Monday, November 18, 2013

Preparations for Cecafa Cup one big sham

Not so long ago, a local daily newspaper ran a series on the shameful state of our sports stadia.
The stories made for pitiful reading, exposing all venues in major towns and cities as derelict facilities. At the time, no one took notice. Football Kenya Limited (Football Kenya Federation’s predecessor), Sports Stadia Management Board (SSMB), respective municipal councils and the government of the day were all collectively guilty for the mess.
But what goes around surely comes around. From the events of the last few weeks, it seems we have finally come to a sad awakening; or perhaps not. With the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup returning to Kenya on the country’s Jubilee Independence anniversary, our inept football administrators have been running around like headless chicken all in the name of rehabilitating neglected facilities in Mombasa, Kisumu and Nakuru.
The whole exercise seems an afterthought, a stopgap measure ‘to take care of this Cecafa thing’ that has suddenly dropped on our laps from heaven. I pity FKF President. Poor Sam Nyamweya has been one busy man traversing the country in a belated inspection tour of about half a dozen venues earmarked for the championships.
Predictably, there has been one common thread in his torturous evaluation exercise – virtually all the stadiums outside Nairobi are unfit to host the regional tournament.
Mombasa and Kisumu, the second and third largest cities in Kenya after Nairobi, hold the dubious distinction of having stadiums that have been out of use for hell-knows how many years. That explained why, even during these times of ‘giniwasekao’ (we have taken this thing), Kisumu residents have for decades been starved of any meaningful football action.
It also explains why, even with crowd-pullers Bandari back in the top flight, the football-mad fans of Mombasa are always forced to cram a nondescript sports club every time upcountry teams are in town. Needless to say, the amiable coastal dwellers often end up being outnumbered by exuberant travelling fans if the fixtures involve either Gor Mahia or AFC Leopards, but that is beside the point.
The swift pace with which the respective county governments, Cecafa’s Local Organising Committee and FKF have swung into action in Mombasa, Kisumu and Nakuru would easily put to shame their Brazilian counterparts.
Brazil, for all its massive resources and infrastructure, had in excess of four years to prepare for the 2014 world Cup but with just seven months to kick off, are still struggling with last-minute preparations. This whole thing is a sham. In typical Kenyan style, football authorities, working in cohorts with county governments, have found it convenient to engage in a last-minute rush to beat the deadline.
It gets worse. That it has taken so long for the event to attract credible sponsors following the expiry of the Tusker deal says a lot about how the corporate world perceives football administration in this part of the world.
Must we always wait until the last minute to embark on such shambolic preparations whenever a low budget tournament such as the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup comes around? And we still expect to host the Africa Cup of Nations in the near future!

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Pandora's box that is Kenyan football

It is Nigeria’s foremost towering literary icon, the late Chinua Achebe, who once said that if you don’t like someone’s story, then you are better off writing your own.
The problem is, not all of us are adept at writing stories. Even in newsrooms, the supposed natural habitat of the sharpest writing minds, sub-editors – like yours truly here – on a daily basis contend with unraveling topsy-turvy copies from run off the mills reporters.
I guess it’s on this premise of writing one’s own story that what a section of the media referred to us ‘estranged’ officials of the national football federation recently rushed to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to submit what they believed was incriminating evidence of financial impropriety by the federation.
To say the very least, it was a haphazardly penned manuscript that made a mockery of transparency and accountability.
I don’t hold brief for the powers that be at the national football federation, but what came out of this farcical attempted ‘bloodless coup’ was a simple case of sour grapes after what must have a sensational fall out within the federation.
Granted, the Kenyan federation could do with a bit of some housekeeping, but isn’t it rather odd that the same people who have been in the thick of things in as far as running football affairs in the country should one morning wake up to the realization that all is not well with Kenyan football?

If indeed there is something wrong with the federation (and many people are of the view that a lot has gone wrong with the federation) then it wouldn’t have taken expulsions and suspensions for these accusations of financial impropriety to start flying left, right and centre.
Me thinks all these bland threats by the federation ‘rebels’ to unearth the rot within the institution are just desperate attempts at trying to arm twist and force the hand of their erstwhile ally-turned-foe.
If I was in their shoes I would tread very carefully lest, like in Pandora’s case, she of Greek mythology, all sorts of self-damaging ills spring out of the box.
Be as it may, I highly doubt if all these ruckus on roof tops about corruption within the federation is borne out of public interest.
Either way, there are too many skeletons in the closet. It’s a classic case of different sides of the same coin, if you get the drift. Nothing will come out of it.
In the meantime, as the Swahilis says, Fahali wawili wapiganapo, nyasi ndio huumia; Kenyan football will continue to suffer as a result of these senseless turf wars.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Harambee Stars need a complete wardrobe makeover

Watching Harambee Stars beat Swaziland 2-0 at the ongoing Cosafa Cup in Zambia, reminded me of a story I read before the semifinal between hosts Brazil and Uruguay at the just concluded Confederations Cup.
It so happens that after Brazil’s devastating 2-1 loss to Uruguay in the final of the 1950 World Cup on the hallowed ground of Maracana, a competition was launched by Rio newspaper Correio da Manha to redesign the uninspiring white strip that Brazilian players wore on that fateful day.
The winning entry, submitted by 19-year-old illustrator Aldyr Garcia Schlee, combined the yellow, green and blue of the Brazilian flag. Successive generations of the Selecao, including the current Neymar-inspired squad, have worn this uniform ever since.
Back to Kenya versus Swaziland. This was Kenya’s first win in a competitive match since December 2012, never mind the fact that atleast five of the players in the starting eleven were playing their third straight match in as many days, without mentioning the many hours of travel by air and road.
Given that this was Adel Amrouche’s first victory at the fifth attempt as Harambee Stars coach, the team had every reason to celebrate.

