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.