Thursday, July 15, 2010

World Cup 'madness'... the aftermath...

Rarely does the work of a policeman entail quelling a sanctioned riot disguised as a football match in the full glare of an estimated 700 million worldwide viewers.

That's exactly what one English police sergeant by the name Webb Howard found himself embroiled in last Saturday as the first World Cup on Africa soil came to an end.

What football pundits had billed as a would be greatest final of all time imploded into badly scripted play, the main protagonists being the thuggish Dutchman against the petulant Spaniard.

The was the ultimate show-stopper and Webb was only meant to play a supporting role. But in strange twist to the tale the chief members of the cast connived to thrust him into the heat of the spotlight.

Fate having placed him right at the center this farcical, yet comical show, Webb, who took a break from law enforcement duties 2 years ago in favour of the whistle, flashed a record 14 yellow cards and a red a card, just for good measure.

Suffice to say, in so doing the South Yorkshire Police officer unwittingly earned himself an eternal place of infamy in a Dutch folklore that will be told and retold in many years to come.

But then again, what other options did good old Webb have given that the Dutch hoodlums – the once highly acclaimed inventors of 'Total Football' - seemed more intent in clattering down and flattening the spineless and soft-pithed Spaniards? Something was bound to give in, at some point - and it did.

Having displayed a remarkable degree of restraint, Webb's patience finally ran out deep into extra time. The eventual jettisoning of Johnny Hetinga - the de facto leader of the triangular 'axis of evil', that included the repulsive Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong, was indeed very long in coming.

In the immediate aftermath of the ill-tempered final match, anger took the better of fans of the jinxed Oranje, with mounted police called to break up 200 rioting Dutch fans in The Hague of all places.

Funny that in a mere 120 minutes of total anarchy, the hunter - Webb - turned into the hunted. That's the irony of life.

Not so far away from the setting of this well choreographed charade, this whole business of a man and his many cards must have left the millions of Kenyan viewers with a sense of deja vu.

Kenya is known be a very political state and in local parlance, these are indeed the times of the 'Greens' and 'Reds'. In typical Kenyan speak, the two 'primary colours' have taken a whole new dimension ever since they were unveiled as they official colour codes of the looming plebiscite.

Absurdly, this whole colour fad bears the remotest connection to the beautiful game. A 'Red Card' is no longer connotative of a players expulsion from the field of play nor does a 'Green Card' refer to the once much coveted license to the 'land of opportunities' - President Barack Obama's birthplace.
Still, you have to marvel at the Electoral body's ingenuity in cashing in on the spirit of the game by running an advert in between live match coverage with a tag line that went like this … “Red or Green, we are Kenyans.”

Yet the greatest tragedy to this episode is that one section of the ever-feuding Kenyan football (mal)administrators had the audacity to laud our hands-on Premier's attempt to do his own version of a 'Jonathan Goodluck' coup. Perhaps a case of political-correctness taken a bit too far.

On whether Howard Webb, failed either by acts of omission or commission, the jury is still out there. But there can be little doubt in the mind of the majority that the first World Cup held on African soil, by the Rainbow Nation, was one big success story; whichever side of the colour scheme you choose to look at it from.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Time to go gaga!!!

Every time my colleague Ayumba from the Daily Nation jumps to his feet to cheer and shout himself hoarse as Bafana Bafana lay surge on the Mexicans, the elderly white man perched on a high stool at the bar behind us reacts with spontaneous fits of anger.

He keeps fluffing his hands wildly while mouthing some inaudible protests which are duly drowned by the frantic fan's persistent din. At first I mistake the old man’s livid reaction as his unique way of cheering on the South Africans.

It’s only much later that I realise that the poor fellow is actually aghast by my partner’s perceived insolence in denying him a view of the crystal clear HD LCD screen that has captured the attention of all and sundry in the house.

Am tickled, but I don’t bother to alert the apparently oblivious Ayumba who is too engrossed in his cheer-leading exertions to take any notice.

It’s a Friday evening and we are at Kengeles, right in the heart of the blissful suburban Lavington Green to catch the historic kick-off of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, courtesy of MultiChoice Kenya.

