Thursday, December 4, 2008


Numbers don’t lie, so they say; 65 days is the total number of days that I’ve spent in the doldrums. But then again, what goes around comes around. I’ve finally been forced to make my long overdue return to the staple. Let me explain. I say ‘finally’ because in this era of grand ‘homecomings’, (and shabik being my ‘baby’) I was duty bound to make a comeback at some point. And ‘forced’ because were it not for Redondo’s persistent tongue-lashing, then may be this post would never have seen the light of day. To put it another way, this brother literally fast-tracked my return into the fold.

Can you imagine the guy has been on my case in the past few weeks desperately trying to woe me back? No offence, but at some point I was thinking to myself “… this Redondo guy is now becoming a real pain in the a***” But then when after all his cajoling proved fruitless, he finally put it to me this morning in clear and certain terms. And boy, it was one hell of a dressing-down I took from this jolly good fella. “Am concerned that you’ve not made any attempt to write even a single article for this long”, were his final words in a terse and curt monologue. To say that I was jolted would be an understatement – I was stung beyond words! Folks, am back!

For starters, I believe its quite in order to begin with an apology for my rude manners and lack of courtesy. I should have had the decorum to begin with pleasantries before engaging you in the nitty gritty. Or may be even a ‘While You Were Away’ debrief wouldn’t have been such a bad idea after all given my prolonged and unexplained absence. Anyway, I hope you folks are (and have been) well for all that while, just like myself.

Its not like I didn’t miss this platform, but an unfortunate combination of lethargy and lack of inspiration is what accounted for my self-imposed exile. There is this thing called the writers’ block which occasionally inflicts every scribe. For some reason, I get this obnoxious feeling that maybe this is just a classical example of the so called writers’ block. Even now that I’ve finally resolved to put pen to paper, I feel abit rusty as I struggle to choose the right words to construct this paragraph while cobbling together this disjointed piece of an article.

Wait a minute! Did I just say pen to paper? Yap, you got me right. I beg to be forgiven for being too indiscreet as to enclose that lately I’ve been some sort of a journeyman with no permanent residency. For that very reason, accessing modern by-products of technology in the form of PCs and laptops is no an everyday thing for me. So as I sit with a pen and note book in hand scribbling away the piece (which I hope to typeset later on at a nearby cybercafé) am not even sure if at all its going to make an interesting read by the time it gets to the shabik platform (all my troubles not withstanding). But just to give credence to a cheeky remark I overheard from certain jamaa recently, “Mwanaume sio jina – ni vitendo” (I know Redondo gets the joke), I guess I just have to show the vitendo here.

Now that I’ve given a written explanation for my AWOL (Absence Without Leave), I suppose we can catch up on the more important matters – Football! So what’s been cuttin’ in Premiership? Of course after an initial slow start, Man U has slowly crept back into the top three bracket. I hate admitting this, but from the looks of thing, the Red Devils yet again look like the team to beat as far as the title race is concerned. Meanwhile, Arsenal continues to capitulate alternating some very good football at times with not very impressive displays on other occasions at a frequency that baffles more than annoys. How else then would you explain this a 2-1 loss to Stoke City, followed by a 2-1 win over Man U, then 2-0 and 3-0 losses to Aston Villa and Man City respectively, and then a 2-1 win over Chelsea…? Not a very impressive resume by all standards. And going by the disgraceful manner in which former skipper William Gallas was stripped of the armband, its not very hard to see that the Gunners troubles run deeper than the skin. I’ve said this here before and I’ll repeat it again for the umpteenth time; Arsene Wenger has done a lot for the London club, but perhaps its high time a change of tact (or even guards) would be what is needed to alleviate the worries of the longsuffering fans.

Across town, inspite of the wide squad at the disposal of Luiz Felipe Scolari, the Blues still don’t look like a team capable of sustaining the momentum over the long haul. They strike me as a team that will falter badly sooner rather later. In as much as their record on the road has been without blemish, their home form (they’ve already lost at home to Liverpool and Arsenal and drawn with Man U) should be a cause of worry for Big Phil. The only gem in their crown is the great form of their globetrotting French striker, Nicolas Anelka. And for once in so many years things are looking up and bright at the Merseyside. Liverpool who’ve traditionally had a slow start seem to be doing it differently this time round. Personally, I wouldn’t mind a Liverpool triumph in the Premiership after 19 long years, if only to break the Man U-Arsenal-Chelsea monotony. At the bottom of the pile, Harry Redknapp’s remarkable turn around of Tottenham is worthy to mention too. Though not yet out of the woods, some bookmakers are betting on the Spurs to survive the drop in the summer. Enough said about the Premiership.

Elsewhere in Europe, it looks like the Barcelona of old is slowly re-emerging from the ashes after two turbulent seasons. It might be early days yet but judging from their current form, the la liga is only theirs to lose. What with their strength in depth the Catalans might even do a Manchester United (League & Champions League Double) come May 2009, unless a disaster of catastrophic magnitude hits them. Interesting the way Barcelona’s fortunes almost always translates to a turndown at the Santiago Bernabeu and vice-versa. As much as am a die-hard Real Madrid fan, the los Merengues are playing so awfully, they don’t deserve anything! May be a fifth or sixth place finish and non-participation in the Champions League would be just what we need to be stirred back to reality.

But the revelation of the European season so far has got to be a certain Hoffeinhem – a virtually unknown village outfit in Germany that is giving the likes of Bayern Munich, Leverkusen and Schalke 04 a run for their money in the Bundesliga. What I can’t understand though is how perennial Champions League also-rans like Inter Milan still manage to hold sway in the Serie A. Thankfully, city rivals AC Milan and Juventus are not too far off in what could turn out into a close race to the Scuddetto.

Finally, something for the experts of the game to crack their heads over; what happens in a scenario whereby two players finish joint top scorers, say with 30 goals a piece, but with one of the two players having scored an own goal along the way? Does the other player keep the award to himself or do they get to share the honours?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

what kind of soccer fan are you?

Over this weekend I was wondering what it would take to be a Leeds United soccer fan, from their heady days in the nineties, to their current state languishing in the lower leagues. Or what it would take to be a die hard Super League team supporter in the Kenyan league, fighting for survival.

A good number of Arsenal supporters (at least the Kenyan ones) are looking for the nearest cracks in the wall to hide themselves in...

One of the hall marks of a true soccer fan is to be able to support your team, through thick and thin. The true test of support is when things are going bad. A bit of a parallel here with Arsenal's former captain Gallas who when the team needed him most (Birmingham last season) chose to sulk at the centre of the pitch.

Calling all the true Shabik's there .. show your teams support; after all you cannot influence some decisions (e.g. who to buy / not to buy) so as a shabik, one is supposed to support.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Soccer is a team sport. Team members have to work together off and on the pitch to achieve success on the pitch. Human nature often makes team work a challenge. Any team must have a leader to champion the team's aspirations and provide direction. The leader has to be a person of exceptional skills both in his trade as well as in his ability to marshal the team members and focus their individual energies to achieve the common goal. Among the players' ranks, the leader should undoubtedly be the captain. Being a player he has a closeness and understanding of other players that the manager may be unable to command. He has the manager's ear as the manager expects him to help translate his ideas on the pitch. Unfortunately sometimes teams have power brokers who are defacto leaders. A player may acquire this defacto status by virtue of his football prowess or years of service to the club or a special endearment to the club leadership or fan-base.

Before I bore you with a lecture on team work I would like to say that the house of Arsene Wenger is on fire and so is Bernard Shuster's. The house mates started the fire and are now frantically trying to distinguish it yet are without a clue on how to. The fire is being fanned by disunity, lethargy and a lack of leadership in these two respective houses. William Galas has just disclosed that a team mate who had issues with other team members has been disrespectful to him. He has particularly taken exception with this player's attitude considering that the said player is six years his junior. This begs one question though, Does Gallas deserve the captaincy (and the respect that goes with it)? Is he a leader? Is he forthright yet calm as a true captain should be? The answers to these questions are subjective but either way he is the chosen leader therefore he deserves respect. Leadership comes with a lot of responsibility that is difficult to assume without the necessary support. He has rightfully taken the flak for a series of poor performances, yet win or loss it's a combined team performance. Beyond this, I see a bigger
problem, a lack of leadership that runs deeper than just the captaincy. If Gallas is a poor leader then Wenger should take the blame for his appointment. Wenger should also have put in place measures to avoid or at least contain dissent from the youthful players. Youth comes with talent & exuberance but often it also comes with inexperience in many forms including lack of team work. Alex Ferguson did not entertain disrespect from some of his most useful and experienced players (read Berckham & RVN). Also, he has always given the captaincy armband to no-nonsense personalities like Roy Keene. Just out of curiosity who might this disrespectful player be? Adebayor? Vanpasse?