Nondescript kit

Big deal! The only blemish in the otherwise impressive performance was that yet again the Kenyan team showed up in some nondescript kit bereft of a designer’s label. A very small detail but one worthy of note all the same.
Unlike the national sevens team that looked resplendent in their Samurai kit at the just concluded Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow, Harambee Stars handlers have no qualms in throwing ours boys on the pitch donning some indistinct apparel.
For the last few months, the team has been playing and training in Kelme branded kit but since that match against Nigeria in Calabar, the Kelme kit have suddenly run out of circulation.
From the look of things Kenyan football authorities are completely ignorant of how big the kitting and branding business is not just in football but in sports as a whole.
That explains why the trouble former Dortmund playmaker Mario Götze recently got into when he arrived at his presentation by his new club Bayern Munich in a Nike emblazoned t-shirt.
Adidas have a 9.1% stake in the Bavarian club, and part of their clause requires players to wear Adidas tops during official presentations.
For his troubles, Götze has been slapped with a hefty €10,000 (Sh 1.12 million) fine. That’s how serious kitting and branding is.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Kenyan journalists have sold their souls to the devil

Word on the street is that some computer geek has hacked into the mobile phone money transfer account of a certain sports administrator and is about to unleash the names of sports journalists on the big shot’s payroll.
As you would expect, this rumour has thrown our news rooms into panic, for many are they whose palms have repeatedly been greased by, ahem, Mr. Sports Administrator.
And therein lays the basis of my gripe with my comrades-in-arms in the sporting arena. Following the happenings of the last few days, I have every reason to believe that professional ethics have been thrown out of the window by a vast majority of my colleagues in this trade of reporting news stories.
Granted, receipt of the (in)famous ‘brown envelopes’ is a standard practice by journalists in this part of the world, but Kenyan sports journalists have succeeded in taking their vile practices to a whole new level.
It is no secret, for example, that a number of sports journalists threw their lot with one or the other top aspirants who were vying for administrative positions during last weekend’s AFC Leopards elections.

‘Secret night meetings’
I have it on authority that, in the run up to the polls, many are the ‘secret night meetings’ that my fellow scribes attended across the breadth and length of the city to assuage and lick the boots of their newfound benefactors.
It gets worse. I am told some journalists turned themselves into human resource mobilisers-cum-chief campaigners for ‘their’ candidates of choice.
I don’t get it, but in such a scenario, how does one report objectively, while – to put it in a layman’s language – he or she has already been ‘pocketed’ by the candidate?
Little wonder then that on Saturday afternoon, Tusker and Sofapaka played to not only a yawning Nyayo National Stadium, but the reporters were also nowhere in sight.
From my vantage position in the VIP stand, I found myself in the good company of only two reporters. The photographers, too, were conspicuously missing. It wasn’t hard to guess their whereabouts.
I thought long and hard before writing this article and I am fully aware of the fact that I risk winning more enemies than friends on the account of this treatise. Yet, I have chosen to bite the bullet for I find it extremely hard to stomach the spiteful ways of the Kenyan media. I rest my case.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Let the corporates ‘fight’ for the good of football

I took a lot of flak a few weeks ago when I penned an article here regarding the standoff between Kenyan Premier League Limited and AFC Leopards over the latter’s ill-adviced move to enter into a deal with a pay TV provider that is in direct competition with the league’s official broadcasters.
So let me state upfront that I don’t intend to stick out my neck again by harping on the same old tune.
Still, it’s been hard not to take notice of the subtle push and pull between the parties involved over the last few weeks without a clear way forward being advanced.
Thankfully, last Friday, the whole saga took a fresh twist when the often indecisive KPL spoke with finality and issued a 72-hour ultimatum for AFC Leopards to either cut lose their association with the TV at the center of the controversy (yes, they of the Ingwe TV infamy) or forfeit participation in the league.
Tough choice for Leopards who, nonetheless, responded by saying that they would not budge. The club even threatened to take the battle to the corridors of justice.
Suspension of a team from a top flight league under such circumstances is unprecedented in this age and time.
It will be very interesting to see whether KPL will make good their threat should Leopards stand their ground.
But what I find more interesting is the kind of debate that Kenyan football, moreso the league, nowadays elicits in the public ‘court’.
That multinational companies can fight and exchange unsavoury words ‘just for football’ is very delicious indeed.
A renowned sports editor, with multiple KPL Print Journalist of the Year awards under his belt, once told me how, as a budding reporter, his editor had lambasted him for filing a 400-word match preview.
Kenyan football was at its lowest ebb then, and the best coverage the print media could offer were ‘fillers’ not exceeding 250 words.
Times have since changed, more so with the arrival of SuperSport to resuscitate the game. With more corporates coming on board the standards have improved in leaps and bounds.
My take on the KPL-Ingwe impasse? Let the corporates ‘fight’ it out, as long it elevates local football.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Nothing funny about AK's 'Comedy of Errors' rendition

What was that poorly scripted show that Athletics Kenya (AK) attempted to stage last week at the Nyayo National Stadium in the name of national trials for the World Youth Championships?

From claims of age cheating to controversial selection criteria that denied some athletes who had attained qualification marks a chance to represent the country next month in Ukraine, the whole thing was one big charade.