The bubbly party mood at this placid joint that is popularly patronized by clientèle from the upper scale of the social class is uncharacteristic of the establishment.

With us on the same table is another colleague from the print, Ateka. This brother is, as usual, calm and collected as he slowly sips his Tusker baridi.

Behind us, at the bar, is a young couple. The man - a lanky Caucasian - is taking a Tusker too while his ‘very’ pregnant companion seems content with a glass of bottled water. They are hardly speaking to each other but seem quite comfy all the same.

A few minutes before half-time, a middle-aged gentleman settles on the empty table across ours. He is soon joined by another man in a grey suit and the two immediately order their drinks.

But wait a minute! Isn’t the latter of the two a clergyman; an ever observant Ateka discreetly nudges me. Sure enough - you can’t be wrong with the unmistakable white collar. And isn’t the man of the cloth downing his Tusker Malt baridi!

A mystified Ayumba quickly posts this lewd observation on Facebook via his cell phone to trigger a flurry of subversive comments from the ever eager online netizens of social network.

The back lobby, where the live action is being projected of four giant LCD screens is the preferred section for the rest of the media 'gang'. The placed is packed to the rafters!

There is a buzz about the place but the surround HD commentary somehow muffles the animated conversation of the vuvuzela-brandishing fans donned in assorted team shirts.

Perhaps this convivial sense of camaraderie explains our ‘Mzungu’ friend’s indignation and frustration at having his privacy so rudely intruded.

Unfortunately, there is no reprieve for him: the height of this madness is when Siphiwe Tshabalala lets fly a rocket that nestles with a bulge on the top corner of the Mexican net in the 55th minute.

Goal number one of 2010 Fifa World Cup is greeted by cacophony of sounds... the noise from the blurring vuvuzelas, honking car horns, and wild cheers is deafening.

Inexplicably, when Rafael Marquez equalizes for the Mexicans with just 23 minutes left on the clock, a few rounds of cheers are heard from some overzealous fans who seem to be just happy to savour the moment.

The game is soon over and the first person I turn to is the guy next table who identifies himself as Gaitho, a Nairobi businessman. The drinking pastor has since left. “Am not much of a football fan. I only came here to meet my pastor friend . I noticed you guys were startled when he walked in, but then....” he stutters and stops.

Your favourite teams? “Italy and Nigeria”, he quips without any further elaboration.
Next, I move to the bar where the indignant Caucasian man - by now as high as a kite from his tipple - is still sitted with a slightly drooped head.

But when I introduce myself he quickly grabs my Press Card and gives it long hard dreary look. “ Am not a ‘Mzungu’, I’ve lived in Kenya for 12 years”, he snaps at me in a drunken drawl when I ask for his reactions to the World Cup kick-off.

The next minute, he's warmed up to me and goes ahead to confess that he is not so enthusiastic about football but has a liking for rugby. “I don’t support any team but I hope South Africa does well” he mumbles with a half smile.

Inspite of my spirited coercion, the guy simply wont reveal any more. “Am simply known as Terry, that all you need to know ”, he says curtly before clasping my palm with a firm grip. End of interview!

On my way out, I bump into the premises owner Garvin Bell (Bell translates to Kengele in Kiswahili) and Stella Ondimu of MultiChoice Kenya. Garvin, who like the rest of his staff, is sporting a red t-shirt and black track slacks, seems highly energized by the carnival mood.

“Am so excited to be part of this communal goodwill event which has brought all these wonderful people together with the common purpose to support their teams and generally having fun”, says Garvin.

And what's with the number 7 on the back of the shirts? “Its the presumed lucky number here at Kengeles ”, he further confides.

Its 8:00pm and music from the lobby is now a few decibels higher. Outside, more cars are pulling over into the already jammed parking lot. The party has just began... time for me find my way home for the second match of Day 1.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Shame of the Naked Prince

The die has been cast. The long journey to the 2010 FIFA World Cup has turned the final corner. Much water has passed under the bridge since 2006 when South Africa made history by becoming the first African nation to successfully bid for hosting the world football showpiece. Skepticism, especially by European nations, over South Africa's 'below par' infrastructure, security concerns and doubts over the Local Organizing Committee's (LOC) ability to successfully stage the event have all been the major talking points at one time or the other during this period.

