Monday, November 18, 2013

Preparations for Cecafa Cup one big sham

Not so long ago, a local daily newspaper ran a series on the shameful state of our sports stadia.
The stories made for pitiful reading, exposing all venues in major towns and cities as derelict facilities. At the time, no one took notice. Football Kenya Limited (Football Kenya Federation’s predecessor), Sports Stadia Management Board (SSMB), respective municipal councils and the government of the day were all collectively guilty for the mess.
But what goes around surely comes around. From the events of the last few weeks, it seems we have finally come to a sad awakening; or perhaps not. With the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup returning to Kenya on the country’s Jubilee Independence anniversary, our inept football administrators have been running around like headless chicken all in the name of rehabilitating neglected facilities in Mombasa, Kisumu and Nakuru.
The whole exercise seems an afterthought, a stopgap measure ‘to take care of this Cecafa thing’ that has suddenly dropped on our laps from heaven. I pity FKF President. Poor Sam Nyamweya has been one busy man traversing the country in a belated inspection tour of about half a dozen venues earmarked for the championships.
Predictably, there has been one common thread in his torturous evaluation exercise – virtually all the stadiums outside Nairobi are unfit to host the regional tournament.
Mombasa and Kisumu, the second and third largest cities in Kenya after Nairobi, hold the dubious distinction of having stadiums that have been out of use for hell-knows how many years. That explained why, even during these times of ‘giniwasekao’ (we have taken this thing), Kisumu residents have for decades been starved of any meaningful football action.
It also explains why, even with crowd-pullers Bandari back in the top flight, the football-mad fans of Mombasa are always forced to cram a nondescript sports club every time upcountry teams are in town. Needless to say, the amiable coastal dwellers often end up being outnumbered by exuberant travelling fans if the fixtures involve either Gor Mahia or AFC Leopards, but that is beside the point.
The swift pace with which the respective county governments, Cecafa’s Local Organising Committee and FKF have swung into action in Mombasa, Kisumu and Nakuru would easily put to shame their Brazilian counterparts.
Brazil, for all its massive resources and infrastructure, had in excess of four years to prepare for the 2014 world Cup but with just seven months to kick off, are still struggling with last-minute preparations. This whole thing is a sham. In typical Kenyan style, football authorities, working in cohorts with county governments, have found it convenient to engage in a last-minute rush to beat the deadline.
It gets worse. That it has taken so long for the event to attract credible sponsors following the expiry of the Tusker deal says a lot about how the corporate world perceives football administration in this part of the world.
Must we always wait until the last minute to embark on such shambolic preparations whenever a low budget tournament such as the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup comes around? And we still expect to host the Africa Cup of Nations in the near future!

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Pandora's box that is Kenyan football

It is Nigeria’s foremost towering literary icon, the late Chinua Achebe, who once said that if you don’t like someone’s story, then you are better off writing your own.
The problem is, not all of us are adept at writing stories. Even in newsrooms, the supposed natural habitat of the sharpest writing minds, sub-editors – like yours truly here – on a daily basis contend with unraveling topsy-turvy copies from run off the mills reporters.
I guess it’s on this premise of writing one’s own story that what a section of the media referred to us ‘estranged’ officials of the national football federation recently rushed to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to submit what they believed was incriminating evidence of financial impropriety by the federation.
To say the very least, it was a haphazardly penned manuscript that made a mockery of transparency and accountability.
I don’t hold brief for the powers that be at the national football federation, but what came out of this farcical attempted ‘bloodless coup’ was a simple case of sour grapes after what must have a sensational fall out within the federation.
Granted, the Kenyan federation could do with a bit of some housekeeping, but isn’t it rather odd that the same people who have been in the thick of things in as far as running football affairs in the country should one morning wake up to the realization that all is not well with Kenyan football?

If indeed there is something wrong with the federation (and many people are of the view that a lot has gone wrong with the federation) then it wouldn’t have taken expulsions and suspensions for these accusations of financial impropriety to start flying left, right and centre.
Me thinks all these bland threats by the federation ‘rebels’ to unearth the rot within the institution are just desperate attempts at trying to arm twist and force the hand of their erstwhile ally-turned-foe.
If I was in their shoes I would tread very carefully lest, like in Pandora’s case, she of Greek mythology, all sorts of self-damaging ills spring out of the box.
Be as it may, I highly doubt if all these ruckus on roof tops about corruption within the federation is borne out of public interest.
Either way, there are too many skeletons in the closet. It’s a classic case of different sides of the same coin, if you get the drift. Nothing will come out of it.
In the meantime, as the Swahilis says, Fahali wawili wapiganapo, nyasi ndio huumia; Kenyan football will continue to suffer as a result of these senseless turf wars.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Harambee Stars need a complete wardrobe makeover