So ridiculous was ‘show’ that at one point, a busted age cheat mumbled some inaudible incoherencies in an attempt to state his date of birth infront of cameras.

But the climax of this ‘comedy of errors’ was when AK’s youth sub-committee sidelined four athletes who had attained the World Youth qualifying times from their final team of 20 athletes for reasons only best known to them.

The sight of men’s 400m hurdler Geoffrey Kipkoech blubbering and weeping uncontrollably while lying prostrate on Nyayo Stadium’s tartan track was indeed a heartrending spectacle.

While AK is yet to give an explanation of how ineligible athletes sneaked their way to the starting line with forged birth certificates, the reason they have proffered for excluding Kipkoech and three others sprinters was a tad too wishy-washy.

For one, I don’t buy the idea that selectors must give priority to ‘medal prospects’ at the expense of athletes competing in events that are traditionally not Kenya’s forte.

How do we expect to extend our dominance from the middle and long distance races to the sprints if we don’t give these youngsters an opportunity to compete at the very highest level?

Secondly, AK’s explanation that they had exceeded their ‘allocated quota’ of 20 athletes from the IAAF begs the question; why then did they invite so many competitors in different events in the full knowledge that theirs was a limited quota?

What strikes me as odd is the casual manner with which AK has treated this whole fiasco. The London 2012 debacle came in the backdrop of similar farcical circumstances.

But Kenyans are a people well known for their short memories. We shall resort to the usual blame games if our youngsters (God forbid) fail to deliver the gold medals from Ukraine next month.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Hail the ‘grand gentlemen’ of Kenyan football

The Kenyan media has never established the genesis of the beef between FKF chairman Sam Nyamweya and Cecafa boss Nicholas Musonye.
What is known, though, is that two gentleman don’t see eye to eye. Their extreme distaste for each other is well established from the verbal tirades they have publicly exchanged in the past.
Sometimes, this endless tiff has taken the most outrageous forms; on other occasions, it has been utterly hilarious.
Known for his brash personality, on most of these occasions, Musonye has provided some witty sound bites for nosy members of the Fourth Estate.
Take for example last December when local football authorities threatened to boycott the Cecafa Tusker Senior Challenge Cup after being denied hosting rights in favour of Uganda.
“They (Kenya) are the poorest side in the region. They can stay away if they so wish; we won’t miss them!” Musonye had said, tongue-in-cheek, of course.

Needless to say, FKF eventually came around and a third string Harambee Stars surprised many when they went all the way to the final only to lose 1-2 to hosts and defending champions Uganda.
But I digress. Last week, when this year’s edition of the Cecafa Kagame Cup (the regional tournament for champion clubs) scheduled for North Darfur and South Kordofan in Sudan was rocked by mass withdrawals, it didn’t occur to me that Nyamweya was somehow involved. Not until a seething Musonye spoke out.
“Someone’s team (read ‘Nyamweya’s Harambee Stars’) is already out of the World Cup campaign with two matches to spare and now he finds it convenient to interfere with Cecafa’s issues,” he told a colleague of mine in an off-the-cuff remark.
Apparently, Musonye is convinced that his longtime nemesis has a hand in the rough seas that Cecafa has run into in an attempt to host the tournament in the war-ravaged Sudanese State of Darfur.
Still grappling with Harambee Stars’ botched World Cup qualification bid, Nyamweya is yet to issue a rebuttal. But expect something acerbic if and when he does respond to those allegations.
It’s unfortunate that these two distinguished sons of Kenyan soil seem hell-bent on destroying each other even if it means football suffers as a result. Whatever it takes for Uncle Sam and good old Nick to close ranks, Kenyan football will certainly thank them for it.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Losers in NOCK elections have no moral ground to complain

There is a verse in the Good Book that warns believers against looking at the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye while making no effort to dislodge the log in their own eyes.

With the conclusion of the NOCK elections – selection would fit the bill in this particular instance – things have gone a full circle for top brass of the various sports federations in the country who have been salivating for a piece of the cake at the multi-billion shillings National Olympics Committee secretariat.

The boot is now on the other foot and the very same officials who are known to have bulldozed their way into office in dubious election exercises not so long ago are the ones shouting at the top of the roof for being shortchanged in the NOCK polls.

I take particular issue with the athletics body and the football federation. Its not lost on our memories that during Athletics Kenya’s recent elections, they employed the same tactic that NOCK used in endorsing some incumbents while at the same time locking out those posing a threat to the old guards.

Football Kenya Federation, on its part, is as dead as a dodo; it has been in comatose for the last hell knows how many years. The long and short of it is that FKF’s inclusion or exclusion from NOCK is of little or no consequence.

Let’s face it. The Olympics, itself is a strange concept to a federation that perennially struggles to send our national team football team across the board to participate in a nondescript tournament going by the name the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup.

However, two wrongs don’t make a right. By stage managing their elections, NOCK have proved to any one among the citizenry who in still doubt that ours is a country incapable of the simple exercise of counting and tallying votes in elections at whichever level.

All said and done, the entire process was a lose-lose situation for Kenyan sports. Electing new officials, who have done little in uplifting the standards of the respective sports disciplines they head, would have just been as detrimental as maintaining the status quo.

Omondi is a sub-editor with Sporton! Email:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Clubs must learn to take responsibility for their fans’ behaviour

It’s now clear that the Kenyan Premier League and the clubs in the league are completely incapable of controlling crowds at match venues.

