Thursday, May 28, 2009


Disclaimer: This is purely an unbiased commentary of the happenings last night in Rome. All efforts have been made to ensure that the opinion expressed here doesn’t disparage the hordes of Man U fans out there – especially the handful that I know and relate to on very friendly terms.

My all time favourite movie happens to be Gladiators, that prehistoric epic based on the ancient Roman Republic (confirm from profile on shabik). The story is all about Maximus, the virtuous army general under the service of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. In the film, it so happens that as the Emperor regresses into frailty and incapacitation from old age, Maximus emerges as the Emperor’s closest confidant and heir-apparent. But in a strange twist to the tale, Commodus – the Emperor’s vile and conniving son – stages a bloody ‘coup’ by slaying the old man. In the wake of his violent seizure of power, he utterly plunders and vanquishes Maximus’ household as the deposed general flees into exile.

Ultimately, the Maximus is captured and taken back into the city as a slave. His life spared, he is forcibly converted into a partaker of gladiatorial combats; the diabolic form of ‘sport’ in ancient Rome that often pitted man against fellow man or, in some extreme cases men against vicious beasts of the wild. In a gladiatorial combat you either lived or died; it was a fight to the death. All this was performed to ‘entertain’ the Emperor and the blood thirsty citizens of ancient Rome.

The final battle pits Maximus against his nemesis, the self imposed Emperor Commodus, at the end of which both men lay dead in the dusty arena of the (in)famous Roman Colosseum. Though the storyline is thin and simplistic, it’s a classic example of good prevailing against evil.

Such was the backdrop of the grand finale of the 2009 edition of the UEFA Champions League aptly dubbed “the battle of the gladiators”. Befittingly, the bowels of a modern day colosseum – Rome’s Stadio Olimpico – would the final frontier in a battle pitting arguably Europe’s finest. More than any other final match before it, there was going to be no hiding place at the 67, 000-seater Stadio Olimpico. This was going to be ancient Rome revisited – a fight to the death! At half time as the scoreline stood 1-0 in Barcelona’s favour, one would have been excused for wondering whether it would be Sir Alex Fergusson’s famed ‘hairdryer treatment’ or a simple ‘pep’ talk from Guardiola that would do the trick.

In sum, this match was all about midfield control. While Anderson and Carrick flopped sensationally, Xavi and Iniesta flourished. Their movement, vision, execution and ability to hold the ball is sublime… is how one football columnist described the Barca midfield duo in the build up to the match, accolades they truly lived up to on the night. Though Messi impressed with his darting runs that badly exposed Man United’s frailties at the back, Carles Puyol won many hearts with the man of the match performance. Playing out of position wide on the right, the evergreen captain’s contribution was meteoric. Surging forward, tracking backing and holding the line for the Catalans, Puyol was one handful for Ronaldo who ardently resorted to fouling him in frustration. In the end, it was the all conquering Spanish armada, under the guidance of a youthful coach, which prevailed over the battle hardened knight in shining armour.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


“Football is a game of the gentlemen watched by thugs… Rugby is a game of thugs watched by gentlemen and Golf is a game of the gentlemen watched by gentlemen…” these are the unforgettable words of Prime Minister Raila Odinga as once quoted during a rare day out at the golf course together with his nemesis-turned-partner President Mwai Kibaki.

While the PM’s was a rib tickling off-the-cuff remark made purely in jest and good spirit, as the occasion then demanded, perhaps the self-styled Enigma of Kenyan Politics should have paraphrased a small part of his analogy thus; “Football is the common folks game that is run by a bunch self-seeking plunderers masquerading as sports administrators…”

That Kenyan football is terminally ill on its death bed is a fact that even the most brazen protagonist within the exclusive club of spiteful and quarrelsome ‘gentlemen’ will find hard to counter. Football is meant to be our national sport, but sadly over the recent past, it has progressively made a bad name for itself by persistently courting controversy borne out of the endless power wrangles.

While at times the bone of contention has been mind-boggling, on other occasions the local football fraternity has been treated to petty bickering over non-issues. The latest nuance to the effect that the Shs. 118.5m three year renaming contract of the Nyayo National Stadium entered into by the Sports Stadia Management Board (SSMB) and Coca Cola was un-procedural serves as a good case in point here. My take is that unless there was something really irregular about the re-branding agreement signed between SSMB and the giant soft drink manufacturer, to the average football fan, this is just another storm in a tea cup.

That line by Sports Minister about preserving national cultural facilities sounds a bit too shallow. It could be Nyayo National Stadium, Coca-Cola National Stadium or even Nyayo Coca-Cola National Stadium for all we care! In any case what’s really in a name when we can’t properly manage much less utilize the so-called national facilities even when they bear names that sound good to our ears? Or is it just a case of sour grapes on the part of a seniour government official who feels her authority was usurped on a small matter such as the renaming of a City Municipal Stadium? Perhaps - perhaps not. But then again, why hasn’t the Honourable Minister not made it her business to address matters concerning the stalled artificial turf-laying works at the other ‘state facility’, the derelict City Stadium?