Now across the sea to the other house on fire…..While Arsenal is grappling with the challenges of containing a bunch of over exuberant youth, Real's problems are primarily due to lethargy. A common thread though is a clear lack of leadership. Why does a player like Raul wield so much power when it's obvious that he is at the sunset of his career? It's rumoured that he resisted the attempts to sign David Villa fearing that his place in the team would be jeopardized. Real is bemoaning injury problems, but what does one expect when you have a bunch of old overworked horses that should have been shot along time ago. On Schuster's appointment, he promised the fans that they would be seeing a return to the beautiful play that has been the pedigree of the los Merengues. In all honesty Real's play is the worst that I have ever seen. Its sheer agony watching a team with no commitment or even conviction in their ability (or the lack of it). When David Berckham & colleagues were teenagers playing for MAN-U's reserve team they would
liken themselves to Real when they had a successful and beautiful display on the pitch. Oh how the mighty have fallen!

What's the conclusion of the matter? It all boils down to leadership.To Wenger and Schuster all I can say is shape up or ship out but as for me, I wish you all the worst in your endeavours!

Monday, November 17, 2008

KPL champions.. EPL.. Name changes

Mathare United are the KPL champions, after a battling draw over the weekend. Good for them; I've always been an admirer of the team and its structures. Let's also wait and see what'll happen with the national head coach situation.

Now apparently we have a new body FKL (Football Kenya Limited), taking over from KFF. Of course Sam Nyamweya and co wouldn't be happy about this change of events, so I suspect that the self-seeking power struggles over who's in charge of Kenyan soccer will continue for sometime.

One cannot help but feel that FIFA could have done much better in this regard. FIFA are not saints themselves anyhow so maybe that's wishful thinking.

There is so much potential, but greed and selfish ambition seems to be (as usual) the order of the

Now abroad:

Chelsea and Liverpool continue with their ominous form. Chelsea for me look the more likely to sustain their march to the title, with Anelka in the form of his life. Liverpool are grinding out the results - an aspect that was largely absent in previous seasons.
ManU finally turned on the style and Stoke city discovered that long throws don't always win games.. and were demolished by a Ronaldo inspired team, missing the likes of Rio and Rooney.
So for Arsenal, 9 points off the top, the fight is not about the title, its about maintaining 'top 4 status', with Aston Villa looking a solid and balanced team. At best this season they can be considered a Cup team, since they lack the consistency to challenge for the title. And by cup - perhaps Carling Cup, now that the kids seem to be better performers..

I remember posting this at the end of October.

10 games 20 points
2 points per game
38 games -> a projected return 76 points.
Arsenal has not played any of the traditional top 4 teams, plus the likes of Aston Villa who are top 4 contenders

Arsenal have now played a 'top 4' team and Aston Villa.. The facts:
13 games 23 points
<2 points per game
38 games -> a projected return of <76 points. and a max points possible of 98...
No Arsenal fan surely believes that this is a title winning team...

I suspect Chelsea might just win it. Though I know Liverpool really really want it after sooooo many years.

Whatever happened to Redondo and De'Stefano?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The facts don't lie

10 games 20 points
2 points per game
38 games -> a projected return 76 points.
Arsenal has not played any of the traditional top 4 teams, plus the likes of Aston Villa who are top 4 contenders.

Granted their attack is arguably the most potent in the premiership, if not Europe but, the best teams traditionally have had an astute defense as well. Look at Man U last season in England and Europe and you will see what I mean - best defense in Europe and again a profilic front line.

Arsenal's game with Tottenham might be regarded by some as a freak result - how many games would you just throw away in the last 7 minutes of the game - but the defensive frailties are all too obvious.

I do not think they are ready to challenge this season for the premiership, some may say it's too early, but the numbers do not lie - the points average stats I highlighted at the beginning are pretty clear about that - and one must consider they have not played Chelsea, Man U, Liverpool (who incidentally apart from looking solid have had that streak of fortune that usually precedes a title winning campaign). Arsenal indeed would maybe consider their style of play more suited for Europe, though in Europe we have the likes of Barcelona who look like they might be getting their groove back.

A word on Tottenham - I have always thought they have very good players, just the wrong mix when they play, but then again thats why there exists a Coach. It will be interesting to see how far Mzee Redknapp takes them. I feel for Portsmouth though - maybe there should be a transer window for coaching staff too?

I wonder what my fellow bloggers think.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

2010 Qualifiers

Group B

28/03/09 Kenya - Tunisia
06/06/09 Nigeria - Kenya
20/06/09 Kenya - Mozambique
05/09/09 Mozambique - Kenya
10/10/09 Tunisia - Kenya
14/11/09 Kenya - Nigeria

Can Kenya make South Africa ? If we can get 13 points..

Monday, October 13, 2008


People aim for the stars so that at least they can hit the clouds (which are not light years away like the stars). Stars shine bright in the dark and twinkle too.

That is why outstanding individuals like my all time favorite basketball player Michael Jordan are referred to as stars, super-stars even. Groups of people can also be referred to as stars - the group of soccer players under former Real coach del Bosque, whom my fellow blogger Redondo so admires.

Stars occasionally do mistakes - after all they are human. But a lack of focus should not be excused twice in a game, as was the case for Harambee stars yesterday in Conakry, Guinea.

Guinea's second and third goals were as a result of poor defending from set piece plays, and considering the height advantage that the Stars players had, especially at the back, this should not have happened. Good defenders (Gallas please note well) attack the ball at the first opportunity, but yesterday costly mistakes were made, and were not helped by the perceived lack of height of the Stars goalie. He made some crucial saves.

There's loads of potential, and Kimanzi has done very well in bringing the team to this stage - considering that he has to juggle national and club duties - which means that he can't go around the country (and outside?) looking at current and potential players. Continuity is a good thing and it would be great if he actually had a solid contract, and a free hand to imprint his coaching style on the team. However Kenya has an abundance of self important individuals who think they know everything and not to mention have an affinity for the quick buck. Soccer management - or the lack of it - is still a big problem in Kenya.

Now let's wait while gnawing on our nails to see if the 'mathematics' actually get implemented. I, for one need to go to Kasarani soon..

Update: Kenya Qualified

12 group winners
Côte d'Ivoire
Burkina Faso

8 runners-up
Rwanda (Group 8)
Tunisia (Group 9)
Kenya (Group 2)
Togo (Group 11)
Gabon (Group 5)
Sudan (Group 10)
Malawi (Group 12)
Mozambique (Group 7) *

Now the team I do not want to meet is Egypt.. Zaki et al..

So five groups of four teams. I wonder what would be the most favourable to Kenya, at least on paper...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Am not the type given to the habit of going out to watch a football match then leaving before the final scoreline has been established. Put simply, I just prefer going the whole hog, unless something more urgent comes up. But then again, considering how passionate I am about this game, its hard to imagine any other thing that would be so urgent to warrant the abandonment of football watching season on any day.

Now, that was the case last Saturday. Am sitted somewhere watching this game between Man U and Bolton, when my buddy Rocko (my very hospitable host down here at the coast) gives me a call. He is hanging out with some friends who are new in town, so he wants me to join them. Things are getting dense on the pitch with Cristiano Ronaldo having just conned the referee into awarding him a dubious penalty, so naturally am a bit reluctant to ‘abandon’ the match. When I checkout, its with the misguided notion that I can catch the Arsenal match out there in town anyway.

When I finally catch up with Rocko and his ‘crew’ (two very beautiful mamasitas, to be more precise), they’ve picked their spot at the furthest corner in this joint where a live band is belting out some olden Luo tunes. The ambiance is excellent, and some revelers are already busy dancing the night away. The Arsenal game is on, but hard as I try to peer through the packed dance floor, all I can make out on the tiny TV screen at the front is the green grassy background of the pitch. The match commentary is completely drowned by the loud music and the scoreline bar is virtually illegible. Defeated, I give up and not to rock the apple cart I decide to stick to the ‘core business’… I only learn the following morning that the Gunners were stunned 2-1 by Hull City!

Since I didn’t watch the match, I still haven’t come to terms with the fact after staging some wonderful display of football lately; Arsene Wenger’s men fell to the little known Hull City of all the teams! Prior to match I had read some very interesting trivia on these teams. Incredibly the two were meeting for the first time in the league in 93 years and only for the fifth time in all. More staggering was the fact that Arsenal holds the record for the team that has stayed in the English top division for the longest period without relegation (these guys have been up there since 1919) while little Hull are enjoying their first taste of top flight football. The difference in class between the two couldn’t be contrasting. We could as well say that the two have never played in the same league.