I attended Saturday’s match between AFC Leopards and Mathare United and from the events that unfolded after the final whistle, I am now compelled to believe that our local football fans have staged a violent takeover of all the match venues.

The sad thing is that not the clubs, KPL or Football Kenya Federation can do anything about it. Whenever these goons have gone about unleashing terror at match venues to vent out their frustration over reasons only they can explain, all KPL is known for doing is issuing some inane threats, which they don’t execute anyway.

As is always the case, it is the unsuspecting traders, pedestrians and motorists who usually bear the brunt of this public nuisance. The traders whose stalls outsides City Stadium were razed up in the aftermath of Saturday’s match will attest to this.

But it is the clubs that are the masters of passing the buck. Every time things go wrong during matches, the clubs always choose the convenient option of ‘disowning’ their fans as opposed to taking responsibility for the unruly behavior of their benefactors.

Hear out their standard line of absolving themselves from blame:
“Oh! Those trouble makers? Not a single one of them is fan of the club. They are just individuals wearing our replica jerseys with the sole aim of giving us a bad name.”

The irony here is that club branches comprising signed up members is what is currently trending among the fans of the serious teams in the KPL. Yet, the clubs and their members are practically perfect strangers. In time of trouble, neither can recognize the other.

In the final analysis, it matters little whether the perpetrators of hooliganism are actually fans or masqueraders.
The buck stops with the clubs, Kenyan Premier League and Football Kenya Federation in as far as crowd control is concerned. But until this threesome learns to accept responsibility, hooligans will continue having a field day on each and every match day.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

SuperSport slept on the job

Kenyan football could easily pass for any other name ranging from boxing, tae kwon do or even karate for the endless verbal and physical fisticuffs that the fans are often treated to.

If it’s not, the endless upheavals within the federation or the intra-club feuds, then it’s the fans themselves settling score the old fashioned way, omundu khu mundu, as AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia fans are often compelled to do.

But the past one week has seen a different kind of a fight in the football realms far removed from what the public is used to.

South African pay television SuperSport is screaming blue murder after their rivals Zuku pulled a fast one on them with that controversial Ingwe TV deal.

As the exclusive Kenyan Premier League broadcast rights holders SuperSports’ ire is quite understandable. But it is the underhand ploys they have resorted to in desperation that have fanned the raging flames.

Using their massive leverage, SuperSport is clearly arm twisting the Kenyan Premier League to coerce AFC Leopards into revoking the deal with suspension threats in the event they fail to comply.

There has been a heated debate on the Daily Nation sports desk over this issue but no one seems to agree with each other.

Give the devil his due. SuperSport have done a great job in lifting the standards of the game since their arrival on these shores some five years ago at a time when Kenyan football was on its death throes. The milestones achieved cannot be gainsaid.

But that said, am afraid it seems SuperSport have also been sleeping on the job in certain aspects. I still don’t understand how a Johnny-come-lately (no offence to Zuku) could beat the moneyed SuperSport in their own turf to a simple idea such as a club TV.

This is something they should have done like yesterday. In the meantime, for their folly they will have to contend with the excellent publicity Zuku will gain from this fallout.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Gone are the days of 'kuchaguliwa bila kupingwa'

Dear readers, allow me to regale you with a political tale from yore. At the height of the infamous Nyayo era, a new phrase, ‘kuchaguliwa bila kupingwa’ entered the Kenyan lexicon.
This was in the wake of the massively rigged 1988 general election that were held under a new queuing system, at the time simply known as ‘mlolongo’ in Kenyan lingo.
The whole exercise was very simple. The various candidates would stand at the head of queues carrying placards bearing their images.
Voters were required to line up behind the candidate of their choice upon which a head count would be conducted by dubious electoral board officials and the results announced pronto.
But Kanu, the ruling party of the day, nay, the only party (baba na mama) at the time had no place for dissidents.
The polls were marred with numerous cases of the notorious Kanu Youth Wingers whipping up voters into line from queues of candidates perceived as being in the bad books of the powers that be to join the queues of the party’s candidates of choice.
To cut a long story short, the whole exercise was a sham.

The tragedy is that rather than resulting in free, fair and transparent polls, the secrecy of ballot boxes having been dispensed with, the 1988 polls ended up being the most flawed elections in the history of independent Kenya.
What am I ranting and raving about? Tuesday’s Athletics Kenya (AK) election brought back the old memories of those days of ‘kuchaguliwa bila kupingwa’ with some members of the athletics body’s top brass assuming office ‘unopposed’.
I don’t know exactly what informed AK’s decision to abolish the chairmanship in favour of a Presidency with four Vice Presidents in it’s new constitution.
But it all reminded me of the stormy Kanu National Delegates Conference of March 18, 2002 in Kasarani where President Daniel Arap Moi, the self-proclaimed ‘professor of politics’ pulled a fast on his overly ambitious Vice President, the late Professor George Saitoti (may his soul rest in peace), by endorsing the creation of four ambiguous posts of party Vice Presidents.
The move ultimately locked out Saitoti from the grand scheme of the Moi succession politics.
It is on this particular occasion that Saitoti made his most famous quote, “There come a time” (sic) that became popular when he passed on in a tragic plane crash on June 10, 2012.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Superstition is just part of the game

It’s strange how a sports-filled weekend is every sports editor and sub editor’s worst nightmare. The newsroom is one cauldron of a pressure cooker with very tight deadlines.
The working hours are often long, odd and irregular. Naturally, things usually get thick and misty on those crazy weekends, like the past one, when you have the final IRB Sevens leg, Manchester United’s coronation and of course the Mashemeji derby all competing for space on the sports pages. It’s not a place for the fainthearted.
So I when at the end of a back breaking day, someone in the newsroom, in total exasperation exclaimed, “This is the most thankless job in the world!” I empathized but at the same time could not suppress my laughter.
It’s on the account of the same that I missed out on my place on the stands as AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia performed the latest rendition of their age long ‘friendly war’.
In anticipation of a long hard day in the office, I made a deliberate effort to make up for the missed opportunity to watch the derby at the stadium by attending Saturday’s top of the table clash between Sofapaka and KCB at the City Stadium.