If the circumstances surrounding our football arenas can generate so much heat then it’s only natural that the action on the pitch and the high level maneuvering within the boardrooms can’t be any less controversial. A couple of years after taking over the running of the local league, the fine line separating the operations of the Kenya Premier League Company (KPL) and those of the football governing body, Football Kenya Limited (FKL) is still indistinguishable. Evidently, KPL’s terms of reference appear to be unclear hence the constant conflict of interest between these two entities on matters of policy, particularly so those touching on the running and organization of the local league. Super Sport, the continental cable sports channel, has also lately found itself entangled in this messy yarn.

Last month, in a bizarre incident, a highly incriminating email sent by KPL Chief Executive Officer, Jack Oguda, to KPL Chairman, Bob Munro, found its way into the inbox of AFC Leopards secretary Richard Ekhalie. This at a time when Munro’s team Mathare United was slated to play AFC Leopard. No doubt, the mystery of the ‘stray email’ was a self indictment of the rot that is progressively gnawing away at our number one sport. AFC Leopards may have been fully justified in opposing the last minute arbitrary change of venue but their withdrawal from Super Sport’s live coverage deal in protest and subsequent forfeiture of the Shs. 3m annual grant derived from the pay channel TV was indeed regrettable. It’s such a pity that this endless vicious cycle has only helped in hurting our football.

The national team, Harambee Stars, has not been spared either these constant upheavals. Actually, our national team has more often than not assumed the unenviable role of the much loved yet fallible character in this tragic comedy of errors. For too long now, it has been apparent that the top brass officials at the FKL (previously KFF) rarely act in the best interest of the national team players and the technical bench, yet at the same time setting unrealistic objectives for the team. Former coaches Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee and his successor Francis Kimanzi were both acrimoniously hounded out of office under unclear circumstances. Ironically, on both occasions the national team was perceived to have been posting good results. It’s rather obvious that Kenyan football has no place for the few mavericks audacious enough to stand up to the egoistic administrators.

But in a strange twist of events, in the run up to the Kenya’s opening match in the last group phase of the 2010 World Cup qualifier against Tunisia, the hunter became the hunted when deposed coach Kamanzi forcibly decamped members of his Mathare team from the national team’s residential training a week before the big match, ostensibly to settle old scores. In a swift move that surprised many, Coach Antoine Hey, dropped the four players at the centre of the controversy from his final squad forthwith. But we weren’t done yet. Things almost came to a head when Kenyan hit man, Dennis Oliech, further threw a spanner to the works on arrival from his Auxerre base by attempting to implore the German tactician to reverse the decision. Not allowing himself to be arm-twisted by his dependable point man - having already been done in by his predecessor - the new coach’s rebuff was swift and categorical; in due course, Oliech apologized and withdrew his way out of line request.

And of course the usual sideshows and incidences prior to and during the match crowned FKL’s high level of incompetence. Days before the March 28th encounter, illegal replica shirts of the national team were doing rounds on the streets of Nairobi courtesy of streetwise pedlars taking advantage of FKL’s laxity in registering the apparel as a trademark. As if the flood of fake t-shirts wasn’t bad enough, there was also the other issue of counterfeit match tickets which were also circulating on the streets. On a weekend where scores of fans were crashed to death in a stampede in a corresponding match in Abidjan, things weren’t any different at the ‘sold-out’ Coca Cola National Stadium. It’s such a paradox that purchasing match tickets off the streets around this place is a lot more easier than securing passage through the turnstile come match day: Its always a case of ‘mwenye nguvu mpishe’.

In the final analysis it can only be deduced that these petty altercations, tongue wagging and hand wringing only serve as a manifestation of the deep laying discord within the administrative structures of our football. But then, it’s not that hard to infer the diagnosis of this modern-day pandemic that is ravaging our football. We sold our souls to the devil the moment we bought the lies apportioned to us by these good for nothing busybodies in there quest to occupy those lavish offices at the football secretariat. My prognosis? Kenya football is bound to sink further into the depths of this unfathomable abyss. The Remedy? A radical surgery of the administrative structure is urgently required! Then, and only then, will there be a glimmer of hope; some flickering ray of light at the end of this long dingy tunnel.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


1st Leg Results
Date: 29th April 2009
Venue: Old Trafford
Scoreline: Man U 1 : Arsenal 0
Scorers: Man U - John O’shea

2nd Leg Results
Date: 5th May 2009
Venue: The Emirates
Scoreline: Man U 3 : Arsenal 1
Scorers: Man U - Cristiano Ronaldo (2), Ji-Sung Park
Arsenal – Robin van Persie (pen)
Aggregate Score: Man U 4 : Arsenal 1

Man U are your firm favourites to retain their title in Rome, no doubt about it. Say it again, what was the estimated distance of that cracker of a free kick from Ronaldo? 40 yards out… Wooow??!! I’m a self-proclaimed Man U hater to the hilt, but why lie, this guy deserves to walk away with his 2nd FIFA World Player of the Year Award... just give the damn Devil his due!


