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Rugby fraternity mourns veteran referee

By AYUMBA AYODI
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Former Mwamba Rugby winger and veteran referee, the late Osborne Bulemi has been eulogised as a dedicated servant of rugby, who would stop at nothing to help the game grow in the country.

Mulemi, who celebrated his 59th birthday on September 30, died on Wednesday at 6.15pm while undergoing treatment for diabetes at Kenyatta National Hospital.

Bulemi, who joined Rugby Referees Society of Kenya (KRRS) in 1992, went on to serve as the society’s secretary and chairman besides referees’ administrator at Kenya Rugby Union.

KRRS chairman John Karimi paid tribute to Bulemi as one of the pioneer rugby referees, who dedicated his time and resources to the game.

“He went deep to do the game,” said Karimi. “Bulemi was amiable and would never use shortcuts to handle situations.”

Karimi said that it’s no wonder that KRRS honoured him with a Life Time Award in 2016 for his exemplary work for the game.

“I am privileged to have worked with this honest and straight forward man.”

Former KRRS chairman Victor Muniafu, who brought Bulemi among other aspiring referees to KRRC in 1992, said that the country has lost a great referees’ educator, who served the world of rugby well.

“Bulemi was a nice character, who was strict with rugby rules, which in the end helped shape many players,” said Muniafu, adding that they grew up with Bulemi at Kariakor Estate, Nairobi.

“His knowledge for the game was amazing, paid attention to every detail and made sure you understood his point.”

Some of Kenya’s top referees Constant Cap and Okwemba Alfred also paid tribute to Bulemi, fondly known as Osbunde or Ozzy.

“Many thanks for welcoming me as a young referee in KRRS 15 years ago,” said Cap, adding that he will always remember Bulemi’s good humour and dedication to the game.

“We will remember the good times while on tours, the encouragement you gave guys after tough Kenya Cup matches,” noted Cap.

Okwemba said that Bulemi fought hard for the greater good of the game.

“Bulemi mentored me and many others as he served with grace and dignity. His nobility will be unmatched and will not go unnoticed. He was a great friend who I will miss dearly,” said Okwemba.

Former Mwamba forward Richard “Quicks” Nyakwaka said that he first met Bulemi in 1996 when he travelled from Nairobi overnight to Kisumu to handle a Mwamba and Ulinzi match at Technical School.

“Those days, referees were few and all were in Nairobi. He served rugby selflessly. He was there for us when we hosted the first Masaku Sevens rugby in 2012, where he stood with us and dedicated his time to manage the referees,” said Nyakwaka.

“After some matches, we would laughed about some of the famous red cards he had showed me in my playing days.”