Football is strange game though. At the end of the day, all those facts and figures didn’t count for much. Since I know quite a few souls that were left grieving by that result (even here at shabik), I’ll chose not to follow the trail any further; but not before I deliver a few more home truths. Am no prophet of doom (never has been), but with these kind of inconsistencies and instability, am getting more convinced by the day that Arsenal is still not yet ‘ready’ to reclaim the high pedestal that they once upon time majestically occupied in the Premiership. Truth be said, when you give away 'easy' matches like those, in the long run, they will count against you - big time.

Back to that Man U vs Bolton game. While Cristiano Ronaldo is widely known for his amazing ability to win and convert penalties, I felt particularly offended by his theatrics that led to that first goal. Television replays clearly showed there was no contact between him and the defender. No wonder even his own teammates looked abit sheepish in accepting Rob Styles’ howler of a decision. In short, Bolton were yet again robbed by the referee, just like they were in their previous game when Emmanuel Eboue scored Arsenal’s equalizer from a clearly offside position.

Lets face it here, the standards of officiating in the EPL have been abit questionable lately. From bookings, reds cards, to ‘goals’ (allowed or disallowed) you just keep asking yourself what has become of the men in black. Am afraid, at this rate, the high levels of refereeing is soon going to be a thing of the past. One gentleman who goes by the name Mike Riley, in particular, has not endeared himself to many players and fans of the game. This is the guy who almost booked the entire Man U squad in that epic clash at the Stamford Bridge. The seven yellow cards he liberally flashed out to the Red Devils almost landed Sir Alex Ferguson’s men in trouble with the FA briefly contemplating imposing a fine on the team. Interestingly, Rio Ferdinand (an increasingly abrasive character nowadays) was singled out for aggressive mannerism in contravention of the ‘Respect Campaign’.

On Saturday, Mr. Riley was at it again with yet another disjointed performance at the Merseyside derby. On one end of the pitch he was he waving play on when Yakubu had been clearly shoved to the ground in the box by the out-of-sorts Liverpool defender, Martin Skrtel while on the other end he was busy doing what he does best – brandishing yellow cards. Inevitably, the one man who failed to escape his wrath was homeside favourite, Tim Cahill, dismissed in the second half for a second bookable offence. And that effectively killed off the match as a contest.

While the spirit of ‘Fair Play’ is one of the core values of world football governing body, FIFA, it hasn’t helped the case that some of the more influential managers like Fergusson have found it convenient to engage in mud slinging contests with the whistlers whenever they feel aggrieved but completely turn a blind eye when a bad decision favours their teams. With the exception of a few upright men, selective judgement continues to afflict many football players, coaches and fans alike. A case in point is the ludicrous argument overhead from some the Man U fans after final whistle. These guys simply refused to own up to the fact that Ronaldo had duped the match officials. In the end one fellow cheekily quipped, “Basi toweni hio bao moja!” Now that’s outright ridiculous! In as much as Wayne Rooney came of the bench to seal the win, it can’t be denied that Rob Styles’ poor decision knocked the wind out of Bolton’s sails, having held out so well up to that point. At times all it takes is one single decision to change the course of a football match.

To end my lengthy talk-about, here is an enchanting tale. A few years ago Arsene Wenger (yes, the one and only) did the unthinkable thing of requesting for replay to an FA Cup match with… (it must have been West Ham - someone jog my memory please) following a bizarre incident resulting into a controversial ‘goal’. What happened then was that the West Ham players had played the ball out to allow for the treatment of an injured player. But for some inexplicable reasons Arsenal players chose to completely disregard the unwritten rule of fair play applied under such circumstances. In an incident involving Nwankwo Kanu, Marc Overmars and Immanuel Petit, instead giving back the ball to the opposition, the trio carried on with play from the resulting throw-in leading to a goal which the referee allowed anyway. Justifiably so, West Ham were infuriated and lodged a formal complaint though the FA was reluctant to issue a boardroom ruling. In the end it took the wisdom and benevolence of Wenger to request for a replay. His wish was granted and Arsenal won ‘again’, fairly though this time.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Harambee Stars final hurdle

I am eagerly waiting for the weekend of October 11 when hopefully Kenya's Harambee stars will do what they rarely manage to do - win away in Conakry.

A win will boost the team's confidence greatly ahead of the next round of qualifiers for the 2010 tournaments, and at the same time boost the country's FIFA rankings (currently at 86). This might have a positive knock on effect of maybe opening up the doors for a Kenyan to land in the English Premier League (a friend of mine says that a country needs to be ranked 70 or better for its nationals to play in the EPL - unless its an exceptional talent).

We need a few more strikers though. Watching the game against Namibia, we were too tame, albeit in control and failed to finish off the game with a few more goals. I've not watched Ambani play but it's said that he could be a solution..

By the way, whatever happened to Mwaruwari of Zimbabwe? Last season he was scoring here and there (remember Man U). This season I can't even remember which team he belonged to.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Disclaimer: this post was penned in the backdrop of serious emotional conflict on the writer’s part; readers are advised to take every word herein with a pinch of salt.

This week am strongly compelled to begin with an apology and a concession. An apology for my prolonged absence from this space and a concession that my absence was necessitated by the cares and burden of this place of wrath and tears that is our world. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, yet I can no longer withstand the overwhelming urge to break my deafening silence.

While my pal Redondo was busy juggling matrimonial responsibilities that came along with his newly acquired polygamous status (in the form of that pay-TV thing that he has been ranting about for so long) mine was a more heartrending experience. From a frustrating wild goose chase in pursuit of a dodgy newspaper editor (perched high somewhere in a glass office) who simply didn’t have the balls to face a smalltime writer like myself over the cancellation of loose-end deal to an accidental rendezvous, in downtown Nairobi, with an old flame lost in my radars for so long, I was left completely drained out; more like a fish out of the waters, you could say. So much of my minor mishaps for now. Perhaps that’s a tale I’ll live to tell one day when all men and women here at shabik will have grown old and grey with age. Am not digressing further!

For some reason I was only able to catch the weekend action of the English Premiership in bits and pieces. In total, the second half of the Liverpool-Man U match, the last ten minutes of Arsenal’s walk about at Ewood Park and the first quarter hour of the Man City-Chelsea game was all I caught. At the risk of sounding very politically incorrect, the results didn’t disappoint me in the least. When you hold the enviable titles of English and European champions you should contend with the simple fact that you are an easy pick for all and sundry. I also think Man U’s dominance over Liverpool was becoming a bit annoying. Many Man U fans will hate to admit that the 2-1 deficit wasn’t a true reflection of the game. The fact is that Man U were clueless for the better part of the match and they are pretty lucky that Rafael Benitez’s team spurned chance after chance that came their way on that rare opportunity to run over the Old Devil like a steamroller. Period. And why on earth was Wayne Rooney playing in defense?

Allow me to make yet another concession at this point; for any other reason, Arsenal’s 4-0 thumping of Blackburn, courtesy of an Adebayor hat-trick, might have been flattering enough, only that am neither a hater nor a lover of Man U. Conversely, I feel nothing for Arsenal either. Ati now Arsenal can breathe easy coz Adebayor has finally found his scoring boots, right? Wrong! Putting my money on a team that is perpetually a ‘work-in-progress’ with a lousy striker who has a reputation of often blowing hot and cold is the last thing am doing. After all, its still not lost in the minds of many Arsenal fans the superb pacesetting job they did for their rivals last time round, or is it? For lack of better words, I think at this stage there is a dire need for restraint and magnanimity – not the chest thumping and name-calling that am already hearing.

Then there was the so called Battle of the Billionaires or the Clash of Cash – a game that came and went by without much of a spectacle apart from a glorious Robinho goal on his debut and the dramatic expulsion of John Terry for a dangerous tackle. Too much ado about nothing, huh? And this actually reminded me about my little chitchat with Redondo the other day on the same issue. Does a team which hasn’t laid its hands on any major trophy in almost forty years now suddenly become successful overnight as a result of a takeover (whatever that means!) by some rich Arabs in the Middle East? Apparently, and sadly so, that’s the crusade that the Abromovichs of this world are suddenly trying to preach.