The stage now is set for what might just turn out to be the most memorable edition in the tournament's history. The end of the European football season in the last few days has set the right tone to the final countdown to South Africa 2010. Mid-last week, national coaches for SA-bound teams for the penultimate time took centre stage in naming provisional 30-man squads that will eventually be trimmed down to 23 on June 1 ahead of the June 11th - July 11th excursion down South.

Its a well know fact that an appearance in the FIFA World Cup is the ultimate objective of virtually all football players. In almost all the world football powerhouses like England, Germany, France, Brazil and Argentina, donning your national colour at the greatest football bonanza carries almost the same weight as the honour of receiving a national medal from the Queen or the President. It of matters little your country pedigree in the 'beautiful' game; the sheer fact of merely doing national duty at the biggest competitive stage of the game expressly earns you a permanent place in the annals of national folklore.

That explains why many a professional football player endlessly toils to achieve this lifelong dream of playing in the World Cup. Not even the sweet taste of success at the showpiece helps in satiating this hunger. Its for that reason that every World Cup year, quite a few players a left distraught after failing to earn their places in their national squads. The furore and public outcry, both at home and abroad that, surrounded the exclusion of Brazilian national icon Romario's exclusion from the 2002 Japan/Korea contingent underscored the single-mindedness and great awe with which virtually all footballer regard the World Cup.

Little wonder then the shock that greeted Brazilian coach Dunga's decision to take an unpopular stand by not drafting in his South African-bound squad two-time FIFA World Player of the Year, Ronaldo de Assis Moreira aka Ronaldinho. The talismanic former Barcelona play maker once mesmerized the global audience with uniquely skillful way of playing the ball coupled with sudden burst of great speed, balance and an unmatched ball control . Ironically, only a few years ago, the ever smiling Ronaldinho was enjoying the form of his career.

His great vision on the field of play the and a knack for scoring outrageous goals certainly endeared him to many football fans. Notably is the jaw dropping overhead kick that he executed in the 2006-07 la Liga match against Villareal. Still unforgotten also, is his audacious free kick that completely fouled former English goalkeeper David Seaman at the Quarter final stage of the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea. It is in rumoured in some quarters that that blunder which costed England a place in the Semi final brought tears to Seaman's eyes long after the conclusion of the event.

How times have changed. Ronaldihno will now join a long list of players that will miss the action in South Africa in just a matter of days. That the pragmatic Dunga actually chose to name his final 23-man squad as opposed the stipulated one of 30 players dealt a final severe blow any hopes that Ronaldinho might have haboured in sneaking into the Selecao. But Ronaldniho is not only. Along side him in this the sad company of 'rejects' are fellow AC Milan and former Brazilian teammate Alexandre Pato, former French captain, the often combative Patrick Vieira, and the Inter Milan duo of Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso both Argentines. Other big names in this growing list of yesteryear's heros include Italians Francesco Totti and Luca Toni, former Dutch goalscoring machine Ruud van Nestelrooy as well as former English captain David Beckham.

The latest addition to this list - who many neutrals will probably empathize with - is German captain, the indefatigable Michael Ballack who for some strange reason always prefers to pull on the pressumedly 'unlucky' no.13 jersey both for club and country. While it would be preposterous and superstitious to draw a parallel to the many sad endings that Ballack has endured in his illustrious career, ill-fate certainly seems to endlessly dog him, especially when it matters most.

Ballack's injury however is not intriguing. The tragedy lies behind the story of the player responsible for his injury. 23 year old German born Portsmouth player, Kevin-Prince Boateng, who has uncannily evoked the wrath of German fans actually has some German blood in his veins. Boateng who is of mixed parentage - his father a Ghanian and his Mother a German- has only recently been cleared by FIFA to be legible to play for the Ghanian national team. Up till Ballack's fateful injury occasioned by a tackle from Boateng during last Sunday's FA Final, the possibility of showdown between the two players on June 23 in a Group D clash in Johnnnesburg's Soccer City had been very real. A bizarre twist in the tale is that Boateng's half brother Jerome has been named in German coach Joachim Loew's provisional 30-man squad, meaning the two brothers could face-off in South Africa wearing two different national colours.