1st Leg Results
Date: 28th April 2009
Venue: Nou Camp
Scoreline: Barcelona 0 : Chelsea 0
Scorers: -

2nd Leg Results
Date: 6th May 2009
Venue: The Stamford Bridge
Scoreline: Barcelona 1 : Chelsea 1
Scorers: Chelsea - Michael Essien
Barcelona - Andres Iniesta
Aggregate Score: Barcelona 1 : Chelsea 1 (Barcelona advance on the away goal rule)

Two defining moments – two brilliant midfielders – two wonderful goals… the sum total of the tumultuous second leg encounter at the Stamford Bridge. This blog has absolutely no space to waste on meaningless innuendos on the wasn’t(s) and should have been(s). Period!

Thursday, May 7, 2009


There exists an old folk tale about this masterful village hunter who once went out into the bush on a mission to ensnare a marauding leopard that had made plundering the village stock its habit. The story goes that upon capturing the vicious cat, the hunter proceeded to skin it alive without a second thought.

But borne out of natural human compassion, he spared the leopard’s harmless single cub that had been orphaned by his act which he decided to take for a ‘pet’. In due course, the baby leopard matured into a supple full-bodied feline; all the while feigning the presumed disposition of a domesticated cat.

Then one day, in sudden fit of wild instinct, the big cat pounced on its surrogate mother dog and her pups before fatally mauling its master – the village hunter. Oh, how one man’s folly left an entire village astounded beyond words!

After holding sway for exactly 83 minutes, Chelsea were the architects of their own down fall at the hands of a coy and subdued Barcelona on Wednesday night in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semi final clash at the Stamford Bridge.

One fanatical supporter of Chelsea even went to the extent of spinning a lengthy yarn last week on the pages of a local leading daily boldly proclaiming how “the Blue Army would march out of their besieged fort and throttle the Catalans by the throat , leaving them for dead at the Bridge…”, blah blah blah… on and on he went. What illusory perversion of reality!

Obviously, this match will be the subject of an endless debate, particularly so from the deeply aggrieved Chelsea sympathizers, in many years to come. But as one neutral observer pointed out – and rightly so – while the much touted Barcelona disappointed heavily on the night, Chelsea on their part didn’t impress either. By 'petting' an already wounded but viciously dangerous opponent, they suffered the repercussions of incessantly teasing and tempting fate.

That flimsy hue and cry pathetically fronted by a section of the Blues’ loyal followers to the effect that match referee, Tom Henning Ovrebo, committed high treason by stoically ‘fixing’ the match in favour of Barcelona is, to say the least, a defeatist scapegoat. Irrespective of the countless penalty appeals that the official waved away, Chelsea had the best openings and should have buried the pretenders from Catalonia long before halftime.

Football being the ‘cruel’ sport that it is, you could get the feeling that somehow Chelsea would be made to pay the ultimate price for their grievously misplaced sense of comfort while delicately hanging on to that solitary wonder of a goal from Michael Essien. At that point, it would have only been prudent to kill off the contest – Manchester United style. But unfortunately they didn’t.

There is no gainsaying that they learnt their lesson the hard way and it served them right! Even worse was the petulant outburst from a furious Didier Drogba his anger directed at the Norwegian official long after the final whistle. Akin to flogging a dead horse, it was utterly senseless!

Stadio Olimpico in Rome is the final rendezvous for arguably the best two clubs in Europe on the 27th May 2009. The acrimony surrounding Chelsea’s ouster lends it more credence as a must-watch match. Man U stands as firm favourites but having ‘rigged’ their way into the final, Barca may possibly just confound the naysayers with a more credible display in Rome. Man U are well advised here to be extremely wary of the wily ways of the Catalans.

I wonder though the emotions this match will stir in the hearts of diehard Chelsea faithful. While in the event of a Barcelona triumph they will feel grossly cheated, still a victory for bitter rivals will do very little to placate their punctured ego.

Monday, May 4, 2009

How the mighty have fallen + Some Semi Finals

Gone are the days when Zidane, Figo, Ronaldo and Raul would overwhelm any defence for Real Madrid. Instead, Raul - one of the last of that era of Galaticos was left rather disconsolate after their 6-2 whitewash at the hands of a Barcelona team that potentially could eclipse any team that has ever played in Spain.

