Saturday, 27 October 2007

Is this the recovery!

Having suffered defeats to some of previously easy opponents, Kenya has had a fairly good tournament going in the last 2 weeks. Coming from the Twenty 20 tourney in South Africa, where all the major cricket playing nations sent their teams, it was poor show from a country which a few years ago was applying for Test status- for the uninitiated Test playing nations in cricket means the crème de la crème of the cricket world. It’s an exclusive club of teams with regular one-day internationals (ODIs), small 3-nations tournaments and assured financial support for the national governing body along with major sponsorship and media rights. Initially most of these nations were former British colonies, given that the game was made popular by British colonialists in the different continents they occupied. But now a couple of other countries have come up and are making a mark on the scene including, USA, Netherlands and Namibia.
But since getting to the semi-finals of the Cricket World Cup in 2003, held in South Africa & Zimbabwe ( and Kenya, thanks to some boycott from some Test playing nations such as England), the cricket scene has lost both its shine and steam. A couple of scandals have riddled the game, both the officials and some top players, loss of public interest, financial constraints and also a less than competitive national league. A coach’s stunted approach made it worse with over-reliance on a certain crop of players.
But in the last few weeks, I have been able to smile when I read the news and find the national team making us proud once again. A couple of new players have been added to the team and the Bermudans and Canadians have had their respective whooping by the Kenyan team. A change on the technical bench has also seen some spark added to the players who had more or less lost psyche. I do hope this can be sustained and a more careful approach. The Kenya Cricket Association (KCA) also needs to develop a more vibrant local league where youthful talent can be tapped. The need for more international games can not be more urgent. With these, any local or international corporation will only be too willing to thrown in some money for the support and growth of the game.
A wicket for the light at the end of the tunnel, KCA!

Standard Chartered Nairobi marathon- 5th Edition

Funny how time flies! 4 years ago, the City of Nairobi got its first edition of a fully fledged race in the form of a marathon. This came at a time when the only other major marathon in the country was suffering from lack of support from both sponsors and competitors alike. This was Mombasa Marathon. Given the lack of proper logistical work, humidity and high temperatures the race had seen a slow death. But Kenya’s status as an athletics’ powerhouse, it badly needed a marathon race to showcase both local and international talent.
Thanks to Standard Chartered, the Nairobi Marathon was born. Coming to the City for the first time, there was bound to be a change on the activities of the city residents. The organizers have always had it held on a Sunday to avoid logistical problems such as traffic jams(what with a resurgent economy, it would only aggravate an already precarious situation) due to closure of the roads, fans’ areas, start & finish location. To make it symbolic the organizers decided to have the start right at one of the best and well-maintained street Harambee Avenue and finish at the City’s Seat-City Hall (home of Nairobi City Council) and KICC (Kenyatta International Conference Centre).
Of course, if you’re a strict church-goer, this was not your fun event. True to form, for the next 2 editions, the church leaders complained insisting that the event was not affording their ‘flock’ time to make it for their weekly experience. Some even went to the extent of claiming that the collection (alms) was not good at all, thus it didn’t aid ‘God’s work’. Others complained that the coverage of major roads in the City, from Waiyaki Way, James Gichuru, Ngong Road, Langata Road all the way to Mombasa Road and Uhuru Highway was too much to persevere for a day. Hence last year, the event was radically changed to cover only 1 major road (Mombasa Road) from Nyayo National Stadium with the start outside the stadium and the finish inside. This meant less interference with the city activities for their Sunday outings and also reduced logistical problems since it would be concentrated in one area.
Well my sentiments are that given the event comes once every year; it would have stuck to its original route. For all races the route was scenic and quite trying, especially for the 21km half-marathon and the full marathon. What we have now is a marathon modeled around a circuit race (like Formula One), with competitors and enthusiasts alike running around a stretch, 2 or 3 times, what boredom! It always felt good running (more or less jogging or walking for majority of the participants) on the roads which are normally a preserve of crazy Nairobians. It also did a lot of good to those who would be running from foreign countries since it meant knowing a bit of geography of the City. Alas the church and majority of the city dwellers had their way.
Having run the new route last year, I couldn’t help see the disappointment of other enthusiasts as they felt cheated. To make it worse, all 3 major races ( 10 km,21 half-marathon and 42 km marathon) were run at a few minutes difference making it crazy for some of those slow runners to be asked to give way to the ‘elite runners’.
This year the sponsors, StanChart found it within themselves to raise the entry fee 100% to KShs. 1000 (approx. US $) per entry for the major races. It has not gone down well with most of the devotees and though they might record at least 15000 people, the number would have definitely been higher if they maintained the fee at KShs. 500 (US$8). Presidential & parliamentary elections to be held later on this year have also diverted some attention from the race but I’m sure some of the aspiring candidates will make mileage from making special appearances.
For the 5th year again, the money raised will be going to a charitable organization that deals with eye and sight problems within the city’s proximity. My projection is that in the next few years, the event must be self-sustaining as indicated from the increase in the event’s fees and also attract a regular flow of sponsorship from logistical support, PR, advertising, media coverage to entertainment and refreshment provision.
All the best to all participants, and watch out I might be the guy who sprints past you in some spirited run!

