Tuesday, 29 July 2008

School Strikes: All Books & No Play?

For the last couple of weeks, the country has had to grasp with rowdy students burning and destroying structures in their schools. A columnist in the Daily Nation noted that the youths have developed a peculiar habit of burning the dormitories which would serve as the most private of places for students residing in schools-but that’s besides the point.
A principal of one of Kenya’s national school noted that it’s compulsory for students in the school to engage in games. Of course he has been at this for over 15 years so it’s not just idle talk. ON that I concur with him and ask various institutions to make sports and games compulsory-not just for going through the motions and running in some shadowy tracks around the neighbouring village.
I’m reminded of my high school days when we used to read about English higher learning institutions engaging in competitive games such as football, boat-rowing, rugby and cricket and developing rivalries which became legendary in those places e.g. Oxford & Cambridge for boat rowing or Syracuse University vs. Georgetown in basketball and college American football.
Locally I can recall some institutions such as Lenana vs. Nairobi School in the rugby circles but those are days gone by as school boys have engaged in non-curricular activities such video games (PlayStation’s a main culprit here), lousy outdoor and basically couch potatoes thanks to the numerous TV shows around !
The authorities and policy makers ought to rethink part of the syllabus which emphasizes on the need for one to pass their exams at the expense of outdoor activities. That way we can save our youth and get them to channel energies to more constructive activities. Could it be the reason why we are trooping into social circles to watch football instead of being the teams and fans out at the stadiums?

Media competition

Hot on the heels of one of the local papers relaunch, the media competition continues as they spruce up their websites and add various features in their applicaions.
The Standard Group started with a whole hyped up event culminating in relaunch of the paper and as such the new-look website. Nation Media Group has also changed its website look and domain name to www.nation.co.ke. This application has a better feel to it but the download takes awhile since there are graphics and regular video updates.
This will be hoped to add value to their clients most of whom include Kenyans living in the Diaspora as well as the foreigners who developed an interest in the country thanks to the early year skirmishes.
It makes life interesting too as one will most definitely have one-stop media on their lap-tops and desktops in their houses and offices.
Keep it coming !

Monday, 28 July 2008

Maralal Camel Derby

One of the region’s unique events, the Maralal Camel Derby will be run during the first weekend of August. This event attracts camel riders from far away as Canada and Australia and has over the years been a major event in the sporting calendar. Too bad the last 2 years it didn’t happen for various reasons and again our obsession with mainstream sports{ Thanks to a blogger comment, I'm informed the Derby did indeed take place, only this time there was less fuss and media coverage around it} .As noted by the Kenya Tourism Board, the event attracts not just participants but visitors from the different countries coming to the country. This is a good platform to sell their tourism packages and also give the country’s northern region the much-needed exposure to the rest of the country. This is the country’s under-developed region and this year’s event will hope to raise funds towards development projects of the region.
For those who love out-of-town escapades and bush-tracking, this is an event for you as you enjoy the relics offered by the Maralal.
For more details check www.magicalkenya.com

Beijing or is it Oriental Olympics ?

The most populous nation in the world will get to hold the biggest sporting spectacle in the world for what could as well turn out to be the most successful of its times. Beijing will host this year’s Olympics but as expected there has been a fair share of its good and bad coverage depending on which side you are supporting.
Olympics has always had its fair share of controversy right from the time Pierre de Coubertin brought us back the Games in 1896- where Greece wanted to hold a monopoly of holding the Games. In the 1930s, the then German empire hoped to prove its point of a pure Aryan race by showcasing the talents of its athletes but one Jesse Owens from the US of A had other ideas winning 4 events within the same week to become one of the Games’ legends.
Abebe Bikila -first African gold medallist.

1950s and 60s saw the entry of the African athletes with Ethiopia winning the continent’s first gold in the 1960 Rome Games through bare-foot marathoner, Abebe Bikila heralding a new era for African athletes. The same games had one Cassius Clay winning the light heavyweight gold medal. He later changed names to Muhammad Ali and you know the rest of the story….

1968 Mexico Games also had the problem of altitude which most athletes considered a problem. Not for Kenyan Kipchoge Keino who won Kenya her first gold in the Olympics in the 1500m. Who can forget the black-gloved US athletes announcing the Black Panther cause, raising their black-gloved hands on the medals’ rostrum?
1972 Munich Games saw its ugliest scene so far with 11 Israeli athletes kidnapped and killed as a botched up job of Palestinian terrorism brought politics on a collision course. This was one of the loudest external pronouncements to get the world to listen to a community’s cause. It would see similar fates follow as the Cold War continued in earnest.
1976 Montreal Games were affected by the politics of the day with boycotts from countries objecting the New Zealand rugby team visit to apartheid regime South Africa.1980 Moscow Games saw the biggest boycott of the Games as US of A managed to rally most of the world’s states to avoid the Games as they objected the then USSR’s occupation of Afghanistan and its expansionist schemes in Eastern Asia and parts of Africa-it earned the tag as the Communists games as mostly Russian–backed nations participated.
Carl Lewis blazes the 100m race track
1984 Los Angeles Games had a real spectacle of an event and almost suffered the fate of the 1980 games as Russia sort to return America’s favour for its role in the boycotts. Commercialisation of the Games started taking a front seat as American sports marketing companies saw a chance of a lifetime to exploit in marketing sportswear among other goodies.They raked in over US $200 million in profits.
1988 had Asia host the Games for a 2nd time, but these earned the tarnish of one Ben Johnson as he easily won the 100m dash thanks to anabolic steroids –he was stripped of the medal and thus earning the tag of sports’ most famous drug cheat. Africa also earned her first gold medal through Kenya’s Robert Wangila Napunyi who won the welterweight.
1992 Barcelona paid tribute to Spain’s Juan Antonio Samaranch who had served as IOC (International Olympics Committee) president for the better part of the 80s and 90s. 1996 was the first centennial for the games and most people expected these to automatically go Greece’s Athens way but the Americans again spoilt the party and put their largesse into good use making Atlanta one of the most commercially successful Games of our times.

