Willy Ambaka: Another Kenya Sevens Star Set To Retire

He praised the achievements he made during his rugby career as well as relished the experiences off the pitch...

Willy Ambaka: Another Kenya Sevens Star Set To Retire
Former Kenya Sevens captain, Willy Ambaka. /TWITTER

Kenya Sevens rugby star Willy Ambaka has become the second player this week to announce his retirement from the International Rugby Sevens.

In a statement on Thursday, January 26, Ambaka announced that he would call time on his illustrious 13-year career after the Sydney leg of the 2022/23 World Rugby Sevens Series set for this weekend in Australia.

He praised the achievements he made during his rugby career as well as relished the experiences off the pitch, citing the 2016 Singapore Sevens leg, which Kenya won against all odds, as one of his proudest moments.

"After thirteen incredible years playing for the Kenya Rugby Union, I'm beginning to understand that while pursuing great things, it is the pursuit that holds the greatest value. While it has been a tremendous journey, now it is time to pull the curtains on my International Rugby 7s journey. This is why I have come to the decision that I will be playing my final leg in Sydney this season.

Former Kenya Sevens captain, Willy Ambaka during a past game. /FACEBOOK

"As a schoolboy, I could only dream of achieving some of the things I have achieved. I couldn't have imagined how many highs and lows the journey would entail, and I cherish every moment as they made me who I am. Whether off the pitch or on the pitch, I hold many experiences close to my heart some of which include winning the final in Singapore in 2016, playing in two Olympic Games, two Commonwealth Games and three Rugby 7s World Cups," he stated.

Ambaka appreciated everyone who stood by the team and cheered them on during their games from anywhere in the country and across the world.

He personally thanked the late Benjamin Ayimba, Mike Friday, Charles Cardovillis, Edward Kinyany, Geoffrey Kimani, Damien McGrath, and his loving family for their support.

"To the teams I played for in France, New Zealand, South Africa and Russia thank you for giving me the opportunity to play and live abroad, welcoming me into your teams and allowing me to learn about different cultures whilst doing what I love. I would like to express my sincere thanks to World Rugby for giving me and thousands of athletes the opportunity to have a career as a rugby player, a journey I will never take for granted," he added.

Ambaka further noted that although professional sports isn't always seen as a career by many African parents, he was grateful to have shown many people that they can build successful careers playing professional sports and travelling the world.

"I will cherish these memories for years to come and hold the greatest appreciation for all the commentators and photographers who have captured the blood, sweat and tears that athletes shed. Special credit goes to the Ministry of Rugby for following the Kenya boys.

"Finally, big thanks to all the Shujaas who I have had the great fortune to play alongside and learn from for more than a decade, to all the management teams and the Kenya Rugby Union. Keep being warriors and know I will always be supporting you!" he appreciated, adding that he will leave with a big smile and the memories and friendships of a lifetime.

Ambaka finished off by quoting Proverbs 16:9 which says "We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps."

The 32-year-old started his rugby career for Kenya Harlequins in 2010.

He made his debut for the national Kenya Sevens team at the 2011 Hong Kong Sevens tournament and represented them during the 2011–12 and 2012–13 IRB Sevens World Series. He was also chosen as part of the 2012–13 HSBC Sevens World Series Dream Team based on his performance that season.

He also played for the Kenya Sevens at 2013, 2018 and 2022 Rugby World Cup Sevens, the 2016 and 2020 Olympics as well as the 2018 and 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Ambaka has also had professional stints in France with Lou Rugby, South Africa with Western Province, New Zealand with Counties Manakau and Russia with Narvskaya Zastava. He played 284 matches and scored 135 tries and 675 points.

His other Kenya Sevens rugby mate, Collins Injera, officially retired as Kenya's all-time World Sevens Series top try scorer and second-highest try scorer at the World Sevens Series with 271 tries.

Portrait of Collins Injera in Kenya Sevens colours. /TWITTER.ERIC NJIRU