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.