Iniesta in my opinion is probably their most important player, even if it is Messi that draws the most attention when they play. Henry has regained a good amount of that form that made him one of the best players in the world, while Etoo somehow failed to get on the score sheet. Gerald Pique looks quite solid and powerful and was responsible for breaking up Madrid's numerous attempts to score. Xavi was as imperious as ever. Makes me wonder why they always try to sign Cesc from Arsenal when they already have such an immaculate midfield.

Talking of Arsenal, the first leg of the semi was all Man U (even though I had said that Arsenal would shade it possession wise). However Man U should have scored more. 
Let's wait and see what happens tonight. 

Chelsea - Barcelona follows tomorrow, and I suspect this leg at Stamford bridge will be more open than last. Messi may get space to do his magic. Barcelona are missing two central defenders though, so it should be intriguing to watch.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Manchester United vs Arsenal

A potential classic...

But then, that is what I said about the Barcelona vs Chelsea game yesterday and I more or less dozed for most of the game. 

Arsenal's defence has never been that good this season and last, and Man U have one of the most potent set of forwards in Europe. Arsenal will probably edge it possession wise, but the question on most Arsenal fans' minds is whether that possession, this time, will translate into goals. 

Quite a number of contrasts: Man U have been there, and done that, (2 UCL cups, many more league titles) while Arsenal have never won that UCL and have had to endure 4 seasons without any silverware.

Man U's defence of late has not been as air tight as when they went 10 games without conceding a goal (though against arguably 'average' opposition). 

Man U will probably win the English Premiership this time round ahead of bitter rivals Liverpool.

Previously, in the days of Keane vs Viera, before the age of the Oligarch, games between the two tended to be rather heated affairs (anyone recall Pizzagate? Cesc maybe?). However, currently, both Wenger and Fergerson enjoy a considerable level of mutual respect - maybe age has something to do with it? There's also a level of mutual respect among the two teams with Cesc saying that they are the best team in the world currently (that coming from a Catalan is something), and Vidic saying that he'll need to be at his best to cope with the threat that Adebayor poses.

Should be an interesting watch... so whatever side you are of the 'divide', have fun ... and don't go overboard.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Its said that a pictures is worth a thousand words. How apt. While flipping through my photo album the other day, a collection of about half a dozen snaps got me thinking of those prized items every boy of a certain age-group longed to possess during my primary school days. An ‘album’ was that highly prized and much coveted paraphernalia which we boys went to all lengths to painstakingly build from old newspaper photo cuttings from the sports pages, stuck together with bubble gum on some tattered scrap books (old exercise books). Needless to say, the content of any ‘album’ would exclusively be snap shots from both local and international football action.

The bigger the variety of photos in your ‘album’, the greater the self-esteem you would command within the young fanatically fan base clique. A couple of coloured photos in your album made for an expert collector [back then, a colour photo on the newspapers was a rarity]. Predictability, albums were banned accessories in school but more often than not, a few daring souls would sneak their crude contrabands into class to gleefully display to their smitten classmates in between lessons. It can only be left to the imagination the kind of punishment our overly strict educators of the day meted out on any cheeky fellow (and his accomplices) found in possession of these illicit paraphernalia. Shamefully, a chronic deficiency of old newspapers in our household meant that I never I got to own an album; something I rue to this day.

At the risk of being branded old-fashioned, I dare say that, to me, that was the height of ingenuity. Long gone are the ‘albums’ - the passion and grief they elicited not withstanding. Instead of the daily kick-about we indulged in on dusty play grounds, the modern kid now has the Play Station. And for our obscure ‘albums’, he has an autograph booklet. Whatever became of innovation?

But I digress. I was talking about my photo album – the real one. In the midst of these nostalgic memories, my attention is sharply drawn by this small collection of photos that I once took from the stands of some little known football ground in Naivasha. Honestly, there is nothing really impressive about the quality of these photos, having been taken by the amateur photographer that I am. Worse still, is the fact that the camera in use was a cheap manual Kodak model that I got a few years ago as part of the promotion package when I bought my now faded and malfunctioning Motorola 110 cellphone. Ironically, these priceless photos truly occupy the centerpiece of my album – of course for obvious reasons which have everything to do with football. And the story around these photos is a rather interesting one.

Sometime back in 2005, towards the end of the 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, a star-studded Ghanaian national team quietly checked into the country and found their way to Naivasha town where they pitched camp at the luxurious lakeside Simba Lodge. The high flying Black Stars were making a training camp stopover en-route to Cape Town for their penultimate tie against the Bafana Bafana. For some reason our befuddled football administration seemed reluctant to accept the West African’s request for a much-needed International friendly match. For Harambe Stars, who themselves had an upcoming encounter against Morocco, this was a God-send opportunity for an invaluable build-up match against one of the stronger African sides. Regrettably, the opportunity came and sadly passed us by, all thanks to KFF!

Deprived of a meaningful match-up with their host, the West African football giants were thus left to do with routine mid-morning training sessions at the nondescript Oserian Stadium – formerly the home of two time Kenya Premier League champions, Oserian Fastac. A day before their departure down south, the Ghanaian officials hastily arranged for an ‘international friendly’ against the fledgling Oserian FC – a revived version of the defunct Oserian Fastac.