Without taking anything away from the two teams, by all standards it was an entertaining match but an unworthy substitute for the AFC-Gor showdown.
On the stands, I found myself in the company of a renowned sports presenter with a leading TV station and naturally our chit chat drifted away from action on the pitch to the much anticipated Mashemeji derby.
My affable companion went about regaling me with tales of his encounter with two teams earlier on in the day during the final training sessions at separate locations in the city.
His first stop was Nyayo Stadium where the K’Ogalo camp welcomed him with open arms. Coach Zdravko Loguruisc even had enough time for an exclusive interview!
But it was a different scenario at the Marist Centre in Karen where Leopards were going through their final paces. The players and the technical bench fell short of declaring my journalist friend ‘persona non grata’.
Apparently, a decree has been issued (by hell knows who in Ingwe’s technical bench) that the team should avoid any form of ‘contamination’ ahead of the match.
No prizes for guessing the beleaguered scribe’s ethnic background. Nothing to worry though, it’s all in the spirit of the game. Superstition is an integral part of Kenya’s biggest football league match.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Get ready for Ingwe-K'Ogalo derby!

The Monday edition of the Daily Nation is fast becoming my favourite weekly read for one simple reason.
Following the sustained efforts of our two in house columnists, Peter Leftie, yes he of the Ingwe’s Den and Tom Osanjo in K’Ogalo’s Corner, fans of Kenya’s most decorated clubs, AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia, have been inevitably sucked into this soft banter.
For those still not in the know, Leopards’ blood flows in Leftie’s veins while Osanjo, on his part, is K’Ogalo’s self-appointed ‘Praise and Worship’ leader.
Just check out their stories in the sports pages of today’s copy of the Daily Nation: Green Army, prepare for Ingwe attack, is Lefties pompous headline to which Osanjo aptly replies, Crooners will never miss the lyrics to praise storied Gor Mahia.

Boy, don’t these two gentlemen love to have a go at each other and settle matter the old fashioned way!
But it has gotten even better. My editor has also finally swept away by the K’Ogalo-Ingwe traction and set aside entire page for the fans engage in football hostilities.
Ideally, this should have been a forum for fans of all the teams to have a say, but because all the other teams have ‘no fans’ the Green Army and Ingwe fans have hogged and gobbled up the entire space.
I have been having a ball reading these interesting articles that are always biased towards one team or the other.
And with Gor and Leopards set to renew rivalries on Sunday at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani you can bet your life that these verbal tirades will rage on unabated.
In the coming days it will spill over to social media where all sorts lewd obscenity will be thrown back and forth.
And when the match day finally comes, a sea of blue and white hoops will troop to the battle field to meet what, Lefties loves calling their noisy neigbours in green. Brace yourselves for total ‘war’.

In sport, a little consideration goes a long way

On Thursday night while burning the midnight oil at the office, I received an interesting text message from a certain Joel Andanje.
“Heading to Kampala for the East Africa Skating Championships. Pray for Journey mercies,” the message read.
My acquaintance Andanje is a self-made skating coach, who also holds the position of Head of Freestyle Skating in the Rollersport Kenya Federation.
We didn’t touch base again until Tuesday afternoon when Andanje called and requested me to return his call. But for some strange reason, when I tried calling back, his phone went answered.
Then on Wednesday morning I got another text from Andanje explaining his predicament. Apparently, the Kenyan contingent got stranded in Kampala soon after the championship concluded on Saturday.
In his own words, Andanje explained that the Ugandan Skating Federation reneged on their assurance to foot the Kenyan team’s accommodation and meals ostensibly after losing out on the skating course.
In the end, it took the benevolence of Kampala Coach who obliged to ferry the skaters back home even though the team was short of a whopping Sh 19,000.
I eventually got to speak Andanje late on Wednesday evening shortly after the team of 26 skaters arrived in Nairobi, thankfully in one piece.

In this age and time, do such things still happen? Our skaters tribulations across the border reminded me of one poignant incident way back in 2006 when former top tier league side Shabana got ‘stuck’ in the coastal city of Mombasa after playing a league match against Dubai Bank.
The story has it that the Kisii side started their journey to the Coast on a Friday but failed to make it in good time after their bus broke down somewhere along the way.
Somehow, the travelling party arrived in Mombasa on Saturday morning after a labourous overnight journey and headed straight to Bamburi Portland Cement ground for the match. As it were, the fatigued team suffered a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of host team.
But that was just the beginning of their troubles. Having run out of cash, the players wondered aimlessly like vagabonds in the streets of Mombasa.
It was by pure luck when they bumped on a sympathetic patron in some seedy food kiosk who catered for their meals for the night. With nowhere to go, the team spent the next twenty four hours in the rat hole of an accommodation spending their nights either on the concrete floor or on the tables after close of business.
Eventually, word reached an official of Dubai Bank FC who bailed out the team after some 48 hours in hell. It all made for a very pitiful story. Sadly, that marked the beginning of the end for once vibrant Shabana FC.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Open letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Culture and Art