Much as I’ve heard some absurd arguments to the effect that the money invested in football clubs by these wealthy businesspeople is good for the game, I still read a lot of mischief in this whole takeover fad. I stand to be corrected on this, but there exists something genuine about all successful teams the world over, an authenticity that not even money can buy. Its called a tradition, a winning culture indoctrinated right from birth. It is this culture that has brought endless success and an infinite financial windfall to great teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona (Spain), Liverpool and Manchester United (England), Rangers and Celtic (Scotland). Closer home, teams like Al Ahly and Zamalek (Egypt), Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs (South Africa) and of course Tanzanian perennial rivals Yanga and Simba have upheld the same winning mentality from way back when money was not a major factor in the game.

The point here is that in each of these cases, success on the pitch preceded the boardroom financial boon – not the other way round. It has to be said, though, that Kenya is the only nation in the world known to have killed the closest semblance of that winning culture that was embodied in AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia. But then, we Kenyans are a strange lot.

It would therefore be foolhardy to believe that Manchester City for all their mediocrity over the years will suddenly become an English football powerhouse two or three years from now simply because their new billionaire owner has a few more loose-change in his deep pockets to spend. It didn’t happen with Shinwatra, their former Thai owner, and am not so sure it will happen now with… that rich guy from the Abu Dhabi United Group (what’s his name again?) Even Chelsea was a relatively successful team with a couple of domestic and continental honours (albeit minour ones) long before the moneyed Abromovich arrived. My point? Success in football is something that comes gradually - painstakingly built over time - not something to be instantly bought over the counter with free flowing petro-money. Furthermore, am still skeptical about the business interest of these billionaire businessmen in football. To me it looks more of an ego trip, a temporary distraction to the more demanding business matters; some sort of rich man’s play thing. What happens when these rich men get bored with football and its boring routine (did I just say boring?) is a question that I dread to consider at the moment. Your views and reactions?

Sunday, September 14, 2008


As a married man, I have learnt through experience to admit when am wrong and to give second consideration to my every perception, attitude and decision. Unlike in my erstwhile state of bachelorhood when I thought I knew it all and my knowledge was infallible, I have come to the realization that I have no monopoly of knowledge

I suppose you are wondering why I would begin my post on such a remorseful and pensive note. Well I have just realized that the more I think I understand the dealings of soccer (especially the business aspect of it) the more it becomes a complex maze that I know little about. I have penned some very harsh criticism of Wenger on this blog but as the old adage goes, 'only a fool never changes his mind'. Am not saying that am convinced that Arsenal is going to clinch the Premiership this season, am just saying that am beginning to see the wisdom in Wenger's pragmatic approach to buying players and building a team. This morning, I read Mike Ashley's statement on his intention to sell Newcastle United. He painstakingly pledged his love for the club and his unwavering commitment to see the club succeed both as a business and in terms of trophies haul. I could not help but feel sorry for him as he narrated how he no longer felt safe going to watch matches at St James' park with his kids, for fear of an assault. What a way to treat a man who's only crime is trying to offload some baggage (Owen, Smith and Barton) from St James' Park. For all the money he has poured in the club, he should at least have a say in what approach it should have in buying players. My intention is not to rekindle the hot debate on who (between club managers and owners/directors) should decide which players to sign. No am just saying that there should be a consensus on this and that consensus should be based on which approach yields the desired results.

It’s on the basis of the story of Newcastle & Westham vis-à-vis Arsenal that I pull my hat off for Wenger. Any club that is aspiring for glory yet does not have the financial muscle of Man-U or Chelsea must decide whether they want to go Arsenals way or Man-City’s way. The choice is between selling a club and keeping the overheads low through careful purchases that provide value at a bargain. While the transfer market and the going-ons there in has made huge headlines, Wenger has remained true to his philosophy of keeping off all that drama. Arsenal has meticulously executed their business approach to soccer. They don’t renew contracts for players above 30 for periods longer than 1 year. Arsenal’s youth program has been very vibrant even though Wenger has been accused of not co-opting enough graduates of the youth academy into the senior team. It was delightful to watch 16 year old Jack Wilshere deliver a sublime final pass to Adebayor that resulted in the 4th goal. At Wenger’s service is an astute team of scouts that have been known to track their targets sometimes for as long as 2 years. While other clubs are driving themselves to debt in pursuit of expensive, over-paid big names that many times end up as big flops, Arsenal's approach even incorporates a wage structure that has a ceiling.

I must say that Arsenal’s way has shown promise both for the current campaign as well as for the future. Come to think of it, its pure genius how Wenger buys cheap, builds, utilizes and eventually offloads players at a profit as they get to the sunset of their careers. With the emerging onslaught on the EPL from the East and other rich dynasties, English club owners will have to decide whether they want to run their clubs smartly or let them become another rich sheikh’s/princes’ play thing. As for Arsenal I must say they have it right, not just with the financial bottom line but the quality of play too. Their Saturday display at Ewood Park was to say the least exquisite. I was reminded of Real Madrid of old. Allow me to quote Blackburn manager Paul Ince on his take on the match- "Arsenal's passing was a joy to watch"

Monday, September 8, 2008


My silence here has been deafening. Well am back. I have been attending to other matters: football.
About two weeks ago, the good Lord shone his mercy on me and spoke to my dear wife. Believe it or not my wife decided that she was done fighting this co-wife I call soccer. She decided that she should take her undisputed position of first wife. As my first and only true wife, she reckoned she had nothing to fear.To show how liberating her new found realization was, she installed DSTV in our home. Now, that was my wife in her true colours, taking the bull by the horns.

I must say that I was quite puzzled, wondering where the catch in all this was. My confusion however did not hinder me from devouring these lovely goodies. I suddenly found myself in this hitherto dream world. So wide was my choice that on the first night I didn't watch any single match for more than 5 minutes. My channel flipping was akin to the proverbial hyena that split himself right through the middle trying to follow two opposite paths leading to two sumptuous meals. In fact my situation was worse than the hyena’s: there were more than two meals in the form of Supersport 1-7., ESPN, ESPN Classic etc.

I have since accepted that this is no dream but reality. This acceptance has ushered in a new lifestyle that is virtually lived on my couch right in front of my TV. I have no interest in anything that draws me away from my beloved companion. My wife however is beginning to question the wisdom (or the lack of it) of her brave action. She has realized that living in harmony with a co-wife is no easy task. Tolerating her (the co-wife) is hard enough. She has resorted to other tactics to restore sanity into her territory. For starters, we seem to get allot of invitations to birthday parties and family functions. Curiously, the timing of these functions has been spot on- Saturday and Sunday afternoons. My reluctance to attend these parties has been met with even more creative distractions. She has decided that since I claim to be such a sports lover I may as well extend my love of sports to playing at least one sport. Her choice of sport and her way of communicating the need for it couldn't be more ego-bashing. This past Saturday, she dragged me to a swimming pool ostensibly in a mission to put a check on my ever distending pot belly.

Dear brothers, be careful what you ask for, coz you might just get it. What begun as a dream come true has turned into a crisis. As if fighting my wife is not hard enough, I have found a new 'foe' by the name of Trufena (our house-help). When I think DSTV, I think soccer. Little did I know that there’s more to it than just soccer. Her busy fingers have discovered Africa magic, a channel of African movies. Yes, those movies that I so love to hate. My wife on her part has developed a new liking for blockbuster MNet movies and it’s becoming a real headache explaining to her why we should lock the channel on Supersport. The remote control has become a WMD (Weapon of Marriage Distraction).
So what does a man do? Honestly, I don't know. Maybe there is need for the formation of an FA (Fanatics Anonymous) as my friend Helen wittily quipped.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Harambee Stars , Too much money in soccer?

Just bought myself a ticket, though I am still not sure I am going for the game yet.

After following the frantic last minute dealings as the transfer season in Europe, I am now not sure whether I want to keep following English soccer that keenly. It has become a case of who has the most money (never mind debt) to buy the best players. It will be interesting to see how Man City fare with their new billionaire owners who, as rumuored, offered a 'blank cheque' for highly regarded players around Europe.

Something's got to give though. There's only so much money, and so many players. And what happens to the small clubs.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A few miscelleneous posts

Arsenal in Crisis?

2 games into the season and Redondo is calling for Wenger's head. Interesting, considering how far he's brought the club. I would prefer to reserve such judgement until at least half way through the season though.

Statistics show that changing a coach frequently more often than not destabilizes the team. (Think Newcastle, Bolton and Real Madrid between Del Bosque and Schuster)

From the sentiments of key players, (Cesc, RVP and Adebayor) they would move from Arsenal if Wenger was to move on for whatever reason. Of course there's no guarantee that they would make good on their intention. So getting rid of Wenger may infact make things far much more worse.