Time and chance conveniently placed me, then, at the flower farm through professional vocation for a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet and rub shoulders with renowned football celebrities. The Ghanaian contingent boasted big names. In the house was captain Stephen Appiah, goalkeepers Richard Kingstone and Sammy Adjei and of course the biggest attraction was none other than Chelsea midfield dynamo Michael Essien. This was a match I wasn’t gonna miss for anything in the world!

But then, being a weekday (Wednesday) the problem of poor timing of the match (3pm) was always going to pause a small challenge. After some long and serious consideration, I firmly resolved to cut my working hours by a good two hours. Amid all the anxiety to sneak out of the office unnoticed, I completely forgot to carry along my autograph book! But thank God for my cheap Kodak camera… I ended up with half a dozen snap shots of Africa’s finest.

Just for the records, the ‘Black Stars’ hardly broke any sweat in walloping Oserian FC 4-0 during that match. A few days later in Cape Town, the Stephen Appiah led team upset Bafana Bafana 2-0. Meanwhile our own Harambe Stars could only muster a 1-1 draw at home to Morocco in a match blotted by the death of a teenage fan following a stampede. The Ghanaians eventually won their group to book a flight to Germany for a first ever World Cup finals appearance as Kenya were trounced 2-0 by the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia before an empty gallery at Kasarani to crash out.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Brazil to train in Nairobi

Very interesting by the East African Standard... keeping in mind that it's April 1st.. 

Monday, March 30, 2009


Kenya’s 3-match winning run a home in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers came to a grinding halt at the hands of Tunisia’s ‘Carthage Eagles’ last Saturday. Shabik’s De’ Stefano was on location to deliver a blow by blow account of the sequence of events.

1) The Preparation

2:05 pm - Am still at home, less than 2 hours to kickoff, but I need a fast shower!
2:15 pm - I grab a quick bite.
2:25pm - Am literally dashing out of the hao. I hear its raining those sides of tao I hate bebaing a brollie… I don’t have to.
2:35pm - I hop into the first mat that pulls up at my stage. Traffic aint mbaya, should be there within the next 35-40 minutes.
3:00pm - a potentially terrible traffic is beginning to build at the Langata Road-
Mbagathi Way-Mai Mahiu Road roundabout with absolutely no traffic cop in sight.
3:10pm - The Brrrrr Stadium. Wow! Unbelievable, the crowd that is here. A huge crowd is milling around the gate on the Nairobi West side, where the flow of traffic has been greatly hampered.
3:12pm - I try circumventing the long queues here and checkout the other entry
points on the eastern side. Hard luck. The queues are longer and the crowd more chaotic.
3:25pm - The heavens sudden open; its pouring like nobody’s business and part of
the crowd is scampering for shelter on the fringes of the parameter wall.
-Police on horsebacks are not helping either as they attempt to ward off the surging crowd.
-The the existing queues don’t same to be moving either. Damn it! Will I really make it in at this rate?
3:30pm - Still yet to find a queue that looks relatively short.
3:45pm - Back on the western wing. I find a queue which has snaked its way to the
parking lot in front of the main entrance. This one seems shorter and less chaotic, so I join in. It’s moving…
4:06pm - Am through the turnstile! Oh my God! The Coca Cola stadium is
literally bursting on its seams… Incredible! Why on earth did I loan out my digital camera?
- No time to waste, up the terraces I scale.

2) The Action

4:07pm - Kickoff. I’ve taken my seat.
4:13pm - A lucky strike on the murky surface gifts the Tunisians goal number one.
4:17pm - Stars are chasing the game. Towering Tunisian captain Radhi Jaidi nearly
concedes an own goal under great pressure from Denis Oliech.
4:22pm - Oliech heads agonizingly close from a looped pass by Robert Mambo.
4:44pm - The sun finally breaks through the clouds on the western side of the stadium.
4:55pm - Halftime.
Tunisia 1: Kenya 0

[Such a wonderful atmosphere inside the stadium. Flags, blurring horns and from a distant, the faint sound of the ‘Isikuti’ all add up to the pomp and fanfare. One in every five people is clad in the Star’s white replica jersey; many faces are painted black, red and green. Lots of beautiful women are also in the house, mostly in the company of jamaas]
*** *** ***
5:11pm - Kipindi cha lala salama.
5:26pm - As the Stars are pressing for an equalizer, a ‘Mexican Wave’ flows 4 times around the stadium.
- The Tunisians seem content in letting the Stars string their passes around.
5:35pm - Yeeeeesss!! Denis Oliech does it again and the roof comes down!!
5:38pm - Heartbreak… Goal number two for Tunisia.
5:42pm - Robert Mambo strike the crossbar with a powerful header.
5:50pm - Fans begin streaming out. Technically we are a beaten side now. All that huffing and puffing comes to naught.
6:01pm - Final whistle.
Tunisia 2: Kenya 1

[Time to take a brief moment of reflection on the terraces as the multitude of fans makes it way out. Am disappointed we’ve lost a game we should have won; but am proud of our boys who’ve gone down fighting.]

