Bling, Fadhee, Sewe: The Kenya 7s Bench Brewed Over 18 Years of Friendship

15th September 2023

The trio leading the men's national rugby 7s team met for the first time in 2005 and now have the task of steering the country to a third consecutive Olympic Games.

Shujaa head Kevin 'Bling' Wambua (middle) flanked by team manager Steve Sewe (left) and assistant coach Louis 'Fadhee' Kisia (right). PHOTO| SportPesa
Shujaa head Kevin 'Bling' Wambua (middle) flanked by team manager Steve Sewe (left) and assistant coach Louis 'Fadhee' Kisia (right). PHOTO| SportPesa
  • Kevin ‘Bling’ Wambua replaced British tactician Damian McGrath as head coach.
  • Louis ‘Fadhee’ Kisia comes in as his assistant with Steve Sewe, who was the Kenya 7s team manager back in 2011-12 under American Mike Friday, returning to the same role.
  • The three men first interacted way back in 2005 as youngsters playing for Mwamba RFC.
  • They are now tasked with leading Shujaa in the Paris 2024 Olympic qualifiers taking place in Zimbabwe from 16-17 September.

It was on Friday 4 August 2023, when the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) officially confirmed the news.

The youthful Kevin ‘Bling’ Wambua was named the new head coach of the men’s national rugby 7s side, Shujaa, following the parting of ways with British tactician Damian McGrath.

Wambua, who was elevated from McGrath’s deputy, would be joined in the technical bench by Strathmore Leos gaffer Louis ‘Fadhee’ Kisia as assistant coach and the returning Steve Sewe as team manager.

Shujaa head coach Kevin 'Bling' Wambua

Former Kenya 7s skipper Andrew Amonde (Strength and Conditioning coach), Lamech Bogonko (Team Physio) and Eric Ogweno (Team Liaison) would also join alongside American Chris Brown who would serve as a strength and conditioning consultant from World Rugby.

The time for change at the helm of the Kenya 7s had inevitably arrived, especially after the side suffered relegation from the prestigious World Rugby Sevens Series for the first time in 19 years following the 12-7 loss to Canada in the relegation playoff finals held in London back in March.

And so, in moving forward, KRU sought to give the opportunity to a local coach. A figure that would steer the country through the Paris 2024 Olympic qualifiers that take place in Harare, Zimbabwe from 16-17 September and perhaps going into the future.

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As fate would have it, the trio of Bling, Fadhee and Sewe ended up with the job of navigating Shujaa back to its glory days.

But first, through the Rugby Africa men’s sevens Cup not only serving as the African qualifiers for the 2024 Olympics - where only the winner gets the single automatic ticket – but also the World Rugby Challenger Series 2024.

That moment had not just been born out of the blues.

In their reunion, the three men rekindled a relationship that started brewing 18 years ago when they were just boys who had nothing much to think about apart from playing rugby for the storied Mwamba RFC way back in 2005.

“My earliest memory of Louis was when we met at the Mwamba pitch late in 2005. He had this black jersey which had a strapping on it with the number 7 because he always wanted to be a flanker initially.

The funny part was that instead of the jersey having the number, it had the strapping. But we were just young boys then,” Shujaa head coach Wambua, who is commonly referred to as Bling, exclusively told SportPesa News.

“We played in the Eric Shirley Shield (ESS) together for I think three seasons before we graduated into the Kenya Cup,” the coach added.

 Loius 'Fadhee' Kisia and Wambua

At the time, rugby was just about fun for the three young men, with Sewe shouldering the additional responsibility of being the Mwamba club captain for the squad taking part in the reserve ESS league.

Little did they know of what was to come some 18 years on into their lives.

“I was at the club earlier before Bling and Louis joined later and one thing for sure is that, even at playing level, everybody among us wanted to win.

I am glad that is the same thing that has continued for us even into management because everything we are looking at as the technical bench is how much do we want it?” Sewe, who served as Mike Friday’s team manager alongside Brown from 2011-2012, noted.

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For Fadhee, their journey to the national team management was marked with humble beginnings as the three players slowly found their footing around the friendship.

“Bling used to play for Ulinzi then before it got disbanded. Sewe was the team captain and that is how I knew him. After a few years, we were all promoted to the first team where we won a couple of accolades.

Aside from dominating in the U21s, we won a couple of 7s tournament and went to Uganda where we won the Hima 10s twice. So, over the years we became friends and that friendship has been cordial and mutual all along,” Louis, widely referred to as Fadhee, reminisced.

While the three players fought for each other on the pitch against opponents, Bling reckons that none of them would be where they are currently were it not for the relationship they were able to foster beyond the white marks of the field.

His relationship with Fadhee particularly growing to be a tight one. To a point that if you want to find Fadhee, one only needs to ask him and vice versa.

So when he was given the free hand to pick his technical bench, he not only knew who his trusted sidekick was going to be but also why specifically him.