Fact is there's loads of money in soccer and if you don't have it you don't have it. I would hate to see Arsenal going the way of Leeds United, taking on loans that are pegged on future gate earnings.

There's money to buy players, lets just see whether it will get spent.

My personal soccer philosophy

I only watch beautiful soccer. As soon as it becomes highly mechanical, I lose interest. Hence my supporting Arsenal and Real Madrid. (at least Real Madrid have a reputation of winning in style).

No Excuses

However there's no excuse for the footballing display of Arsenal FC over these first two league games of the season. I have not watched them personally but from what I have read online, there's a lack of motivation or lack of team spirit, and the poor performance has not necessarily been as a result of a perceived weakness in the central midfield.

Watching how the team performs over the next 2-3 games will probably be a good indicator on whether this will be addressed soon.

In my opinion Gallas should be replaced as captain. I actually wonder whether he should be in the team at all.

Olympics and soccer

Watching the Olympics come to a close at the Bird's Nest, I wondered what it would take to host this in Africa(let alone Kenya). The organisation involved, and of course hard cash was out of the roof. I watched a bit of the soccer finals (both ladies and men) and concluded that one must take their chances in the sport.

Brazil's women had by far the greater possession and intricate footwork (yes their women play great soccer too) but still failed to score against a resilient USA side which won the Gold medal after scoring in extra time. Nigeria had more of the possession against a ruthless Argentina side (both sides played lovely soccer too).


About a decade ago, a not so wise Englishman by the name of Alan Hansen wrote a book by the title: 'You'll win nothing with kids', in reference to the ManU side of Giggs, Scholes, Beckham and the Neville brothers. The same side that went ahead to win the double in the same year that Hansen's book was published. There was some merit in Hansen's argument, however he overlooked the other major factor of whose hands were tutoring these 'kids'. Sir Alex Ferguson was that factor. If Hansen's book was published today and if the subject of his thesis was Arsene Wenger's current gunners squad, then his book would have been a best seller. Unlike his ManU nemesis, Wenger has failed (so far) to deliver titles with his youthful side.

Not only has he failed to add to our trophy chest, he has driven many arsenal fans to apathy. I recently overheard a local gunner bemoaning the state of affairs at Emirates. He tickled me when he suggested that someone should compose a Wenger dis song similiar to the kind that local hip hop artists (Bamboo & co.) were famous for. For a team that boasts a global fan base, Wenger's failure is just totally unacceptable. To his credit, he has done well in balancing the books, but for me (and i believe most Arsenal fans) a tidy balance sheet is the least of my concerns. What good is that cash when we cant show anything for it. The fans aren't the only ones suffering, the players too must be beginning to feel it. I wonder how it must feel for Arsenal players, to be part of a squad that no player worth his salt is dying to join! Over the past two or so months we have been treated to the drama of Christiano Ronaldo and his quest to Join his dream team (Real Madrid). Others like Robinho are even toying with the possibility of forking a whooping 45 million Euros to buy out his contract in his quest to join Chelsea. Strong words/phrases like 'modern-day slavery' were even used to describe the difficult place that these players found themselves in. Yet in all this there was no mention of a similar desire to move to Emirates, on the contrary our more ambitious players (like Adebayo) were crafting an exit plan or should i call it retirement plan.

English clubs baffle me by their patience. How does a major club keep the same coach for 12 seasons when all he has to show for his fat pay cheque is a paltry 3 premierships and zero European glory. I think it boils down to lack of ambition. Why cant Arsenal do a 'capello' on Wenger, the way Real did two seasons ago? Trust me, Chelsea got it right when they showed the door to Avram Grant. Second place was not good enough for Roman Abromovich. As they say, 'second place is no place'. What I cant understand is why the club owners are so content with 3rd , 4th...Nth place. Wenger must be sacked. Arsenal needs new thinking and the only way that we can move forward is by doing away with the negative and unambitious ways of Wenger. You cannot boast of having money yet not see the need of spending it to improve your lot. He is a f***ing miser who has no place in modern football.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


(The Final Sequel to ‘Football Was My First Love’)

“Where I am from, there are two kinds of men; us and them…” ;proclaims the beginning line in the all too familiar commercial for the beer brand that officially sponsors the broadcast of the English Premier League matches on pay TV. The advert, which am sure all armchair English football fans know very well, is about two rival estate teams which we are told, in typical male chauvinism, have an annual practice of engaging in fierce football battles on a dusty estate play ground.

Then one day, something extraordinary happens, some guy over-hits the ball which goes flying right into the back of a bypassing distribution truck for this particular liquor brand. Predictably, the immediate reaction of the perplexed testosterone-pumped men is to give chase with the sole intention of retrieving the ball and getting on with the game as quickly as possible. What follows are scenes of a huge gang of grown men frantically running after the ramshackle of a truck through the mazy backstreets, estate cafeterias and all.

Finally they catch up and succeed in flagging down the runaway truck but upon opening the backside, where the ‘precious’ little ball is safely laying, their eagerness is emancipated by the irresistible sight of crates upon crates of the cool rich dark drink - whence, a football match turns into a binging spree! Its only when the truck driver pull away again that the men are jostled back to reality and a fresh chase ensues, “….there is a drop of greatness in every man…”, so concludes the voiceover at the end of the commercial.

Other than my special affinity to the particular brand of brew in question, [and I suspect its by design and not by default] for some time I kept scratching my head over the advert; there was something about this commercial that I couldn’t just place. Then there it was glaring right into my face. The setting, of course! The advert in its entirety was actually shot at the famous ‘Dezza’, that dusty play ground in Eastland’s California where I and my big bro Ted grew up in. How could I have ever missed to notice the white blocks of flats in the background, is the question I keep asking myself.

For those who are not privy to the story behind ‘Dezza’, I have previously recounted here the special attachment that I and Ted have to this nondescript playing ground. But then this is just something else all together – a reenactment of the many football matches that we watched in our boyhood at the very same venue.

Conveniently, back then, there used to be a few creative chaps in town who were thoughtful enough to organize mini-tournaments in the neighbourhood during school vacations. [I particularly take pride in the dubious distinction of having been born and schooled during the preschool holiday’s tuition era – whatever that means - that so heavily weighs on the shoulders of the miserable present day generation of primary school-going kids that I bump into 365 ¼ days of every single year]. One such lad was a guy who simply went by the name ‘Masanta’. Curiously, Masanta was not such an old lad (he must have been in high school by then) but his great acumen in the organization of two-week tournaments drawing teams not only from ‘Calif’ but also from other Eastlands estates like Majengo, Eastleigh, Ziwani, Biafra, Kimathi and Shauri Moyo is something that I still marvel to this day. Somehow, almost single-handedly, the guy always managed to run well organized events with proper fixtures, highly reputed match officials, winners’ trophies and prize money to boot.

One of these highly reputed whistlers was a certain Ali, who despite being physically challenged (he used walk around the pitch with a pronounced limp) was both a well accomplished and favoured referee. Probably so because of the professional way that he handled matches, he was accorded reverence akin to the retired Italian referee, Pierluigi Collina. In the same league with Ali, was one other referee who usually amused us with his theatrics of frequently blowing his whistle accompanied with wild gesticulations in a fervent attempt to stamp his authority on the field. We never really got his real name right – so Ted and I simply christened him ‘muborana’ for his Cushitic countenance.

But then of course the main attractions were the competing teams and the players themselves. Back then California happened to have been a neighbourhood with a considerable Muslim population and naturally our favourite teams in the senior category (over 18) used to be California Terrorists and Al-Shabab - the two home teams. The Terrorists were the more illustrious and popular yet Al-Shabab also boasted some real talent within its ranks. Notably, child prodigy Salim and his elder brother Rama stood out from the rest. In the junior category (under 16) we were spoilt for choice because there were so many good teams here, but the popular ones were Rangers (a highly talented though grossly indisciplined team), Blackout and Lucky Strikers (under the tutelage of coach by the name Lameck). But more significantly a small class of players who would go on to take their game to the highest level indeed honed their skills on this platform. The two examples of Asman Ngaiywa (Monnie) and Ezekiel Akwana (Lefty), who both later turned out for Mathare United, will suffice.

