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.