Suffice to say, the injuries of Ballack and Beckham were most unfortunate for the two players who had hoped make their final bows in South Africa. However, the exclusion of other younger and ambitious players like the much maligned Italian teenage prodigy Mario Balotelli, the French pair of Karim Benzema and Samir Nasri, Machester United's Brazilian midfielder Andersson and Real Madrid's Fernando Gago will most certainly leave their teams - and indeed the 2010 FIFA World Cup - more the poorer.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Will the Mariga Factor Spill Over?

With just five minutes remaining on the clock and Inter Milan comfortably coasting to a would be famous victory over Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League, TV pictures beamed a footage that will forever remain etched in the memory of many Kenyan football fans. A boyish smirk plastered all over his face, a nervous-looking MacDonald Mariga responded to coach Jose Mourinho's last minute touchline instructions with rhythmic nods of the head.

That was the night of 16th March 2010 and history was in the making. A minute later, the lanky attacking midfielder strode into the hallowed grounds of Stamford Bridge as a replacement of Dutch cross-master Wesley Sneidjer. It can only be left to the figment of one's imagination the immense swelling of emotion that must have been bubbling inside this young lad at that historic moment.

And this outpouring of emotions for the unprecedented achievement by 'one of our own' was just too infectious. At my Eastlands humble aboard, Mariga's cameo appearance was greeted with a spontaneous round of rousing applause from the many adjoining dingy video showrooms. Even in the studious of a local TV channel, FKL Technical Director Patrick Naggi was visibly besides himself with pride as he heaped superlative upon superlative on Mariga - his one time protégé at the defunct Kenya Pipeline FC.

It was while we were all wallowing at the apex of that dizzying height that it somehow occurred to many of us that the furore over Mariga's botched move to Manchester City only a few weeks earlier had been misplaced after all. Inter Milan was definitely a blessing in disguise!

With that single act, Mariga had singlehandedly put Kenya on the world map in a sport that we are still considered lightweights. Many years from now (or perhaps just a few), many other Kenyan players will follow in Mariga's footsteps and don the famous colours of some of the best European clubs. Its not a question of if, but rather when this prophesy will be fulfilled. And that in itself portends another question; which way forward now that Mariga has broken all barriers for us?

While it is in order to acknowledge Mariga's accolades, it would be be foolhardy to connotate this great achievement as rocket science. There are certainly many more Mariga's and Olieches waiting to be discovered.

Though its common knowledge that the root course of our football's near death is chronic maladministration of the game by selfish football officials, it would be pointless to dwell on these sideshows here.

For now, it is imperative that we quickly get over this “feel good” effect occasioned by Mariga's exploits. The sooner the better (“hatujafika bado”). Of primary significance now is how to land many more Marigas in the Italian Serie A, the English Premier League and even the lucrative Spanish La Liga.

A good starting point is through tournaments like the just concluded Super 8 and Pepeta Ball football tournaments as well as the ongoing Copa Coca Cola. We could even engage a latter-day “Bernard Zgoll” to revive and revamp the defunct Youth Olympic Centers across the country. This personality would be mandated with the responsibility of using such tournaments in identifying raw talent from the grassroots. Thereafter, a sound follow-through program would be set up to nurture and develop these young players.

Football is all about continuity; with time these players would mature and step-up into the big leagues both locally and internationally when the big boys call it time. As they say, you don't have to reinvent the wheel. This is the way all the other continental powerhouses like Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Egypt have gone to achieve their degree of success. Kenya can only do itself a big favour by aping our 'big brothers' from the West and the North if we ever hope to see many more Marigas doing us proud in European Leagues.

The Face of Hooliganism

Any professional footballer would most probably attest to this- the sight and sound of thousands of screaming fans can be quite an intimidating prospect. Atleast when they are not singing and chanting your praises. It is not uncommon for visiting teams to conveniently blame their loss on the unforgiving twelfth man – the fans!