All was rosy though, more often than not, Terrorists’ arch-rivals, Bash (Majengo) and Eastleigh Sportiff would break the hearts of the partisan home crowd. There were also those odd moments of insanity on the pitch when things would go haywire. One such incident was when the Rangers players, led by their flashy goalkeeper Vin, completely lost their heads after being knocked out at a very crucial stage and descended on the opposition with blows and kicks; in the aftermath, a few bruised faces and some broken goalposts lay scattered on the ground to account for the unsporting behaviour of Rangers and their unruly fans. On yet another occasion, one notorious chap by the name Fred (he happened to be Vin’s kid bro) smashed countless empty bottles on the pitch in an ill-advised act of vengeance apparently in a bid to disrupt the competition after his team suffered a similar fate. In the end it took the intervention of event organizer, Masanta, who literally chased him around the estate and upon laying his hands on him forced him to clear up his mess.

In the final analysis, amidst all the high and low of our daily indulgence, we relished every single moment of it; for that was when we reached out for greatness…
For Redondo,
who shared much of it with me

Friday, August 15, 2008


When, I was a young lad, my mother often advised me to be myself. The reason she never relented in dishing out this line of advice was that she noticed that I was fond of imitating people and trying out what they were doing. While aping my older brother was not necessarily misfit behavior at that age, my dear mom understood that every human being has their own unique gifts and she made it her mission to drum this on me and encourage me to explore my own talents. As I think of the world economy today, am convinced that in order for Africa to remain competitive, Africans need to be themselves.

Some of you may be wondering what am ranting about. Well, the way the world works, only the best in whichever trade stand to reap maximum benefits from it. Am disturbed every time i see some of the efforts that African nations (Kenya included) are making to partake of the global economic cake. Take the BPO (business process outsourcing) craze that Kenya (and other African nations) is yapping about. I think its shaming that we would be so enthusiastic about building a whole industry on our conviction that other than the English themselves (and the Americans of course) we speak the best English. Indeed the whole concept of call centers in Kenya is built around two things: the first being Americas need for cheap customer care services and the second being Kenya's relative high density of English speaking schooled population. I may sound like a mere critic who has no better alternative. Trust me, I do. The alternative I have is one that takes advantage of our natural strength- sports.

Africans are inherently artistic and athletic. Some of the richest and most prominent Africans (past and present) are sports personalities and performing artists. Indeed the worlds most celebrated footballer ever (pele) is of African decent. As am typing this article, my MS word text editor has recognized the name pele and the inbuilt thesaurus/spell checker has promptly corrected me to make the p caps i.e Pele. According to Sports Illustrated, 5 "black" men made it to the world's top 12 highest paid sports personalities this past sporting year, namely; Tiger Woods ( rated 1st with $127.9 million), LeBron James (rated 5th with $40.5 million), Ronaldinho (rated 7th with $37.5 million), Kobe Brayant (rated 9th with $35.5 million) and Shaquille O, Neal (rated 12th with $35). My fellow Africans, Wood's annual salary is enough to fund a whole ministry's annual budget! what a way to eat at the white mans table!

Sports has become big business. The affluent west is bored stiff and cannot live without regular entertainment. Corporate America and Europe is spending top dollar to tap from their sport crazy population. Visa card for example forked a colossal $ 866 million in sponsorship for the Beijing Olympics. The English premier league on its part earned 2.3 billion Euros in the 2006-2007 season. Many Africans have found their way into the west's entertainment menu, yet Africa has not awakened to the large potential there in. How many African nations for instance, have sports ministries that are well funded? The European Soccer leagues are awash with African talent despite the odds that these players have overcome to make it to the leagues. It baffles me that many of our sports defectors have been vilified yet with just a little forward thinking we could package them as our hottest export product.

The west needs Africa to satiate its every increasing appetite for entertainment. What better opportunity than this. As I mentioned earlier this sports thing comes natural to us. What the west would consider difficult is already easy for us. For starters we just need to continue procreating and bringing forth those strong and artistic offspring. Trust me its easy; i managed one even without trying. Secondly, a little effort and planning needs to go into packaging the product. To finish of let me encourage my friend Edwin in his quest to sire and bring up the next Thierry Henry, you can do it blindfolded.


If there is one place where African football can proudly stake its pride of place on the game’s high table, then it has to be in the Men’s Olympic Football tournament. In stark contrast to the World Cup where the Quarter Final double act of Cameroon and Senegal remains the continent’s only memorable excursions, Africa has some fond memories of the event at the Olympic in the past few editions of the global games.

That having been said, it's only natural that many great African football stars of the past and present have used the Olympic Games as a launch pad into the international stage. Names of great players like Kalusha Bwalya (Zambia), Samuel Kuffour (Ghana), Taribo West, Celestine Babayaro and John Obi Mikel (all Nigeria) immediately come to mind. Personally, am very nostalgic of the 1988 Seoul Olympic because that was my first exposure to the event at the Olympic level. The one match that stood out from the rest was that unforgettable Zambia vs Italy encounter. I particularly remember two things about this match: one is the relative ease with which the Zambians, non-entities then, dispatched the highly rated Azzuris (4-0 was the final score with Kalusha Bwalya grabbing a stunning hat trick) and two is the rather unorthodox celebration style that the Zambians adopted; laying side by side flat on their backs with outstretched limbs.

Needless to say, this was year of the ‘Great Kalu’, Zambia’s greatest footballer of all time. His heroics at Seoul earned him the Africa Footballer of the Year Award (1988) and soon he was on his way to PSV Eindhoven to hone his blooming professional career. But there was more to this great team than just their mercurial captain. This in my judgment rates among the best national squads ever to emerge from Africa. Were it not for the tragic airplane disaster off the coast of Gabon, a few years later, that snuffed the life out of this golden generation, by now Zambia’s name might have been engraved on the rolls of honour of Continental champions and perhaps the southern African country might even have been one of the continent’s flag bearers at the 1994 World Cup in the USA. Of course, by some stroke of luck Kalusha Bwalya wasn’t part of the ill-fated traveling party. The legend lives on and the rest, as they say, is history.

While it’s a widely acknowledged fact that Zambia and Ghana were the forerunners in Africa’s quest for glory, it is our inordinately flamboyant and boisterous brothers from Nigeria who finally bequeathed us with the honour of a first gold medal in event at the Olympic. That was back in 1996 in Atlanta, Georgia. And what a spectacle the ‘Super Eagles’ were! From their cool yet swashbuckling style of play on the pitch, orchestrated by the languid Nwankwo Kanu (just like Bwalya before him, he was voted 1996 Africa Footballer of the Year), their adoring brass band supporters to their somewhat hilarious celebrations whenever they scored a goal, the Nigerians were simply a sight to behold. Speaking of goals and celebrations, Celestine Babayaro’s imitation a drunkard with that staggered walk after scoring with a powerful header in the final match against Argentina definitely took the prize for the funniest celebration. Just for the records, in beating Argentina in this match, the all conquering Nigerians achieved a rare double over South American aristocrats having made a remarkable comeback in the Semi Final to brush aside a strong Brazilian side that boasted the likes of Ronaldo, Bebeto, Rivaldo and Roberto Carlos within its ranks. In the end, so charmed by the charismatic ways of the Nigerians was the Atlanta crowd that it gave the ‘Super Eagles’ a standing ovation like no other at the final whistle.

Not to be outdone by their eternal rivals, four years later in Sidney, it was the turn of Patrick Mboma to lead the 'Indomitable Lions' of Cameroon to the podium to receive the winners’ medal. Myth has it that ever since the inaugural official Men's Olympic Football Tournament was played at the London games in 1908 an interesting 20-year pattern has recurred to provide the most memorable football tournaments in the Games’ history. It still remains to be seen whether Beijing 2008 will provide a continuation of this curious sequence.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Shabik and a few miscellenous views

This being my first post on this blog, I have been thinking about what I should write about. It is intriguing watching the shenanigans of the transfer season - the (mostly) lies about which team is going to buy who and who's going to get relegated or win which trophy. I sometimes think that the British press have nothing better to do than invent stories.

I was wondering whether we'd ever get the kind of coverage that the sport of soccer enjoys in the European leagues. I would love to be able to go watch my favourite (local) team each weekend - with young ones (when they arrive in this world).

There's only two things better than watching soccer from the couch (or at the local) - watching it at the stadium, and actually playing it.

Anyway back to reality - Man U seem to have become masters of the penalty shoot out. I didn't get a chance to watch the Community Shield because my GTV decoder suddenly began to misbehave (quite unbecoming behaviour considering the eagerness I had).

Having been one of the main proponents of which after sometime suffered from a lack of attention, it was nice to see coming up as a reliable source of football analysis. Perhaps in the not too distant future Shabik will be sending its very own D'Stefano or Redondo to cover the World Cup in 2010... You never know.