“Passion. Passion is key in our line of work and he (Louis) has that passion. You can see from the way he is always up on his feet. You need someone with passion and energy so that even when things are hard, they make sure you are aligned and focused.

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So, I picked that in him and it is good having him around. We have really come a long way and we have supported each other off the pitch which is the most important bit,” Bling said.

“If you support each other away from the pitch then come in a working environment together, that is a big plus because in this line of work you need someone you can trust, who can push you and bring the energy out of you on your off days.

Having Sewe on board is good and easy because we understand our strengths and weaknesses and that means we can cover for each other which is the best part about working together,” he noted.

Sewe, who ventured into the administration side of the game after doing his coaching badges alongside Bling, was quick to point out the ease in taking the job, this time alongside familiar faces after his initial stint under Friday.

“It is always a breath of fresh air when you work with people you are comfortable with. Having played together has made us be able to trust one another and everyone understands their strengths. These two guys were hard workers as I can remember.

Louis is one of the most promising coaches in the country right now. When you look at his growth and even where he has taken his Strathmore Leos team, it is incredible and that enabled this blend to come together,” he stated.

The team manager was however quick to allay any fears that the friendship might come in the way of the task at hand.

“We are not taking things for granted just because we know each other which can be the poisoned chalice. We are trying to have work ethic because people are looking up to us and everyone is watching to see what these three people from the same club will do.

It is a mix of two worlds, one of friendship but also of the professional side. Balancing those two is what will matter as we work together,” he noted.

Also read: Vincent Onyala Headlines Shujaa Travelling Squad To Zimbabwe

While agreeing to the sentiments made by the team manager, Louis, who doubles up as the Strathmore Leos head coach, made it clear what the overall goal for the technical bench is.

“It was a no brainer getting to work with him (Bling) at the national team because we have been working all these years in different places and he is my good friend.

We want what is best for the country. Not what is best for Bling, Sewe or me. We want what will work for the team and what will suit the personnel that we have,” he said.

“Booking the ticket to Paris 2024 would mean the world to us. It is a task and objective that we have set for ourselves and we will put our best foot forward to ensure we bring back the glory days to the Shujaa team,” he asserted.

On his part, Sewe lauded the dedication and commitment shown by the team in the task that awaits them as he made a promise to repay the faith bestowed upon them by the Kenya Rugby Union and the country at large to lead the national team.

“We have gotten to a place where we are setting our legacies. The approach we are coming in with is to empower and to do a lot of investment in development rugby because we do not want to go to a place where we lose our players easily but the source of production is not taken care of.

This is a challenge for us as we go into the qualifiers with South Africa which has only set the bar even higher. But we are confident that we have a talented team of young players who desire to achieve something at individual capacities and that keeps the fire burning.

As a team we are coming together knowing that we are at war and we want to be good stewards of what God has placed in our hands,” he noted.

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For Bling, nothing would mean more than steering the country to their third consecutive Olympic appearance.

Having served as assistant head coach under Paul ‘Pau’ Murunga from 2018-19 and Paul Feeney from 2019-20, Bling is keen to finally put the shine he is always associated with in his career.

“I will not lie to you. It will be big for me if I manage to do it. Looking at a situation where I have helped two teams qualify for the Olympics before but I have never gone to any, this will be big.

But not just for me, also for the boys. We are just trying to see how we can set up the next generation for something good,” he concluded.

Rugby Africa 7s Cup 2023

Shujaa have been grouped in Pool B alongside Zambia, Namibia and Nigeria with Pool A featuring South Africa, Madagascar, Tunisia and Ivory Coast.

Pool C comprises of Uganda, hosts Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso and Algeria.

Shujaa, who normally dominate that tournament having won the 2015 and 2019 editions to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio and Tokyo held in 2021, will face strong challenge from the Blitzboks who missed out automatic qualification following their seventh placed finished which was outside the top four finishing teams.

It will now be the first time that the South Africans have to qualify via the Africa Cup after they have always been automatic qualifiers since Sevens was introduced at the Olympics.

The winners of the 2023 African Cup will get an automatic ticket to the Paris Olympics, while the second and third placed teams will have to go through a final qualification Repechage tournament in June 2024 whose winner will take the final spot.

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Travelling Squad

Vincent Onyala, Kevin Wekesa, John Okoth, William Muhanji, George Ooro, Samuel Asati, Brian Tanga, Tony Omondi, Nygel Amaitsa, Patrick Odongo, Festus Shiasi, Beldad Ogeta.

Non-Travelling Reserves

Elvis Olukusi, Fidens Tony, Ronnie Omondi


Group A: South Africa, Madagascar, Tunisia, Ivory Coast

Group B: Kenya, Zambia, Namibia, Nigeria

Group C: Uganda, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso, Algeria

Shujaa Pool Fixtures | Saturday 16 September

1106 | Kenya v Nigeria

1350 | Kenya v Namibia

1634 | Kenya v Zambia