It was a different story all together last Friday afternoon when Gor Mahia FC played Nairobi City Stars to an empty gallery at the Nyayo National Stadium, following the Independent Disciplinary and Appeals Committee's (IDAC) ruling over alleged misconduct by the former's fans during a previous league match.

If a full to capacity attendance can be intimidating, on the converse, an empty one can be unflatteringly imposing by the depth of its hollowness. What with the reverberating echoes of agitated team officials shouting instructions on the touchline ringing out against the yawning terraces.

For once Gor Mahia's players would have to endure the full ninety minutes on the pitch devoid of the familiar “Gor Biro, Yawne Yo!” war-song that has spurred them on to many memorable conquests in the past. But K'ogallo is famous for its religiously loyal fans who can practically move heaven and earth just to cheer their team to victory.

Long before the 3pm kick-off time, a seizable horde of Gor Mahai fans are already milling around the VIP Entrance. Inspite of the heavy police presence around the stadium's precincts, its just business as usual for these fans – even if it means following the proceedings from outside the stadium.

Inside the stadium, a dull scenario plays itself out as both teams labour through an uneventful first half, though the Kawangware-based Stars seem to be the more composed and creative side. All nought stands the half time score.

Come second half and the power balance dramatically shifts in favour of the home team. Just ten minutes after the breather, a goal bound shot from George 'Blackberry' Odhiambo is handled in the box by a City Stars defender. After much remonstration, a calm Julius 'Awilo' Owino coolly slots in the penalty for K'ogallo.

Now thats when the house come down! Jubilation rings out around the ghost arena. But where are the fans? Lo and behold... a closer scrutiny reveals a handful of fans precariously clutched from the outside of Gate 3 on the eastern side of the stadium. What innovation!

But more drama is still yet to come. A reckless challenge by Gor's centre half Mohammed Musa on Jimmy Bageye inside the box wins City Stars a penalty in the 75th minute. A perfect chance to even the score. Gor Mahia bench as expected is livid. Their indignation is however allayed by their custodian Fredrick Onyango who stretches full length to parry a weak shot from ex-international Justus Basweti for an abortive corner.

Unfortunately, thats just about it as a far as action on the pitch is concerned. An industrious yet clueless City Stars is left huffing and puffing for the next quarter of an hour to no avail. Its a sweet first win of the season for Mighty Gor... and how the fans who had been camping outside the stadium all along celebrate!

“Beneungeyo... Ndalooo... Ndalo Machon... Ok newangeyo!!”

“Gooorr... Gor Mahia... Pinje duto ywakni!!”

The loyal fans are in a carnival mood and it all calls for a song and dance as the gates are finally flung open for the marauding crowd. “Nyaka wagwedh pap” (we have to bless this stadium), one jubilant fan is heard saying.

But if you think that K'ogallo fans will just leave it at that having been denied a chance to watch their team chalk up a famous victory, you are dead wrong. Jubilation quickly degenerates to wrath as hooliganism which is almost synonymous with these fans rears its ugly head again. This time round their object of fury is non other than KPL CEO Jack Oguda whom they quickly find fault for their predicament.

One moment they are singing their hearts out, the next moment they are haranguing and roughing up the pitiful Oguda. Its only the swift and timely intervention of police officers that puts him out of harm's way in the face of a certainly nasty brush with the infamously notorious K'ogallo fans. As a rule of thumb, at this point its time to make a quick beeline for the exit.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Men, women and football - three mutually exclusive institutions. A sudden bust up out of the blues that I recently had with a platonic female friend over a game of football reaffirmed my long held belief in this school of thought.

Picture this: it’s an easy Tuesday evening, Match Day 3 of the just concluded African Cup of Nations. The Pharaohs of Egypt are up against Nigeria’s Super Eagles in one of the most titillating Group matches - a must watch encounter. Just as am getting all comfy and cozy on my armchair, my cellphone suddenly alerts me of an in coming text. Its Fay, my across the street neighbourhood lady friend. “Am home, kam join me 4 coffee”, her sms is curt and concise.

