANDENGA

Standing at six feet five inches tall, Phoebe Akinyi plays rugby not only with passion but fearlessly and lives up to the nickname of Kenya national women team’s nicknamed the ‘Lionesses,’ of which she is a key member.

In her own words, the eccentric player says Lioness is the badge she plays for with pride and honour.

The mother of one who was born and brought up in Buru Buru Estate in Nairobi’s Eastland fell in love with rugby while still a student at Rabai Road Primary School in the adjacent Ofafa Jericho Estate, but very few could decipher why she took rugby as a career considering that it is mostly the domain of men.

Akinyi reminisces about 2012 while she was in class four when Shama’s rugby was introduced at her primary school with programs encompassing only weekends and camps during the holidays.

“No one really knew why I spent so much time training in rugby and attending camps, but the naked truth was that I was running away from home due to some domestic issues,” the Kenya international said.

After sitting for her final primary school exams (KCPE) in 2016, she quickly enrolled in a camp that was organized by Shamas Rugby at Ofafa Jericho High School which is a walking distance from his neighbourhood.

During the camp, one of the counsellors noticed that something was amiss with her and slowly engaged her until when she opened up two years later after joining Huruma Girls High School.

The year 2018 brought good tidings to her while in Form Two as Shamas rugby organised a youth camp after the third term closure of the school. The only detriment was that those invited were youngsters below the age of 14 years, an ineligibility that automatically made her ineligible for the process.

She had no close friend nor relative to stay with, hence no option but to gate-crush the u- 14s camp which ultimately raised eyebrows amongst the coaches.

Luckily, she was accepted but had to lift the heavy load off her chest and share her tribulations with the camp handlers.

Shamas Rugby youth coach Mary Musieka, a former international together with CEO Eduardo de Paoli took it upon herself to rescue her and before she knew it, life unfolded in an unexpected way up to Makadara law courts as she stayed at Dove Children’s home in Ruai.

According to Akinyi, there was a lot of pressure from a section of her family members over the domestic issues that were troubling her. 

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