Friday, 19 October 2007

What a Sporting Weekend

For what some like calling their favourite days' of the week, well you'll be pleased to learn this weekend's sports action will serve up just that -depending of course on what pleases your palate.
First up,
The English Premiership is back on the cards after last weekends internationals (with some in the mid-week too). There are interesting fixtures as teams meet on their potential Rubicons.
Arsenal vs Bolton Wanderers
Aston Villa v Man Utd
Blackburn v Reading
Fulham v Derby
Middlesbrough v Chelsea
Everton v Liverpool
are some of the fixtures tommorow,
The Rugby World Cup comes to an end tomorrow with the Final pitting South Africa and England who coincidentally met in their first game of the pool A which they were grouped in. Who have the last laugh ?
The 3rd place game is on today ( for those who can make an excuse not to go to work...good luck !)with hosts France hoping to restore some pride against the Pumas of Argentina.
At the local scene, the 7-a-side round takes the teams to the Coast for the Driftwood Sevens. Mean Machine, KCB,Impala, Quins and Nondies seek to outdo each other to score important points in the circuit.

For those who are as crazy as the F1 drivers on the road, please watch this weekend's title decider race in the Brazilian GP at Interlagos, Sao Paolo. The new kid Hamilton will hope to shock the Formula 1 world by becoming the first rookie to win on his first season. He's been a phenomenon that's for sure. But his team-mate whom they never see eye-to-eye, Fernando Alonso will be hoping to spoil his party along with Ferrari's Felipe Massa (wild chance methinks). Watch the race on Sunday.
The Rally fans will be in Kiambu and Ngong respectively as KCB round of national rallies take place with the Guru Nanak Rally starting off tomorrow and finishing on Sunday.

At least, I'll be saved of all political shenanigans for the weekend after a tiring 3 weekends full of this launch and that rally. I really wish there was a way to block out these guys for like the next 10 weeks ! Help !

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Rugby World Cup :Curtains about to be drawn

While two of my friends will be having an uneasy time as they watch the Final game of the Rugby World Cup being held in France, it will interesting to see who wins the bet. South Africa play England. As if knowing which teams would make it to the Final, one let's call him Shacusi boasted of the strength and depth of the South African Springboks while the other let's call him Rewadi ,quite literally wore the English game-shirt.
Well, given that some of the other favourites including, New Zealand, Australia,Argentina and hosts France have been bundled out ( Argentina play France for 3rd place or what is usually called Bronze Final.
I'll try hold my choice between the 2 teams as I weight the comments from my friends as each of them tries to convince me of the team's prowess but I'll yield at some point.
Game is on Sunday, be there !
BIG CORRECTION: The FINAL is on SATURDAY & the 3rd place game on FRIDAY. Apologies for any misrepresentation.