Ordinarily, on any given day this is an opportunity I would gladly jump at, but today there is a little problem. Kick off time is just moments away and I don’t wanna miss any bit of the action. What to do now? Simple! Just do what your average halfwit man does when faced with this kind of a dilemma. Contrive a blatant lie as a quick escape avenue! “Sori Fay, got a visitor @ my place, kant kam” I quickly dispatch my reply. Easy, right? Wrong!

Now, Fay is one overbearing lady whose idea of nurturing a friendship is a misplaced sense of overt patronage. Simply put, she relishes playing mother-hen. Within 10 flat minutes there is a knock on my door. Busted! Its Fay. My hunch is that she must have correctly figured out that my unusually turn down of her benevolent overture was a clear indication of some possible mischief that I was up to. So there she was to corroborate her suspicion and possibly, if need be, reprimand me for my uncouth conduct.

To say that Fay was not amused by my flopped double bluff and that what followed was an unsavory verbal exchange would be an understatement. In the heat of the moment, she stormed out in protest, but not without a final stinging parting shot: “Have fun entertaining your football of a visitor!” I was dumbfounded. And she is not even my girlfriend! I pity all those married men who still pretend to love football. No sane woman willingly accepts a ‘co-wife’. Sorry folks, there is no middle road here.

If you think that spat with my otherwise convivial and benign friend Fay was the end of my football related misery you are dead wrong. It so happened that the daily double-header matches in Angola were slotted at 7pm and 9:30pm local time. Now this is prime time on local TV channels. Soon enough, my homely neighbour’s kids would come trooping with one agenda in mind, “Storm Over Paradise” (That annoying Mexican soap in which the cast spends 99% of their time shouting and hurling lewd profanity at each other). In my opinion, “Storm in a Tea Cup” would be more apt for a title. Needless to say, that spelt out a long cold silence war over the control of the remote with the minors over the entire duration of the Nations Cup coverage.

And to throw a little spanner to the works, Man U vs Arsenal’s EPL match coincided with the Nations Cup final match. I have no allegiance to neither (in fact I despise both in equal measure) so I didn’t waste any time on the Devils- Gunners mumbo jumbo. As expected, Man U mercilessly spanked the Emirates wannabes for good measure. But what caught my attention post match, was Sir Alex Fergusson war-like mentality. Listen to what he said concerning the impending London derby featuring Arsenal and Chelsea: “Arsenal are still not out of it. I hope they can go to Stamford Bridge and come out with something.” It all reminded me of the proverbial mouse that nibbles away at the fingers of a sleeping kid who fail to wash hands after dinner, while at the same time blowing on the wounds to pacify the clueless child. The war has just began and nobody does it better than Sir Alex Fergusson when it comes to playing that invaluable psychological card.

But have you ever wondered why when it comes to matters football in the corridors of power no one meddles and spins a better yarn than PM Agwambo? Moments after Mariga’s bid to join mega rich Man City flopped, the Right Honourable was at it again trying to pacify the masses. Whether his claim that he managed to seek audience with his British counterpart Gordon Brown on this saga within hours to the closure of the transfer window was purely for PR is a story for another day. I can’t help wondering though if this guy really has a job description other than running petty errands for the docile Emilio.


“Form is temporary, class is permanent.”
(Old school football saying)

Behold! It’s a visitation of the ancient pre-medieval times; the ageless fortified tombs have sprung open… the mummies have awoken from their age long slumber and are roaming freely across Africa’s great lands. From the Sahel, to the Sahara down to the Namib, the great trek of this prehistoric caravan can only be halted at the Cape…

History can never be rewritten, it only repeats itself. The Pharaoh dynasty is here with us! The buildup and movement that led up to that 85th minute gem of a goal by Gedo had me up on my feet applauding. Without a doubt my candid position on this has seen my popular ratings plummeting, but surely did anyone in his rightful mind imagine that the great ‘Pharaohs’ of Egypt would fall to the hugely depleted ‘Black Stars’? You wish!