Friday, August 8, 2008


Taking into account the furore that Redondo’s post almost caused in this space earlier in the week, I wish to begin by making a major concession as a conciliatory gesture to our slighted sisters out there. While my intention is not to reintroduce the debate through the backdoor, this one simply just can’t pass unnoticed. Thank God the season of football is once again here with us!

After enduring endless episodes of those exceedingly dour Mexican soaps – a la Lamuher de Alonzo – which run for months on end, with the overused predominant themes of deceit and conflict, at least now football ‘addicts’ like myself will have something worthwhile to look forward to every Saturday afternoon.

A lot has happened in the transfer market during the close season with Cristiano Ronaldo’s saga dominating the headlines. The choice of team for which a player turns up for has become such a complex business. In this age of globalization, these long drawn negotiations, whenever a player is moving clubs, have become the norm rather than the exception. The last time I checked, Manchester United were still insisting that Ronaldo is going nowhere, but am still very skeptical; Real Madrid has built a reputation of pulling a rabbit out of the hat every season, a last minute deal wouldn’t surprise me. In fact their President Ramon Calderon who seems to be enjoying every moment was back at it again only a few days ago with a tongue-in-cheek quip that “Madrid are just a spectators in this soap opera”.

Thankfully, as the dust begins to settle, its time to get back to work; and who knows this better than the coaches? Judging from the statements that some of them having been issuing lately, a good start off the blocks seems to be the short term priority. Manchester City ’s Mark Hughes, has been very categorical in his comparison of football clubs to ‘Football Factories’ intent on producing high quality performances. And for that reason he has issued a decree to limit access to the players by the agents, friends and family at their Carrington training ground.

Others like Premiership debutant, Luiz Felipe Scolari, have had very little time for orientation and settling down. Despite finishing runners-up in the Premiership and Champions League last season, the blues are still perceived as a ‘boring’ team by many fans. Ostensibly, that seems to be a major concern for Big Phil who has been reported to say that he will oversee a culture change at Stamford Bridge . Ironically, the Brazilian who also pledged to “break with the past by promoting talented youngsters ahead of expensive import” was quick to add that he would adopt a “more modest approach than that of former Manager Jose Mourinho”. Apparently Mourinho’s ghost is not going to go away from Stamford Bridge any soon.

On the converse, Scolari will perhaps take heart from the support that he received from his captain John Terry who overtly stated that Chelsea now boasts “a manager who can lead the team as well” - (Poor Avram Grant, just where did he get it all so wrong?). But while Terry is busy offering support to his manager, his counterpart, William Gallas, at the Emirates Stadium is one man who desperately needs every support to remain the team leader but is so far receiving none. Arsene Wenger, fondly referred to as the ‘Professor’ by the club’s ardent supporters, is one man with a very long memory. Towards the end of last season, as the Gunners began to succumb to the considerable pressure from Manchester United, Gallas completely lost his head in that drawn match at Birmingham and Wenger has forgotten. Now the shrewd French manager questions the leadership of his fellow countryman and is considering stripping him of the armband. Cesc Fabregas has expressed his desire to take over the captaincy, but the grapevine has it that Wenger’s preferred choice would most probably be the hard tackling Ivorian defender Kolo Toure.

So there you have it folks! The official 2008-09 European football season gets underway this Sunday when Portsmouth face-off with Manchester United at Wembley in the Community Shield – the official curtain raiser of the season. Whether you owe your allegiance to Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea or Real Madrid just follow your instinct; be there for the big kick-off and enjoy the rest of the season.

As for my pal Redondo who still seems to be caught in that little domestic quagmire, I guess for the time being we could just do with our usual male-bonding sessions at our favourite hangout while indulging in sumptuous servings of the biggest serial drama on TV (read the English Premiership). But in the event you succeed in the worthy course of installing that Satellite Pay-TV thing, then rest assured I’ll become a more frequent visitor into your household!

Monday, August 4, 2008


What is it with women and soccer? I have been having a 2 months long impasse with my wife. I want to watch soccer on a regular basis on satellite TV but she wont let me install GTV or DSTV. My efforts to convince her that satellite TV will be good for the whole family have been futile. It irritates me that the occasional glances I have on TV only reveal angry Mexicans doing what they know best in the form of lamuher de Alonzo et al.

My struggle for emancipation (the freedom to enjoy soccer any time) did not start 2 months ago though. I have had a long history of women in my life that believe that soccer is a relationship breaker. I once had a girlfriend who would feign sickness just before the kick off a must-watch match like the champions league finals. Her trickery was not limited to sickness. She would bring up issues, which according to her needed my immediate attention smack in the middle of an adrenaline-drenched match. Just incase you begin to think that I am the problem, fancy this - a common friend flys back home after 3 years in the States and visits his former classmates at campus. But his timing couldn’t be worse: his visit coincides with the opening match of France 98 pitting Brazil Vs Scotland. He walks into the room and all the girls are showering him with hugs and kisses. In contrast the boys give him a casual glance & “wasup”, quickly returning their gaze to the screen where they stay glued for the next 90 or so minutes. You can imagine how infuriated our lady friends were. The well-planned home coming party was botched and we were all branded wet blankets.

The struggle between women and men over sports is not new and is not about to end either. What women have failed to realize all along is that sport (for me soccer) espouses the very essence of manhood. The essence of manhood is found in testosterone; the hormone that defines manhood through unique physical and attitude attributes. Testosterone is what has driven men over the ages to war. Testosterone wants to conquer. The object of conquest has varied over the years. Some, like the conquest of a woman are perpetual but others like conquest of animals (for food, and security) have been overtaken by technological advancements. Modern day man has found another object of conquest. He wants to conquer his opponents in the sports arena. Soccer is all about beating your opponent, rubbing it in and feeling good about it.

My appeal to our dear sisters is: let a man be. Let him compete, win, enjoy his victory. Let him brood in his loss. Don’t try to compete with soccer, coz u cant win. He needs it just the same way he needs you. He needs to unwind. Testosterone does not allow him to unwind the way you do. It dictates that his way of unwinding is by competing and hopefully winning.I don’t want to be labeled a marriage breaker and a teacher of false dogma, so I leave it there.

Friday, August 1, 2008


Last weekend local lads Tusker FC, against all odds, clinched the CECAFA club championship in Dar-es-Salaam but still suffered the indignity of enduring a 17 hour road trip back home from the Tanzanian capital. Though I hardly expected pomp and fanfare to greet the newly crowned regional club champions on arrival, I was appalled beyond words at the cold reception that Tusker FC was accorded. I particularly take exception with the indifferent attitude of the supine Kenya Football Federation officials, the equally befuddled Kenya Premier League Limited. Its my position that our football authorities owed these players the brief luxury and comfort of a flight back home.

Granted, the CECAFA championship has over the years lost abit of its gleam and is a far cry from its mid 80s editions which by all standards were more competitive and generally keenly followed by a wider fan base. However, one is still left musing over what became of our identity as a people and sense of nationhood. Redondo, one of our contributors here, while commenting on the same subject earlier in the week put it thus: “Kenyans as a people are known to ape the west and glorify foreign things and maybe soccer is just one of those things where we show who we really are…what the local game needs besides professionalism is passion for the game and love of our country...”
I agree with him in toto.

The local media should also share the blame for the downtrodden path that the CECAFA competitions have taken in recent years. In spite of Tusker’s sterling performance, the tournament was covered in a somewhat lukewarm fashion by our local print and electronic media. Save for national broadcaster, KBC - which aired a handful of matches featuring Tusker FC - I don’t remember seeing a single snapshot on the local dailies of the action in Dar in the entirety of the tournament.

Save for two personalities - Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Ethiopian businessman Sheikh Mohammed Al Amoud - who have diligently undertaken the obligation of donating the prize money, the participating teams in CECAFA tournaments have found very little reason to celebrate.

Indeed, am surprised we keep whining that the Persian Gulf nations are ‘poaching’ our talent. Honestly, by now we should have figured out how to stop the ‘talent drain’ that has seen some of our best athletes defecting to the Middle-East. Other than just blindly aping the west and anything western, it would be a prudent move to put into practice some of those things that we so admire about the European game.

Consider this: last February when Tottenham Hotspurs won their first piece of silverware in almost a decade by beating Chelsea FC in the Carling Cup final, the London team couldn’t help parading the their ‘prized trophy’ around town - never mind the snide remarks on the sides by some envious fans of their cross-town rivals (Chelsea and Arsenal). Now, how about that for start? Who can tell how much of a morale boaster an open roof bus parade of their trophy from the JKIA through Nairobi’s business district all the way to their Ruaraka base would have been for the Tusker players? And what a spectacle it would have been if only merely to ‘break the news’ to the ignorant self-proclaimed ‘football fans’ in town who didn’t even have a clue that Africa’s oldest regional tournament was being played next door!