Watching Harambee Stars beat Swaziland 2-0 at the ongoing Cosafa Cup in Zambia, reminded me of a story I read before the semifinal between hosts Brazil and Uruguay at the just concluded Confederations Cup.
It so happens that after Brazil’s devastating 2-1 loss to Uruguay in the final of the 1950 World Cup on the hallowed ground of Maracana, a competition was launched by Rio newspaper Correio da Manha to redesign the uninspiring white strip that Brazilian players wore on that fateful day.
The winning entry, submitted by 19-year-old illustrator Aldyr Garcia Schlee, combined the yellow, green and blue of the Brazilian flag. Successive generations of the Selecao, including the current Neymar-inspired squad, have worn this uniform ever since.
Back to Kenya versus Swaziland. This was Kenya’s first win in a competitive match since December 2012, never mind the fact that atleast five of the players in the starting eleven were playing their third straight match in as many days, without mentioning the many hours of travel by air and road.
Given that this was Adel Amrouche’s first victory at the fifth attempt as Harambee Stars coach, the team had every reason to celebrate.

Nondescript kit

Big deal! The only blemish in the otherwise impressive performance was that yet again the Kenyan team showed up in some nondescript kit bereft of a designer’s label. A very small detail but one worthy of note all the same.
Unlike the national sevens team that looked resplendent in their Samurai kit at the just concluded Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow, Harambee Stars handlers have no qualms in throwing ours boys on the pitch donning some indistinct apparel.
For the last few months, the team has been playing and training in Kelme branded kit but since that match against Nigeria in Calabar, the Kelme kit have suddenly run out of circulation.
From the look of things Kenyan football authorities are completely ignorant of how big the kitting and branding business is not just in football but in sports as a whole.
That explains why the trouble former Dortmund playmaker Mario Götze recently got into when he arrived at his presentation by his new club Bayern Munich in a Nike emblazoned t-shirt.
Adidas have a 9.1% stake in the Bavarian club, and part of their clause requires players to wear Adidas tops during official presentations.
For his troubles, Götze has been slapped with a hefty €10,000 (Sh 1.12 million) fine. That’s how serious kitting and branding is.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Kenyan journalists have sold their souls to the devil

Word on the street is that some computer geek has hacked into the mobile phone money transfer account of a certain sports administrator and is about to unleash the names of sports journalists on the big shot’s payroll.
As you would expect, this rumour has thrown our news rooms into panic, for many are they whose palms have repeatedly been greased by, ahem, Mr. Sports Administrator.
And therein lays the basis of my gripe with my comrades-in-arms in the sporting arena. Following the happenings of the last few days, I have every reason to believe that professional ethics have been thrown out of the window by a vast majority of my colleagues in this trade of reporting news stories.
Granted, receipt of the (in)famous ‘brown envelopes’ is a standard practice by journalists in this part of the world, but Kenyan sports journalists have succeeded in taking their vile practices to a whole new level.
It is no secret, for example, that a number of sports journalists threw their lot with one or the other top aspirants who were vying for administrative positions during last weekend’s AFC Leopards elections.

‘Secret night meetings’
I have it on authority that, in the run up to the polls, many are the ‘secret night meetings’ that my fellow scribes attended across the breadth and length of the city to assuage and lick the boots of their newfound benefactors.
It gets worse. I am told some journalists turned themselves into human resource mobilisers-cum-chief campaigners for ‘their’ candidates of choice.
I don’t get it, but in such a scenario, how does one report objectively, while – to put it in a layman’s language – he or she has already been ‘pocketed’ by the candidate?
Little wonder then that on Saturday afternoon, Tusker and Sofapaka played to not only a yawning Nyayo National Stadium, but the reporters were also nowhere in sight.
From my vantage position in the VIP stand, I found myself in the good company of only two reporters. The photographers, too, were conspicuously missing. It wasn’t hard to guess their whereabouts.
I thought long and hard before writing this article and I am fully aware of the fact that I risk winning more enemies than friends on the account of this treatise. Yet, I have chosen to bite the bullet for I find it extremely hard to stomach the spiteful ways of the Kenyan media. I rest my case.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Let the corporates ‘fight’ for the good of football