Didn't I say so..?

Reading one of the dailies editorials yesterday made me think that someone had lifted a story out of this blog and sort of sugar-coated it to sound different and distinct. But since we are both in the industry of sharing and spreading information, then no daggers drawn. For us Kenyans, it's a time that we're taken on some 'paradise-to-be'journey by our politicians as they promise their countrymen this and that. Some even throw a few shillings here as they sponsor football and volleyball tournaments while others have suddenly remembered we have sporting heroes in our midst. Wow !
All I can say for now is that sports is bigger than any of those noisy,nosy Parkers and I throw enormous and chilli barbs at each of one of I wish someone would make me wake in the middle of 2010 at some stadium in South Africa as I root for my country wearing those big straw hats and shouting myself hoarse as I join in the chorus of the day....(let's keep dreaming)
By the way , read this the editorial from yesterday's news at (editorial,click on the left hand-side of the website at the homepage).

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Some Moments .....

Ahhh for those who thought we've gotten too quiet....well you ain't seen nothing yet !( OK am bad at plagiarism as you can see...). Well it's been a quiet week for me but I couldn't help be set on some thinking by various sporting events;
1. As if by coincident, SportsKenya had carried an article about doping and it's sudden resurgence in sport only for it to get another kick from a sports legend (don't stone me yet...she is on the wrong side of the divide right now ! And I ain't crucified her yet) to come out and say she's sorry for what she did 7 or so years ago. OK for starters, I feel nothing for her. She ought to have known the consequences of her actions so shedding tears in front of the cameras, she ain't seen nothing yet.
Let me jog her memory to 1987 to one Ben Johnson who was caught twice using banned substances he was decimated by the heaps of bad press. Now here in this time and age, someone decides first to lie to a court, then go around and say no she's sorry. Then admits guilt in an offence she'd been trying to cover up...oh she will be so buried by the sports organisations and Press alike.
2. Being an election year in Kenya, we're bound to have enough drama on all fronts as people get promised and others promise paradise unlimited. I had said it here earlier,sports is a unifying factor all the reason why people like Hitler tried to swing it their way and even popular dictators like Mussolini and Idi Amin of Uganda managed to get their countrymen to perform well in major sporting events under the rules. But it goes beyond that, for sports to have a lasting impression, it must go beyond the rhetoric, populist statements and such nonsense. So when one former Kenyan national team player and a host of former footballers decided to endorse some presidential candidate for reasons stated as improving the game and some immaterial reasons, I was left bemused by the whole episode. For the uninformed, even Pres. Bush can't touch the US' equivalent of the KFF ! FIFA has consolidated its power so much that football federations across the world operate like fiefdoms for the officials involved. In as much as you'd want to dissolve and endorse your own officials, FIFA has the last say on the going-ons of football in a country. And anyway, most of those goons who call themselves Kenyan football officials have made quick retreats and gone into politics as some familiar 'euphoria' grips the nation. Ask Najib Balala, Ochillo Ayacko and now Maina Kamanda what they haven't tried !
3. Watching the Rugby World Cup as it reaches the penultimate stages of the semi-finals, I was shocked to some extent to watch the top seeds being bundled out. It was like child's play watching the New Zealanders fumble with the ball against the French and the Australians lacking that crunch play that is always characteristic of the Southern hemisphere nations as they got 'kicked' by their nemesis Johnny Wilkinson. As a friend of friend of mine would say, we haven't barked the tree yet so don't salivate about the timber yet. New Zealand keep its trend of being the top seeds on paper and going into the World Cup and again being bundled out so unceremoniously. Well now let's wait and see what the remaining powers in the semis will do. I surely hope that this won't be a boring Final like in the last 3 World Cups, but again who am I humouring ?