This was vintage Egypt at the prime of its powers; the passing was fluid, player awareness top notch and the ruthless finishing blows were always delivered with clinical and methodical precision. Now that’s football at its very best. Can’t lie about this, when I saw the Egyptians clip the wings of the flightless ‘Super-Egos’ broders (sic) from Oga-land in their first match I knew it would take almost an impossibility to stop the flow of the great Nile. And this I secretly confided to one Redondo (a co-founder). For this am seriously considering becoming a professional bookmaker – if only to emancipate myself from the measly career of freelance writing.

All was and done (and a lot had been said by the naysayers), and thankfully so, it was a total blackout for the Black Stars who were reduced to a dim distant flicker by the all conquering Pharaohs. It’s verbose to state here that the quality of Hassan Shehata’s team was way above the rest of the competition. Like most neutral pundits, I happen to be a proponent of beautiful football, and it was only fair that the best overall team won the tournament.

However in all honesty, I must admit I loved Egypt’s temerity in delivering a real slap on the face of all the World Cup bound African teams. Am no moral high priest but I detest the manner in which all our perverted prejudices and bias predictably swing in favour of our ‘Black’ skinned brothers whenever they come against North African teams. The last time I checked, Africa was still one solid mass of a continent. Am told a more politically correct term for this is ‘racial profiling’. What meaningless and inane jargon!

Nonetheless, an otherwise successful tournament was only blotted on three accounts; the tragic attack on the Togolese team bus by a rebel group calling its self FLEC (or something), CAF’s ill advised move to consequently ban Togo from the next two editions of the tournament and of course the glaring refereeing howlers that saw a genuine ‘goal’ disallowed and a dubious one allowed at very crucial stages of the tournament. One Ahmed Hassan, Egypt’s captain and most capped player (an incredible 172 appearances for the Pharaohs) even attempted a Thierry Henry in the final match with FIFA President Sepp Blatter in attendance.

This brings me to something else altogether. When it emerged earlier in the week that MacDonald Mariga’s presumed move Man City had fallen through I read a very idiotic remark on the papers by one Raphael Wanjala in connection to the whole saga. Verbatim: “…. as leaders from Western province we are saddened by the behavior of UK… we are asking them to rescind the decision, failure to which our Ministry of Immigration should deny Britons work permits…” So now Mariga’s raising fortunes is the sole preserve of Western Kenyan leaders, huh? How cheap?

And this from some disillusioned run-of-the-mill former MP who only a few months ago was languishing in police cell in far away India after eloping with another man’s wife. Has this fellow ever been spotted anywhere close to the precincts of our national stadia before? But of course, now we know that the mercurial Mariga hails from Mheshimiwa Wanjala’s flood proned Budalangi constituency… just my wild guess.

But it all this gives a sense of déjà vu. Remember the chants of “Oliech… Odanga… Obama!!” that rung out around Nyayo Stadium one glorious Saturday afternoon some time last year when the Auxerre hit man orchestrated a sweet 2-0 victory over the Banjani-led Zims? It’s so Kenyan-like to associate ourselves with one of our own. A fallacy duly propagated by Alfred Mutua’s Twajivunia kuwa Wakenya spirit au sio?

Finally, a bone pick with the he overpriced and enslaving English Premier League. Incidentally while Egypt was slugging it out with Ghana, ‘another’ big fixture inevitably stole the thunder from the great spectacle at Luanda’s magnificent 11th November Stadium. Yes, you guessed right. Two of the so called ‘usual suspects’ (of what crime?) successfully managed to divert the local armchair fan base’s attention.

At a house party somewhere in Nairobi last Saturday I was astounded when this topic was broached within the small circle of men in attendance. When an unofficial poll was done as to which match between Egypt vs Ghana and Man U vs Arsenal was worth watching, an overwhelming 5 out of 6 voted in favour of Man U-Arsenal (of course the only exception being yours truly De’ Stefano). My rationale? Ukoloni mambo leo! Period. (Oh, and am actually considering penning my future articles here in our very own Kiswahili language)

Postscript: Just for the records, I stuck through the attire 90+ minutes of the game in Luanda. Folks, welcome back to shabik!