Greetings Waziri Hassan Wario Arero! Allow me to begin by congratulating you on your nomination for the position of Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Culture and Arts.
Precisely seven days ago, I wrote in this very column that the sporting fraternity could not wait any longer for your identity to be revealed. Thankfully, His Excellency the President Uhuru Kenyatta spared us any further apprehension when 72 hours later he announced your name along with those of 12 other nominees for various cabinet dockets.
Honestly, your nomination took me by surprise considering that I had never heard of your name anywhere in the sporting circles before. I am embarrassed to make this confession, but the truth is I am being economical with the truth here. I was hearing your name for the first time last week. But that is beside the point. My main concern is to bring you up to speed with the goings-on in Kenyan sports. I believe this information will come in handy you when you finally assume office.
First and foremost, it would be of utmost importance for you to know that as much as the President categorically stated that your role (and that of your other Cabinet colleagues in-waiting) will be nonpolitical, everything about sports in Kenya is political!
In the course of discharging your duties be prepared to get drawn into the endless political turf wars that are synonymous with all sports federations in the country.

Be particularly wary of Football Kenya Federation (FKF). Controversy is the middle name of this federation whose past and present leaderships are known for their conniving and wily ways, especially when it comes to transparency and accountability.
But FKF will not be the only source of your headache. The equally inept Cricket Kenya (CK) and Kenya Amateur Boxing Association (ABA) are FKF’s chief partners in crime. Ever wondered why Kenya’s performance in cricket and boxing nosedived to a bottomless abyss? Well, wonder no more Bwana Waziri.
Don’t be deceived by the many medals Kenyan runners rack up at very global event; if you scratch beneath Athletics Kenya’s (AK) glossy exterior you will be surprised by the heap of dirt you will unearth.
The good performance of the Kenya 7s rugby team and the women’s national volleyball team somehow paints Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) and the Kenya Volleyball Federation (KVF) in good light. Yet, Kenya has not achieved its full potential in the two disciplines.
I won’t waste precious space on the ‘other’ such as tennis, badminton, squash, motorsport, handball, netball and basketball. There is nothing to write home about.
But being the optimist that I am, I believe you have what it takes to turn things around. At just 42 years, you are the embodiment of youthfulness in tandem with the Jubilee Coalition’s campaign clarion call for the long overdue generational change. What more! Being an Anthropologist you should be able to immortalize the past, present and future exploits of our athletes in the National Museum of our collective memories.
Finally, it’s my hope that you will take the cue from the appointing authorities (the dynamic UhuRuto duo) and roll up your sleeves for serious work once the parliamentary vetting committee clears you. Good luck Sir!

Hooliganism is here to stay!

Football. Bloody hell! Sir Alex Ferguson’s famous quip after Manchester United’s wrenched the big-eared Uefa Champions League trophy by the scruff of its neck with a dramatic stoppage time victory over Bayern Munich during that memorable 1999 Uefa Champions League final comes to mind in view of the recent happenings in Europe’s premier club competition.
Who would have thought Bayern Munich could have steamrolled the all-conquering Barcelona and that the unfancied Borussia Dortmund would have made mincemeat of the star-studded Real Madrid?
Thomas Müller and Robert Lowendowski proved to be the Spanish teams’ worst nightmares with peerless performances that reduced the unfit Lionel Messi and a largely subdued Cristiano Ronaldo to mere mortals.
“Has the power balance in European football shifted from Spain to Germany?” was the TV commentator’s punch line after Dortmund annihilated Real at the Signal Iduna Park.
But I will leave at that and wait for the return fixtures in the Spanish cities of Madrid and Barcelona.
On the domestic scene, all I have been hearing the whole week has been a raucous din about some miscreants masquerading as football fans.

While Football Kenya Federation (FKF) was busy paying lip services by imposing a ‘life bans’ on some goon who invaded a match between AFC Leopards and Chemelil Sugar, Gor Mahia fans were on the loose unleashing terror on motorists, pedestrians and traders along Jogoo Road after their team barely managed a draw against Sony Sugar.
FKF’s ban claim would have been laughable if not for the gravity of the matter. For all I know, neither FKF nor Kenyan Premier League (KPL) have the capacity or resources to impose such a penalty.
I have covered many football matches in KPL and from my observation, little or no screening is done on the ticket holders at the turnstiles.
That is why all sorts of contrabands too often find their way into the stands. During last season’s violence-marred meeting between Gor and Leopards at Nyayo, one fan was pictured carrying a gigantic water tank high up on the terraces in the troubled section.
Absence of surveillance cameras in our stadia makes it practically impossible to identify persons entering the venue.
SuperSport cameras can to some degree do the job, but not all matches are televised live. Furthermore, SuperSport is not in the business of picking out trouble spot in the stadium. Their sole interest is to televise matches. That’s why we shall have to contend with many more case of hooliganism in future EPL matches. Unfortunately so!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Can't wait for new Sports Minister

Last week when President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the structure of his new cabinet, Sports (no prizes for guessing) was lumped together with Culture and Arts.
It came as no surprise at all. This was purely in keeping with tradition. In the eyes of Uhuru’s predecessors, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki, sports belonged to the backwaters of their cabinet structures.
I was born during Mzee Kenyatta’s sunset days but from what I gather, sports featured nowhere in his lean independence cabinet of 1963.
A look at the list of Kenyatta’s cabinet of 15 ministries, perhaps the only one that was ‘remotely’ related to sports was Eliud Mwendwa’s Ministry of Labour and Social Services.
Exit Kenyatta, enter Moi. His fetish for having all the main sporting facilities across the country named after him notwithstanding, not to mention his knack for gracing all major sporting events, Moi too didn’t consider sports worthy of having a full ministerial docket.
In fact, during the Nyayo days sports was just a department within the expansive Ministry of Culture and Social Services.
Then came Emilio Mwai Kibaki. Apart from his love for golf, the immediate former president was overtly aloof to sports.
Ironically, he was the first Head of State to grant sports a visible docket, albeit under the Ministry of Youth, Gender and Sports.

