Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Kenyan Football: My Take

While I have been critical of Kenyan football authorities, over the weekend, I mustered courage to go watch the Kenyan Premier League games played at the Nyayo National Stadium.
My walk there was interesting as I thought I would find droves of people walking towards the stadium. The area had some activity going on thanks to an earlier engagement of Nairobi residents with the Dettol Heart Run which ends up being more of a walk or stroll than a run.
First Wrong:
The first gaffe I noticed was the sale of tickets being done at a single point from one side of the stadium's entrance. The guy's office was also some dinghy and narrow joint which made me almost refuse to pay for the games. Thanks to some 2 current coaches who were coming to view their perceived competition take on each other.
Once into the stadium, the game was underway and as such I didn't have much time to choose a vantage point. All the same, I managed a tidy place right below fans of one of the teams of the day, Thika United.
These guys had come with their fans all the way from Thika and had branded shirts ( Brookside but no milk !). They kept their cheers though unco-ordinated lively throughout the game. A few minutes later, the Deputy Prime Minister one Uhuru K and MP George Thuo arrived much to the cheers of the Thika United fans. Generally I would say there were about 2-3000 fans. Among others were Joe Kadenge- one of Kenya's most famous footballers,Sammy Omollo, Ronald Ngala and even Dennis Oliech were but a few of the more well-known footballers around.
Second Wrong:
As I sat myself down, I noticed some suspicious looking guys who kept throwing glances at me and some ladies who were sitting a few stairs from where I sat. This showed lack of proper vetting of entry points to check against rowdy and sticky fingered fans.

Point to remember:
These two games {Thika United vs Gor Mahia & KCB vs Ulinzi Stars } were being screened live on SuperSport. This was the second weekend of the live games as signed by Kenya Premier League and SuperSport(SS). Their(SS) personnel was all over the place. I noticed at least 5 cameras:- 1 mobile one, 2 behind each goal, 2 behind the main dias for a bird's eye view of the game.
Third Wrong:
The day's affairs were run by one Bernard Otieno -Senior Sports Editor K24 TV station. He tried getting the crowd worked every so often but that didn't seem to work. Again, the half-time bits were a bit stiff and boring though we had fans trying to win prizes by kicking a ball into an empty net from half bit of the pitch.
With time the crowd management between the intervals can be harnessed better.
Talking of the pitch, I must say Sports Stadia Management is doing a good job with the ground looking well-maintained, the stands fairly clean and tidy, and also thanks to the SS personnel, we had a first flood-lit game in a long time. With the place being quite chilly those lights helped since you just needed to stare & imagine the warmth from them !

Oh and the stadium too was branded though not so loudly with the day's teams colours. We had Brookside dominating with their blue & green, KCB with the green along of course with SuperSport colours and banners.
Fourth Wrong:
Back to the games: The quality was suprisingly worth watching at a stadium with either game providing some drama each half. The second game was particularly interesting with KCB making forays at Ulinzi's battle hardened soldiers playing ball. But dubious decisions kept being made by the officials who I feel ought to watch more advanced games to learn some of these techniques. Maybe the players knew they had the spotlights from the cameras were shining on them. Or maybe due to the likelihood of some scouts starting to make assault into the Kenyan game, they needed to show their skills too.

Image Courtesy of SuperSport
Overall I can say it was worth the money being at Nyayo. This effort is going a long way in turning the game around. I'll confess I'll be hard-put to stay at home if there are interesting fixtures on card and if the cold doesn't bite hard like it almost did on that Saturday. So I better see y'all out next time ! No excuses !

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