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.

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