Thursday, 24 May 2007

Kenyan Sporting Champs- What a cruel world !

In an earlier article (blog), I discussed the issue of what would be outstanding Kenyan sports brands. It’s an interesting take on our sports scene and how much we have under-valued our sports personalities and sporting events. Over the years, there have been minor attempts to up the tempo and make good the success of our sports people but with the same steam most efforts have come to naught.
What am I talking about?

Ever heard of Joe Kadenge? Peter Dawo? Henry Rono? Did you know that Kenya would have hosted the African Cup of Nations-football in 1996?
JK-as Kadenge is affectionately referred to by his friends operates a cab service in the upmarket area of Hurlingham; while Peter Dawo-the last I knew was a clerk working at the Kenya Railways, you never know he may have been axed with the ongoing privatization of the corporation. Henry Rono (sob) I’m told he washes cars in some city in the United States too shamed to even show face in Kenya. 1996- Well, this was our chance to host and showcase the African Cup of Nations in football-the biggest tournament with the widest audience in Africa but you and I know that this went to South Africa (who ended up winning it!)The list is long and quite depressing! How disgraceful and despicable!!!

Peter Dawo starring for Harambee Stars in 1987 All Africa Games,Nairobi
Photo courtesy of

These were the stars of their days that helped set the foundation of most sports activities in the country. JK is a household name across Kenya who ought to be on the same pedestal with the likes of Eusebio- Mozambican-born Portuguese football player, Sir Bobby Charlton-England or even Pele-Brazil if you like. Peter Dawo- top scorer in the African Cup Winners Cup (also known as Mandela Cup)-led Gor Mahia to their first and only continental championship in 1987 is comparable in some quarters to Didier Drogba-Cote dé Ivoíre. Henry Rono in his best form broke 4 world records in a month. He set the pace for most of the long distance runners of the present day.
What went wrong? Why don’t we have structures and policies in place to support our very best? Can we arrest this situation? Our own athletes living appalling lives yet they were (and to me most still are!) the true heroes of this nation! If there were people deserving a place in the proposed Heroes’ Corner, you already have a whole load of them! No streets, roads or major sporting venues (exception Kip Keino stadium), NOTHING!
Yes we can correct this situation. How you ask?
First we ought to provide prudent and professional management to our sport people especially during their active life. Most of them are from a deprived background and the sense of belonging becomes a bit overwhelming to most. Professional managers and organizations ought to alleviate this.
Secondly, investment options need be explored to help divert their earnings to meaningful channels and secure their future( rumour has it that Henry Rono’s agent used to carry a suit-case stashed with cash on race-days, hopping from one race-track to the next).

A more recent photo of Henry Rono

Third, policy ought to be drafted to help set up a Fund (like NSSF) to be managed by public trustees and professional fund managers to oversee earnings/takings/returns from sports and help look out for those who retire to a less productive life. It can also cater for the setting up of centres for development of talent as honed by the retired athletes who would only be too willing to help.
Fourth, local firms ought to come out strongly and help these sports personalities by using them to endorse their products. This ought to supplement their income and earnings. The returns would be enormous (check Michael Jordan’s profile)
Lastly, I don’t think it would hurt to have a few of our streets, roads, venues named after our athletes. I mean they did us proud and we ought to reward them not just now but for posterity. Would it hurt also to have a sort of Hall of Fame for our athletes? (I understand Athletics Kenya has something similar to what I am saying)
That way I’ll not feel guilty every time I see JK drive (or is it chauffeured?) past me in the roads of Nairobi!

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