I took a lot of flak a few weeks ago when I penned an article here regarding the standoff between Kenyan Premier League Limited and AFC Leopards over the latter’s ill-adviced move to enter into a deal with a pay TV provider that is in direct competition with the league’s official broadcasters.
So let me state upfront that I don’t intend to stick out my neck again by harping on the same old tune.
Still, it’s been hard not to take notice of the subtle push and pull between the parties involved over the last few weeks without a clear way forward being advanced.
Thankfully, last Friday, the whole saga took a fresh twist when the often indecisive KPL spoke with finality and issued a 72-hour ultimatum for AFC Leopards to either cut lose their association with the TV at the center of the controversy (yes, they of the Ingwe TV infamy) or forfeit participation in the league.
Tough choice for Leopards who, nonetheless, responded by saying that they would not budge. The club even threatened to take the battle to the corridors of justice.
Suspension of a team from a top flight league under such circumstances is unprecedented in this age and time.
It will be very interesting to see whether KPL will make good their threat should Leopards stand their ground.
But what I find more interesting is the kind of debate that Kenyan football, moreso the league, nowadays elicits in the public ‘court’.
That multinational companies can fight and exchange unsavoury words ‘just for football’ is very delicious indeed.
A renowned sports editor, with multiple KPL Print Journalist of the Year awards under his belt, once told me how, as a budding reporter, his editor had lambasted him for filing a 400-word match preview.
Kenyan football was at its lowest ebb then, and the best coverage the print media could offer were ‘fillers’ not exceeding 250 words.
Times have since changed, more so with the arrival of SuperSport to resuscitate the game. With more corporates coming on board the standards have improved in leaps and bounds.
My take on the KPL-Ingwe impasse? Let the corporates ‘fight’ it out, as long it elevates local football.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Nothing funny about AK's 'Comedy of Errors' rendition

What was that poorly scripted show that Athletics Kenya (AK) attempted to stage last week at the Nyayo National Stadium in the name of national trials for the World Youth Championships?

From claims of age cheating to controversial selection criteria that denied some athletes who had attained qualification marks a chance to represent the country next month in Ukraine, the whole thing was one big charade.

So ridiculous was ‘show’ that at one point, a busted age cheat mumbled some inaudible incoherencies in an attempt to state his date of birth infront of cameras.

But the climax of this ‘comedy of errors’ was when AK’s youth sub-committee sidelined four athletes who had attained the World Youth qualifying times from their final team of 20 athletes for reasons only best known to them.

The sight of men’s 400m hurdler Geoffrey Kipkoech blubbering and weeping uncontrollably while lying prostrate on Nyayo Stadium’s tartan track was indeed a heartrending spectacle.

While AK is yet to give an explanation of how ineligible athletes sneaked their way to the starting line with forged birth certificates, the reason they have proffered for excluding Kipkoech and three others sprinters was a tad too wishy-washy.

For one, I don’t buy the idea that selectors must give priority to ‘medal prospects’ at the expense of athletes competing in events that are traditionally not Kenya’s forte.

How do we expect to extend our dominance from the middle and long distance races to the sprints if we don’t give these youngsters an opportunity to compete at the very highest level?

Secondly, AK’s explanation that they had exceeded their ‘allocated quota’ of 20 athletes from the IAAF begs the question; why then did they invite so many competitors in different events in the full knowledge that theirs was a limited quota?

What strikes me as odd is the casual manner with which AK has treated this whole fiasco. The London 2012 debacle came in the backdrop of similar farcical circumstances.

But Kenyans are a people well known for their short memories. We shall resort to the usual blame games if our youngsters (God forbid) fail to deliver the gold medals from Ukraine next month.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Hail the ‘grand gentlemen’ of Kenyan football

The Kenyan media has never established the genesis of the beef between FKF chairman Sam Nyamweya and Cecafa boss Nicholas Musonye.
What is known, though, is that two gentleman don’t see eye to eye. Their extreme distaste for each other is well established from the verbal tirades they have publicly exchanged in the past.
Sometimes, this endless tiff has taken the most outrageous forms; on other occasions, it has been utterly hilarious.
Known for his brash personality, on most of these occasions, Musonye has provided some witty sound bites for nosy members of the Fourth Estate.
Take for example last December when local football authorities threatened to boycott the Cecafa Tusker Senior Challenge Cup after being denied hosting rights in favour of Uganda.
“They (Kenya) are the poorest side in the region. They can stay away if they so wish; we won’t miss them!” Musonye had said, tongue-in-cheek, of course.

Needless to say, FKF eventually came around and a third string Harambee Stars surprised many when they went all the way to the final only to lose 1-2 to hosts and defending champions Uganda.
But I digress. Last week, when this year’s edition of the Cecafa Kagame Cup (the regional tournament for champion clubs) scheduled for North Darfur and South Kordofan in Sudan was rocked by mass withdrawals, it didn’t occur to me that Nyamweya was somehow involved. Not until a seething Musonye spoke out.
“Someone’s team (read ‘Nyamweya’s Harambee Stars’) is already out of the World Cup campaign with two matches to spare and now he finds it convenient to interfere with Cecafa’s issues,” he told a colleague of mine in an off-the-cuff remark.
Apparently, Musonye is convinced that his longtime nemesis has a hand in the rough seas that Cecafa has run into in an attempt to host the tournament in the war-ravaged Sudanese State of Darfur.
Still grappling with Harambee Stars’ botched World Cup qualification bid, Nyamweya is yet to issue a rebuttal. But expect something acerbic if and when he does respond to those allegations.
It’s unfortunate that these two distinguished sons of Kenyan soil seem hell-bent on destroying each other even if it means football suffers as a result. Whatever it takes for Uncle Sam and good old Nick to close ranks, Kenyan football will certainly thank them for it.