The Aftermath

Sunday, Maputo – Hosts Mozambique contrive an unlikely scoreless draw against a coy Nigeria even after having 2 ‘goals’ disallowed. As it stands now in Group 2:

1. Tunisia 1 1 0 0 2 1 3
2. Mozambique 1 0 1 0 0 0 1
3. Nigeria 1 0 1 0 0 0 1
4. Kenya 1 0 0 1 1 2 0

So there you have it folks, things look abit thick at the moment. It’s bad enough that we lost our first game at home and even worse that our next stop will be in Lagos on 7th June against group favourites, the Super Eagles.

Its gonna be a tough match for us because Nigeria will not be willing to drop any more points so as to stay in touch with Tunisia who at worst can only draw at home to Mozambique over the same weekend. Furthermore Mozambique’s stellar performance against Nigeria should serve as a warning to us that perhaps they are not the pushovers we all thought they are.

That leaves us in a very precarious position. Its really grim but considering the poor travelers that we are (we’ve never beaten Nigeria home, away or ‘anywhere’, for that matter), I see us still rooted at the bottom of the group after the second round of matches.

Lessons Learnt
• Lesson No. 1: Always take the words of a been-there-done-it sage seriously. Former Harambee Stars coach, Mohammed Kheri, sounded an early warning before the match that the Tunisians have a knack for scoring early goals. We conceded a 6th minute goal…
• Lesson No. 2: It’s true that you are most vulnerable within the first two minutes of scoring a goal. That’s when you momentarily let down your guard and whack! The sucker punch. The Tunisians went ahead again only 3 minutes after we equalized.
• Lesson No. 3: It’s also true that Oliech is the fulcrum the entire team revolves around and that we tend to over relay on him. The AJ Auxerre hitman accounts for 5 of the 9 goals we’ve scored so far.
• Lesson No. 4: And finally, on match day, ensure you are at the venue 3 or 4 hours before kickoff; Kenyans are well known for the last minute rush…

Thursday, March 26, 2009


“Football is a game of the gentlemen watched by thugs… Rugby is a game of thugs watched by gentlemen and Golf is a game of the gentlemen watched by gentlemen…” these are the famous words of Prime Minister Raila Odinga as once quoted during a rare day out at the golf course together with his nemesis-turned-partner President Mwai Kibaki.

In as much as the man must have made his rib tickling off-the-cuff remark purely to lighten up the otherwise informal occasion, it was a statement that anyone whose ever set foot on a football or rugby pitch must have concurred with – only that the modern day rugby player is becoming an increasing suave athlete.

But all that is beside the point. Any serious sports fan, will agree that nothing beats the experience of catching the action ‘real time’ on location as the drama unfolds. Forget about all those beer guzzling armchair/barstool fans that are perversely taking over sport. The stadium -football, rugby or otherwise- is a special place to be in if you want a piece of the real ‘action’. The stadium is the real deal - a shrine, a sacred place, some sort of a sports’ follower’s ‘Mecca’ - a place where every serious fan should occasionally take pilgrimage purely to unwind if not to fellowship with other devotees.

Personally, some of my most memorable excursions happen to have been at the rugby grounds. Having transferred to Nakuru midway through high school after my family moved from Nairobi, I took up rugby as a sport. Coincidentally, our new neighbourhood happened to have been just a stone throw away from the Nakuru Athletic Club, literally. Infact, from the balcony I could comfortably follow proceedings on any match day undeterred. But then, just to get up and close to the action, attending the Great Rift 10 Aside tourney became a ritual that I religiously observed year in year out, just before schools opened for the 2nd term.

The atmosphere was always sizzling - for two straight days! And the crowd? There is one particular guy by the name Arigi who was something of a permanent phenomenon during theses events. Although many rugby followers will recall that Arigi owed his allegiance totally to University of Nairobi’s Mean Machine, over the years he gained notoriety (or perhaps popularity) as the official cheerleader of the students’ team who would seized every opportunity available to relentlessly engage the opposing fans in a lighthearted banter. Regardless though, his touchline antics, with a barrage of brickbats to boot, were always worth all the while.

If the rugby grounds were a standup comedian’s launch pad- ala Arigi, then the football stadium must have been a hooligan’s paradise. During my primary school days, this is the one place that I vividly recall my old man admonishing us from exploring. His concern was obviously borne out of fear that such ventures would inevitably expose us to the hoodlums who were a commonplace at the football arenas. But being the brats that we were, the temptation to sneak out every Saturday afternoon was often overwhelming.