Cathy Freeman- First athlete to light Olympic flame and go on to win a gold medal
2000 got the Games to Sydney who used the event to showcase the aboriginal history (for which the then Prime Minister had refused to publicly apologize for historical misdeeds). 2004 Athens the Games finally at home but again almost delayed as most venues were completed just in time for the Games. Beijing and so far the Tibetans and minor terror groups in parts of China are making their presence felt.
There have been various concerns on the success of these Games in opening up country to external forces as well as the financial implications for the host country. Most host countries have had empty stadias after the Games as there are no continuous sporting events to accommodate such numbers. Some countries have been left with huge financial burdens (as witnessed by the Canadians after Montreal and Greeks after Athens).
Whatever maybe said, I see the Games as one of the best way of the world stopping on its tracks and enjoying the festival of Games offered by the Olympics. As for the politics and such shenanigans, please save that for another day! Let Games begin!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Kenyan Athletics : What is Wrong ?

The year 2008 has been a bumpy ride for most sports given the sort of start we had with all the political and social issues arising. For one of Kenya's main sports heritage, this year's has had some hard questions raised concerning the game.
In the height of the skirmishes taking place at the heart of the matter in Rift Valley, athletes were put on the spotlight and some reports indicated the involvement of former athletes in recruiting and co-ordinating the perpetrators of some of the most heinous acts against fellow countrymen since colonial times. There were 2 former athletes who even lost their lives in the midst of all these. With most of our athletes having been recruited through the disciplined forces either police, army or prison guards, the suspicions and claims were bound to be raised.
Also given the information(or misinformation) in that period, anything flew !
A few weeks ago, the investigative journalists of one of the Kenyan dailies reported the allure of money that is making miserable lives out of teenage girls in the Rift Valley. This wasn't a wild allegation and top athletes have come out and condemned the acts carried out by the male athletes.
Along with this has been the issue of non-remittance of monies won to athletes by their agents (mostly foreign), as well as scholarship programmes for athletes to run in USA coming from Kenyan high schools.
What is going on ?
I will not offer much remedy(ies) here for now, but I truly feel it's time the sport had more spotlight shining down on it.
First things first. It's time most top Athletic Kenya officials called it quits. These guys have reached the zenith of their achievements and its time they enjoyed their trips around the world as pensioners. We should have more representatives not just for athletic bodies but also active athletes and retired ones too.
Coupled with retirement of these officials is the diversification from long distance events to short sprints and field events too. Over 50 years wealth of experience is good enough to fish is something good out there.
Make the sport more open and professional by consulting with professional corporates both local and international to raise the stakes in the sport.
Can the AK body and Govt look to develop youth academies with athletics being one of the main sport in every region ?
I raised this question and some issues are coming regarding the Kenyan athletics scene. Now another hot potato's been handed to a local firm which has been alleged not to have handed prize money meant for athletes during the Tusker Sport Athletics Meet last year. I'll not draw any conclusions but it's important for athletes to know that as they prosper there are many out there who would want in on their winnings.
It's also important for media people to stop using their leverage to incite people into rumour-mongering & also provide a way out of these messes. Though you love to sell your papers,it might do more damage than development!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Reinhardt Fabisch- Fare thee well

Learning of the death of this coach was a shocker for me. I honour him for helping bring the local football game to a level where most coaches both local and international have not been able to do in most encounters.
He helped mould a team which was placed 2nd in the All-Africa Games in 1987 going on to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations 2 consecutive times and also helped the team hold fancied Nigeria in a local encounter back in 1996. His was a hot & cold relationship with both Kenyan fans and officials but he managed to make us go to the stadiums.
I guess it is his love for the African game that saw him coach more African teams until his demise.
SportsKenay honours his life and times in Kenya and Africa too !