During their well-oiled campaign in the run up to March 14 General Election, the ruling Jubilee Coalition identified the country’s sporting challenge thus (and I quote their manifesto verbatim):
“Our collective love for sports and the arts is one of the strongest factors that unite us. In the sporting arena we are world leaders in middle and long distance running. At home our culture is vibrant and thriving. However, successive Governments have too often neglected sports and creative industries. As a result, the potential in these sectors have not been accorded a chance to improve our quality of life or boost our economy.”
To this end, the Jubilee manifesto outlined a 16-point blueprint as a viable solution.
As we wait with bated breaths for President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto to reveal the identities of the office bearers of their 18-ministry cabinet later this week, it is my hope that the two principals will appoint in the Sports, Culture and Arts Ministry someone capable of maximizing the great potential of this multi-billion shillings industry.
Key in Jubilee’s ambitious manifesto is the establishment of a National Lottery Scheme, the establishment of state-of-the-art youth development centres in all the 47 Counties and building of five new sports stadia in Kisumu, Mombasa, Nakuru, Eldoret and Garissa while at the same time upgrading existing sporting facilities at the county level.
Clearly, the yet to be named Sports, Culture and Arts Minister already has his/her work cut towards achieving this ambitious plan. The Kenyan sporting fraternity will be keenly watching to see whether indeed, they ‘should believe, yawezekana, kusema na kutenda’.
Failure to which, the Jubilee Government will be held to account for their lofty promises.

Friday, April 19, 2013

AFC Leopards must be reprimanded

Just what will it take to end this Ingwe ‘madness’? My words have been very carefully chosen here because just twenty four hours to their match against Chemelil Sugar in a KPL Top 8 match, it was their new coach Luc Eymael who exclaimed in total exasperation: “It’s madness here... I am very irritated”.
To put things in context, a missed ride to the team’s training ground on Monday afternoon was the source of the Belgian’s frustration.
But if the gross maladministration of Ingwe is indeed madness, then I can’t find the right words to describe the shameful act of the club’s fans in recent days.
In my last column, I wondered aloud how the Sports Stadia Management Board (SSMB) could grant Leopards a carte blanche in their facilities yet the conduct of the team’s fans has lately left a lot to be desired.
Under the guise of protesting ‘poor officiating’ Ingwe’s fans set the tone of their agenda this season by ripping off seats at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on the very first day of the season after their match against Chemelil Sugar ended in a 1-1 draw.

On Wednesday night the same hoodlums once again went on the rampage at Nyayo National Stadium as their team faced imminent defeat to the sugar millers. Yet again, their scapegoat was ‘poor officiating’.
For too long Gor Mahia fans have been depicted as the vile ‘war merchants’ in Kenyan football. But at this rate, AFC Leopards are will sooner rather than later stage a coup on Sirkal.
If Leopards fans can resort to violence and wanton destruction of property against a team of Chemelil’s ilk, then what will happen when they meet their eternal nemesis in three weeks’ time? So the question is: for how long must Leopards continue in their wayward ways before the authorities take action?
During that first match, against Chemelil on February 24, a top Leopards official had the nerve to shift blame on the home team (Chemelil) for their failure to put up sound security measure never mind practically all the fans inside the stadium were donning Ingwe’s famous blue and white hoops.
It will be interesting to hear what the team’s administration will proffer in defence of the vile fans if and when KPL holds to them to account for their actions.
That said, no amount of lame excuses can justify the violence that was meted out by Ingwe fans on Wednesday night. The authorities must act now!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hell hath no fury like K’Ogalo fans scorned!

A story published on last week’s Wednesday edition of the Daily Nation confirmed that Gor Mahia fans do not take kindly anything that tends to disparage their beloved team.
It takes a very brave journalist to brand the mighty Gor as ‘perennial continental flops’ - as the article insinuated.
So naturally, for his troubles, the writer whose byline the story bore got some serious tongue lashing on social media from a section of miffed Gor fans.
That’s just how passionate K’Ogalo fans are. And who would blame them? The world over, football fans are known to go to unthinkable extent to uphold the honour of their clubs.
My colleague and friend who penned the piece should actually count himself very lucky for getting off the hook with just a mere dressing-down.
A tale is told of a historic meeting between arch rivals Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards in the finals of the 1985 Cecafa Club Championship in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.
Pundits have described this encounter as the most fiercely contested final in the regional tournament’s history. With Leopards having beaten Gor 2-1 in the previous year’s edition, the tie was thick with sub plots as the sworn enemies took their battle beyond Kenyan borders.