Ironically, most of the times - being kids - the much prized match tickets were way too prohibitive. For all our troubles, we often found ourselves cooling our heels at the gates for a good part of the match, only to be let in through the benevolence of the gatekeepers barely ten minutes to the end of the game. ‘Ten Percent’ was the common parlance for this little misadventure back then.

Thankfully, all that is a thing of the past. Nowadays I can afford the occasional match ticket. The only worrying trend is the shrinking crowds, which have dampened the once memorable stadium experience. Gone are the days of the bitter rivalry pitting Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards that would practically bring all business in town to a standstill on the day of the big derby. The intensity and hype of the pre-match buildup and thereafter the celebration parties that would often degenerate into running battles between the two group of fans by far makes the so called Man U-Arsenal charades in Nairobi’s drinking holes a mere child’s play.

But its not all gloom to those who, like me, still hold the beautiful game close to heart. For me, the football stadium remains the choice destination on any Saturday afternoon. Yes, the matches are rather drab but all the sideshows by devout and passionate fans on the terraces makes up for all the bad football.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Kenya - Tunisia

I am wondering how this game will go. Kimanzi was doing a good job, had (in my opinion) an appreciation for varying tactics depending on the game, and had potential to be Kenya's best homegrown coach ever. That is until 'other' interests took over.

Not sure about Hey. It is too early to judge his ability, but many guys are resigned to losing to Tunisia. Check out this discussion thread on

Of course I hope Kenya beat Tunisia soundly, but I'm not holding my breath.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Am one disgruntled football fan spoiling for a bare-knuckled fight! The so called ‘withdrawal symptoms’ have set in way too early for me. And that, for a very good reason. I woke up last Wednesday to the shocking and devastating news of the humiliating spanking that my beloved Real Madrid suffered at Liverpool the previous night (the scoreline is a bit embarrassing, I prefer not to state it for now).

Prior to the match, one like-minded yet immensely candid fan put it plainly to me that considering the beaten road that the los Merengues have taken in recent years in the competition, they stood not even half a chance at Anfield. In retrospect, I now realize I shouldn’t have bothered to ask for a second opinion in the first place.

But then of course every football fan worth his salt sets ‘SMART’ objectives for his team at the beginning of every season. Regrettably, with that drabbing at the hands of Liverpool, one of my own ‘SMART’ objectives for the 2008-2009 season just went up in smoke.

In football, back-to-back defeats to any one opponent – and while at it, shipping a bucketful of goals without scoring – is bad enough. But losing home and away to a struggling and colourless English team of Liverpool’s ilk is something that closely borders a disaster, a tragedy – nay, a scandal!

Maybe I should come out more clearly and boldly state that I’ve never had any love for English teams. All football fans have their idiosyncratic prejudices. Perhaps that’s just one of my own. It’s allowed in this game. For that very reason, I recently gave up watching the much-hyped English Premiership at my local pub every Saturday afternoon. This is a decision I reached upon stumbling on a very important awakening. Its all about the element of chauvinism, the cockiness exhibited in the English game. From those loud-mouthed managers, controversy-plagued players to downright ignorant fans (some in as far-flung places as downtown Nairobi) English football is the epitome of an over-rated, over-priced and over-publicized show.

How sickening it is listening to that tired age-long argument about Man U and Arsenal on those slow Sunday afternoons when all you want is to enjoy the game over a pint or two. Oh, and the degree of ignorance? Massive, for lack of a better word. Picture this; last Saturday at one of my family member’s house-warming bash am accosted by this gorgeous lady – an acquaintance from a previous social gathering. During our brief conversion, Cindy (for that’s her name) volunteers information to the effect that she is a diehard Man U fan, never mind the fact that she doesn’t understand the simplest of the game’s rules like an off-side. Now, fancy that for your average English football fan! Her display of bewilderment when I nonchalantly stutter that I feel nothing for her team or any other English team, for that matter, was all too obvious.

Suffice to say, we didn’t strike it off well with Cindy and I left it at that. My wildest guess is that my convoluted perspective of the game did very little to endear me this drop-dead beauty. And I bet it won’t endear me, either, to the many lovers of the English game – not by one long shot. What am sure of though, is that by bravely sticking out my neck, I’ve practically turned into a laughing stock. For now, you guyz can ha ha ha all you wanna, but rest assured Real Madrid will live to fight another day.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


What would a man choose on a Saturday afternoon between a romantic evening and a male-bonding session out with the boys? Forget all that crap about Valentine’s Day that has lately driven all sane members of the male gender bonkers, boys will be boys and men will be men!