Tusker’s story vaguely reminded me of the humiliating predicament that the defunct Shabana FC once suffered some years ago after a Premier League match in Mombasa. Short of funds to take them back home to the distant and far away lands of Kisii, the poor lads found themselves stuck in a seedy backstreet kiosk in the coastal city for a night or two. Now, that was the height of apathy!

So much of my gripe, but perhaps its high time we toned down a little bit on this DSTV/GTV fad and reevaluated our state of nationhood as far as sports in general and football in particular is concerned.

Thursday, July 31, 2008


I have been keenly following the proceedings at various European clubs during this summer break and all I can say is that am worried for the future of soccer. Why? Because soccer as a sport is no longer what it used to be. Soccer used to be a sport of the common man; the various forms of it, from the paperball kicking school kids of third world Africa and South America to the world cup conquests of the likes of West Germany and Brazil.

As a sport soccer heralded national pride and fostered community. Soccer was a unique community identifier. Take the vicious rivalry between the once famous Gor Mahia and AFC leopards for example. Back in the 60s to the early 90s these two teams were predominantly Luo and Luhya respectively. The Nyanza - Western province rivalry contributed a great deal to the supremacy of these sides. Back then it was a cardinal sin for a player of either team to switch sides to the opposition. The rivalry however did not hinder national unity; on the contrary it provided the unique motivation that eventually raised the standard of the game in Kenya. Evidently, the vast majority of the national team players were drawn from the squads of Gor and AFC. Next door in TZ we had Yanga and Simba which have since faded of. Further a field in Spain, the different regional identities and pride found its expression in the soccer arena. The Catalans and the Iberians have over the generations fought hard battles on the soccer pitch under the banners of Barcelona and Real Madrid. This perennial rivalry has been the special ingredient in the wonderful cocktail that Spanish soccer is.

So what has changed? A great deal has. The only thing that motivates players in today’s soccer is money. Players switch sides randomly when money is flashed with no regard to culture or identity. I must admit that my beloved Real has been a culprit in this by luring players with pay offers that few can say no to. Am convinced that this trend is dangerous for soccer and is what has largely contributed to the emergence of certain attitudes in the game. For example winning has become the top most and only agenda in soccer. Well it has always been priority but in the past, how you win was also very important. The unique playing styles that largely were expressions of different cultures are fading away. We see more speed & power than skill in soccer. It’s sad that speed and power is winning most of the titles at the expense of quality.

My thesis is that we need to redefine soccer. We need to inject that missing ingredient of identity. I am hopeful that all is not lost. Spain’s recent victory at Euro Cup proves that tradition still has a place in soccer. Spain did it their way - the same way they have always played. Hope lives on!

Monday, July 28, 2008


On Sunday the reigning KFF Premier League champions did all Kenyan football fans very proud by reclaiming the once glamorous CECAFA Club Championship after beating the hard fighting Uganda’s URA at the National Stadium in Dar-es-Salaam. That the Ruaraka based ale men finally bagged the regional diadem after repeated failure by Kenyan teams over the last seven years in laudable enough.

Though still smarting from the doubled tragedy of being unfairly denied the opportunity of participating in this year’s CAF Champions League tournament - for reasons not of their own making - and having their coach Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee being dropped acrimoniously as the national team head coach, Tusker have displayed great depth of their character by bringing the Cup back home where it belongs.

The fact that Ghost’s team was pitted against some of the regional big names including battle hardened home teams Simba and Yanga and still managed to prevail is truly something to take pride in. More startling is the fact that the home boys were on the road for over 12 hours and only arrived in Dar just within a few hours to the kick-off of their first match against Tanzania’s Simba.

It also struck me that coach Ghost Mulee has greatly matured in the game over the years if his inordinately modest and self-effacing attitude is anything to go by. Even in the face of resolute performances against some of the tournament’s big boys, Ghost resisted the overwhelming and self-destructive temptation of writing off the opposition, insisting that he was only going to celebrate after the job had been done.

Needless to say, this victory certainly evokes the fond memories of the year 2001 when the Harambee Stars, then still under the guidance of Ghost, annihilated the Kilimanjaro Stars 3-2 at the same venue to lift the coveted East and Central Senior Challenge Cup after a long wait of 18 years. Of course, many will fondly recall that it is in the same tournament that local crowd darling Dennis Oliech announced his arrival on the big stage of international football. Oh, what sweet memories!

Coming at a time when the Harambee Stars are on the rise too, Tusker’s success gives us more reason to be upbeat about the present state of our game. But we must not rest on our laurels, lest we slide back into the same old familiar murky pit. Before the World Cup cum Africa Cup of Nations campaigns resumes in September, our feuding federation officials must show goodwill and pay back in kind by lending our boys all the support they need to move to the next level. The ball is squarely on KFF’s court now.

Well done Ghost! You and your boys have truly made us proud to be Kenyans!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


The wave of euphoric student unrest that recently rocked secondary schools across the nation brought to the fore pertinent disciplinary issues that for so long the administrative hierarchy has attempted to sweep under the carpet.

The spiraling act of revolts is not anything new though. If my memory serves me well, during our days there used to be agelong traditions that every final year student felt compelled to observe just after sitting the last paper. It came in the form of showing open defiance to the school authority and quite often, the object of this hostility would be the extremely despicable Deputy Headmaster - the discipline master on most occasions.

Ideally, your average chap would deliberately engage in some kind of a misdemenour then blatantly refuse to take the punishment that came along with it. The more adventurous and daring fellow would go as for as partaking the forbidden ritual of setting ablaze all his documented literature in the full glare of his bemused teachers.

Of course all this was done on the presumption that the four year stint at the educational facility had been irrevocably terminated. But woe unto him who was not lucky enough to score good grades and found himself in the same institution a few months later seeking readmission!

A few weeks ago when former Arsenal man Alexander Hleb publicly lambasted his coach Arsene Wenger, his wayward actions bore a striking semblance to the rebellious attitude of these hotheaded secondary school misfits. Perhaps, Hleb too couldn’t resist the temptation of engaging in one final notorious escapade before setting sails for the Nou Camp.

But then, this being the unofficial holiday season in Europe, Hleb has found himself in the good company of other like minded comrades in crime that include the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Leonel Messi and Emmanuel Adebayor. It’s the season of high drama and everyone wants to provoke the authorities by doing something really whacky.

Take Adebayor’s case for instance. Though it may have escaped your memory, we are talking about the same player who only a couple of years back openly disregarded the stern warnings of his former club, AS Monaco, to link up with the Togolese national team for a training camp in the run-up to the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations tournament. Predictably, not before long he was rocking Togolese apple cart too by challenging the authority of his Nigerian coach Stephen Keshi. A word of advice to the Gunners - cut loose the tether quick and let the guy become a problem to his new handlers wherever he chooses to go; the sooner, the better.

Then there is the saga of Hleb, who it seems can’t stop raving and ranting, in a deliberate effort to disparage his former club at every available opportunity. What I find most obnoxious is his attempt to lure other players to ‘follow’ him out of the Emirates stable. And what more, all his best friends now happen to be former Arsenal players.

Cristiano Ronaldo too has done tremendously well to estrange himself from a club that as recent as two months ago was alluding to him with all adjectives imaginable for his unprecedented heroics in the Premiership and Champions League campaign. How the times have changed! But they say a woman is the source of every man’s trouble. Ronaldo is no exception here. His steamy love affair with his Spanish heartthrob Nereida Gallardo seems to explain in part his current predicament.

His doublespeak too has also been quite phenomenal. At one moment all he wants is to be shipped off to Real Madrid because it’s the team he has always wanted to play for. The next minute he isn’t interested anymore apparently so because he is upset about his girlfriend’s alleged past involvement with his teammate to be Sergio Ramos.

Luckily for those who love scandals, the Ronaldo-Nereida drama has proved to be a timely and juicy rendition to the popular local soap Chinedu & Akinyi that has steady gained prominence in the box office since it premiered a while back.

Finally, I wish to put the big debate to a conclusive end. While everyone else is busy shopping, one team by the name Arsenal, that purports to be perpetually broke, seems to find it honorable to proclaim that they are a ‘selling’ team. Sell all you can but spare your longsuffering fans the emotional trauma of pretending that you can win the Premiership next season. Lest you forget, the issue has always been whether you guys can challenge Manchester United and Chelsea to the title. Ever wondered why? Just a food for thought to diehard Gunners.