At the end of a bruising 90 minute, Gor prevailed over Leopards with a sweet 2-0 victory. But there was a strange twist to the tale when Gor Mahia’s two goal hero William Obwaka had his rural home torched by AFC Leopards fans who felt betrayed by a kinsman who chose to go to bed with the enemy.
Finally, I found it a little bit odd that late on Friday evening the Kenyan Premier League hurriedly dispatched information to the effect that Sport Stadia Management Board (SSMB) had declined to host Gor Mahia at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.
As carefully as the mail had been drafted, the message was clear. The Green Army are still considered persona non grata at all SSMB facilities.
Strange, given that Gor have not had one single incident of crowd trouble this season. In fact it was AFC Leopards’ fans who on the very first day of the season ripped off seats at the Kasarani facility in a violent fit of rage ostensibly to protest ‘poor officiating’.
How odd then that Ingwe were allowed to prance in feline grace around the same facility on Saturday evening only to have Gor locked out for their Sunday afternoon date with KCB? Is SSMB’s ‘hosting advisory’ on K’Ogalo a case of selective judgment of simply giving the dog a bad name? Just my thoughts.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Kenyan clubs should drop Gunners' defeatist mentality

It’s the most annoying thing that I keep hearing. When will Arsenal fans (the local ones) realize that ‘their’ team has hit rock bottom?
On Sunday I was left completely aghast with a colleague at the office (a self-styled Gunner) who was besides himself as Everton frustrated Tottenham Hotspurs to a 2-2 draw at the White Hart Lane.
His source of excitement was informed by the notion that defeat for Spurs would provide a window of opportunity for his beloved Arsenal to sneak through the backdoor into the Uefa Champions League.
I found that a little pedestrian. It’s no secret that over the last few years, eight to be precise, Arsenal has been reduced to a run off the mill side in the Premiership that finds enough reason to ‘celebrate’ a top four finish.
But on every occasion they have gatecrashed the European banquet, they are ever content in scrambling for crumbs that fall off the high table while the big boys (Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United) eat to their fill.
Arsenal fans keep talking about qualification for Uefa Champions League, but what's the point of qualification only to get whacked all over the place?
But I care less about the much hyped English Premier League, let alone spineless teams that forever keep talking about the future and not the present.

That brings me to the crux of the matter, local football. For all the talk about the Tusker Premier League being one of the most competitive this side of the Sahara, there is little evidence to validate this claim.
If indeed the proof is the pudding, then the top two Kenyan Premier League sides, Tusker FC and Gor Mahia, the burden of proof has been way too heavy to shoulder, going by their dismal showing at the continental stage.
Just over two decades ago, Kenya teams had little difficulty in reaching the latter stages of continental tournaments. Indeed, the then ‘Mighty Gor’ class of ‘87 class of wrote history by becoming the first club in East and Central Africa to clinch a continental diadem.
Seven years later, Tusker came very close to repeating Gor’s feat but sensationally capitulated at the hands of Congolese side DC Motema Pemba when losing seemed more difficult than winning.
Since then, it has been a downward spiral for Kenyan teams. Nowadays, we seem more content in just making the numbers as opposed to contesting for honours.
True, Egyptian clubs are established on sound infrastructural and financial foundation, but that should not be an excuse for Tusker’s and Gor’s tame display against Al Ahly and ENPPI respectively.
I would have thought that either team should have, at worst, forced a draw at home. I cringe at the thought of our clubs going the Arsenal way of taking pride in merely qualifying for continental tournaments only to get kicked left, right and centre

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Age is more than just a number

I have always wondered; if indeed age is just a number then why it is such a pain for most people to reveal how old they are? Having been schooled in the old-fashioned way I, for one, takes utmost care on all matters related to age when dealing the womenfolk.
Most ladies have an inborn fetish for youthfulness and from where I come there is an unwritten rule that asking a woman her age is the height of churlishness. It’s simply a no, no!
I must also hasten to add here that one of the missing bit of detail on my Facebook and Twitter accounts is the date of my birth. Not for any reasons other than a deterrent measure for a barrage of unsolicited birthday wishes.
But I digress. My gripe is with the issue of age falsification in sports.
While it’s an accepted fact that ‘age cheating’ is rampant in sports, recent claims that former Nigerian defensive lynchpin Taribo West once ‘slashed’ his age by 12 years in order to join a club in Europe is, for lack of a better word, mind-boggling.
The former president of Serbian club Partizan Belgrade, Zarko Zecevic, last week blew the lid off the can with claims that West lied about his age and that the former Super Eagles centre half was actually 12 years older than the 28 years he claimed to be when he joined the club way back in 2002.

A certain website couldn’t have put it better by saying: ‘If Taribo West is as old as they say he is, then his professional football career is one long achievement in itself.’
Although a rare feat in football, there exist a few players in the mound of Lothar Matthaus, Edwin van der Sar, Jens Lehman, Paulo Maldini, Hossam Hassan and Roger Milla (all legendary in their own rights) who extended their playing careers beyond their 4oth birthdays.
But without a doubt this class of players is a dying breed. Manchester United’s philandering yet ageless winger, Ryan Giggs, is perhaps the last of a lineage of players with an incredible ‘staying power’ (no pun intended).
What makes Zecevic’s claims incredible is that after leaving Partizan in 2004, West played for four more years, turning out for four different clubs, until 2008 when he finally hanged his boot.
That would have made him a 46 years old scoundrel who cheated his way into all age group tournaments that he represented Nigeria in, including the famous 1996 Olympic Games victory in Atlanta, USA.
Of course, and naturally so, West has disproved these claims. This begs the question are all those fabled tales of West African nation’s success in youth development just a sham?
But Kenyan football too is not immune to age cheating and my haunch is that there are many players in the Kenyan Premier League carrying passports with falsified dates of birth.