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Young whistler going places

Twenty-six-year-old civil engineer Andrew Karani is one of Kenya’s highly rated rugby referees, having debuted in the field in 2006.

He has officiated in Russia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Karani is ranked highly alongside long-time friend Constant Cap, the never-aging Godwin Karuga, Peris Mukoko and Sarah Otieno.

The part-time teacher at Strathmore School developed interest in rugby during his high school days.

As a student at Strathmore School, he played as a scrum half for the senior team in Forms Three and Four.

During his childhood, Karani, like most Kenyan children grew up playing football in Nairobi.

“Occasionally, I play to keep fit and have a good time. It’s a nice way to relax,” he said.

Shortly after starting his undergraduate course in 2005, he tried out a few local clubs, including his university’s side, Mean Machine.

His playing career was, however, short-lived because the team trained in the evening and he was unable to take part because it clashed with his class timetable.

Refereeing course

Being a diehard rugby lover, Karani could not see himself entirely leaving the pitch and this forced him to consider switching to officiating.

“I liked the idea because I would be close to the action, and plan for my fitness sessions outside class time. That is how I enrolled for refereeing courses,” he reminisces.

In 2006, Karani officiated his first Kenya Cup game during a duel between Impala and Mwamba.

He said the game went well, despite a few minutes of controversy.

“Impala’s Paul Oimbo crossed the try line and appeared to ground the ball, I signalled for a try. He dropped the ball but fortunately, the touch judge had seen it.

“He called me aside and rectified the mistake., but the Mwamba players were furious!” said Karani.

He has since grown into one of the country’s best referees, and is greatly inspired by England’s Wayne Barnes.

“I like the way he carries himself on the pitch. He’s always calm and make impartial decisions,” he adds.

The engineer, who is still single, lives with his parents and siblings in South C.

In a family of six children, Karani is the only one interested in rugby, but has always enjoyed the support of his siblings.