Much as I don’t subscribe to the farfetched superstitious belief that the 13th day on any month falling on a Friday is enough reason to shudder, on the contrary, the 14th February on a weekend is surely hell-sent. But thank God for football! Yes, football is what let me off the hook last Saturday from that overly commercialized charade of love and romance. Not so for many other men out there who begrudgingly chose to conform to this foreign concept whose origin none has a clue. Many are the long faces you’ll bump into in the next few days on the streets after having blown up a tidy sum of their savings all in the name of making an impression.

Needless to say, I too was caught up in a similar predicament, but I chose treachery over sentimentality. Actually, I have the gods of football to thank for a timely and miraculous intervention in the face of an impending emotional crisis.

Saturday morning finds me bilaz and plotless, thanks to the global credit crunch. That’s really a mild way of saying that I’ve literally been running on shoe-string budget for the last couple of weeks. Then here I find myself torn between making a phone call to a certain missus to either confirm that dinner date or alternatively calling the bluff and making up a lie about last minute engagements. The rational? The Zambians are in town for the return leg against Mathare United in the African Champions League encounter. Its been ages since I last watched a ‘live’ football match in a real stadium full of screaming fans. The temptation is just irresistible. Besides, by absconding my presumed dinner date, I’ll have dispensed off all those unnecessary costs of flowers, cards, chocolates, lingerie and all. So lie I do.

Amazingly and contrary to all my preconceived expectations, my lady actually swallows my stupid lie, hook line and sinker. Am not sure though, if this seeming act of naivety is actually one of her neatly concealed smart tramp cards which will ultimately be used against me in future. God forbid, she doesn’t read this public exposé of my wily and errant ways… any way, sticking to the business of the day, I still have a match to catch – one down, one more to go.

For some strange reasons, virtually all Kenyan football stadiums have witnessed a gradual exodus of fans that used to pack these arenas to the rafters on the big occasions. There are no surprises either this afternoon at the re-branded Coca Cola National Stadium. Only a few minutes to kick off time, a sparse crowd accounts for the yawning slab seats. A few more continue to trickle in. Obviously, that token of a free rose for each fan through the turnstile failed to turn on the love after all. I make my way to a vantage position on the terraces to the left of the VIP stand. As usual, the pre-match sideshows effectively lighten up the mood. And in keeping to the spirit of the day, reggae renditions of popular love ballads are blurring out from the loudspeakers on the running track. Right behind me there is this joker who keeps going on and on with a hilarious tale about a certain old driver of a bus full of ‘pickpockets ’. With the passage of every mile, the driver is increasingly getting incensed by the presence of these pilferers amongst his passengers. Trouble is that he can’t forthrightly eject them having ‘stolen’ the bus himself a few miles down the road… “What an irony!”, concludes our stadium comic. Then when a small contingent of noisy, flag-waving Zambian fans arrive at the VIP stand and the stadium announcer, tongue-in-cheek, clarifies that Zesco (Zambian Electricity Supply Company) is the equivalent of our own Western Stima in the KPL, the home fans are all left in stitches.

But when the real action gets underway on the field of play, it’s the Zambians who have the last laugh. The much-talked of Mathare United defense turns out to be precisely that – mere talk. Within the first quarter of an hour, Enock Sikala casually lobs the ball over the badly positioned Mathare custodian following a defensive lapse. Tragically, for all their possession, the Mathare United strike force time and again comes short infront of goal. And they are duly punished yet again for all their ineptitude in the 48th minute. A swift counter attack from an abortive corner gives the Zambians an unassailable 2-0 lead on the day and a 4-0 margin on aggregate. Thereafter, all the huffing and puffing by Kimanzi’s overly subdued men is all to naught. A consolation spot-kick slotted in by the burly Kevin Ochieng in the 65th minute proves to be too little, too late. Justifiably, with 10 minutes still left on the clock, and a certain victory beckoning, the small traveling Zambian party breaks into song and dance. The final nail, however, is driven into Mathare’s coffin in the 88th minute when diminutive striker Clifford Chipalo taps in a free-kick from the right flank. Game over! Its time to leave – I quickly join the beeline for the exit.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A couple of steps back for Kenyan soccer?

Yesterday, I was not a happy soccer fan. Kimanzi got the boot for standing his groun regarding the international FRIENDLY between Harambee Stars and Egypt. One would only suspect that (again) money had something to do with all of it - considering the Egyptian soccer authorities were footing the bill both locally and international.

The stand in coach, could do the job, but Kimanzi, relatively young for a soccer coach, has amazing potential - he's got the potential to become Kenya's best ever local coach. Under him, Kenya's FIFA ranking rose to within the magical 70 required for soccer players to play in the lucrative English Premier League. Never mind that Kenya's ranking plummeted to below 80 the month after without a single game being played.

One wonders whether FKL, KFF (or whoever) really have Kenyan soccer interests at heart. Most of the time, they remind me of Kenyan politicians (those matching Mutahi Ngunyi's apt description).

Let's see if the players will be sufficiently motivated to give that extra effort under Kimanzi, who was able to relate to players extremely well due to his youth.