Elevate 2008 : Post Analysis

For those who made it to Elevate on Saturday we all had some interesting takes on the day. First I'll have to give it to Homeboyz for organising some nice venue and 1 half of the court ( the other half looked like just another street part).The entertainment was also on the better side though the DJ kept trying too hard as though we were in some DJ competition. There was also affordable food as most of these events tend to over-price their food thinking all of us love junk food.
Collo of Kleptomaniax also did a good job MCing the event and I liked the one part where a freestyler even rhymed his name into his act....he had the crowd worked up. The 1-on-1 too was excellent and I didn't think we had that much talent in Kenya, them boys can play...wow ! The 3-on-3 though was a bit on the shoddy side and some teams didn't really excite the crowds. Two corporates ( Nation Media Group and Ogilvy & Mather) featured and the former did impress us too.
The dunking competition was almost one side with a guy by the name of Pado (he's been a feature in dunking competitions for like eons now) was ahead of the rest. Creativity was lacking though, but maybe it's over-exposure to the NBA for some of us !
The venue though ideal was a bit hidden making it har fo some to access. I look forward though to some more rounds and hope the Finals will be held at bigger and better venue...Nyayo or Kasarani for that matter !

Kenyan Youth lead the continent at Poland

Watch them go ! Our junior team I salute you ! For placing 3rd in the Junior Athletics Championships at Poland , I salute you ! Beating fancied competition in the Ethiopians, South Africans and topping the continent I salute you !
3rd out of 34 is no mean achievement ! 11 medals- 4 gold,5 silver and 2 bronze is no mean achievement ! This adds to our reservoir of talent and future champions are waiting in the wings.
Beijing, better watch out now !

Rugby Kenya style

I don't know what our Kenyan boys are taking for breakfast these days but they better make sure it remains like that. On Sunday the boys rose to the occasion and proved they are not flukes anymore.
I guess buoyed by the Safari Sevens victory and also the success of the 7s team, the 15-a-side had to raise their game. Most members anyway come from the 7s team and as such they only had to re-group from their disastrous visit to Yaounde last year when they were thrown around like some last year. The hosts then accomodated them at some dinghy hotel, made sure they were harassed by Cameroonian officials and also trained on some gravel ground.
Well they avenged their blushes and won comprehensively 76-8 on Sunday even after 24 hour delay from the Cameroonian. Kenya now faces Tunisia in the next match hoping to top the group and qualify.
Kenya hoiyee !

Friday, 11 July 2008

Elevate 2008

It's time to elevate !...That's the theme for the 3-on-3 street-ball basketball tournaments this time around. Coming after a 9 year hiatus ( back then it was the Spriteball 3-on-3 ), this has been one of the best tourneys to attract youth into the game of basketball. Apart from the crazy names accorded to the teams playing, the styles too are out of this world along with enormous reservoirs of talent. How this tournament has taken this long to be back on the street only the top Kenya Basketball officials and basketball aficionados can answer !
An acquitance of mine had made an effort to hold these tournaments annually but the then KBF officials lacked the vision and will to let him do it frustrating him and eventually leaving him disillusioned.I do hope this time the officials can use these tournaments to harness local talent and make it an annual event.
This year's Elevate 2008 tour will include;
- 3-on-3 streetball,
- MC battling,
- DJ cuts, and entertainment with barbecue settings for your usual bourgeousie lifestyle associated with the game
First up will be Sadili Oval Sports Club hosting the Nairobi kick-off.
The Sprite soda brand is the main sponsor back again supporting the game which it has been closely associated with. HomeBoyz Entertainment under its events management branch will ensure the events run smoothly and also support much of the media coverage/presence. Capital FM and Hot 96 are the other radio stations hoped to hype up the event.

The battle's on ! As Bono of U2 would say......Elevation !

Image of Spriteball '99

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Tuesday, 8 July 2008

EA Standard Re-launch

Image courtesy of The Standard
In an attempt to score points with its readers and improve circulation numbers, the East African Standard last night held a re-launch at a local entertainment spot. Renamed THE STANDARD, this sees the ongoing re-branding of most publications taken a notch higher.
The management has over the last 5 years been busy packaging and re-packaging the paper to reach out to a wider local and regional audience. Print media has seen some interesting times in the last 12 months with at least 3 dailies being launched thus increasing competition across the board. EA Standard though has remained on its own as one flagship product and not like their main competitor who has more than 3 sister papers catering for different tastes. The tag-line is a bit of a mouthful though and doesn't stick to mind as quickly as it ought to.
My main interest though was in the sports segment which as usual is relegated to the last pages. But the new look was a first with the paper literally making us flip the pages 180 °C to enjoy the menu. There were at least 6 pages to work with. Another for the local papers was the Sports Finance section. I don’t know whether it’s going to be a daily feature or not, but sports and its commercialisation is something most local publications have not focused on well. The writer in the section covered the Olympics and its effects on host countries…..Though I had hoped he would have given a more local comparison with our own hosting of the All-Africa Games in 1987.
The only daily which has been trying to have some sort of sports business segment is the Business Daily which is not consistent and most of the time uses articles from syndicates and more established publications.
The paper also tried including much local content maybe due to the fact much of the sporting events which would be of interest in the local context are in their summer breaks. The print looks good better than the previous one and also the lay-out and images have a better view.
In addition to this, the website has been spruced up and also looks better and is faster to open with easy navigational paths.
Overall though, it’s a good break from the rest, I just hope for sustenance and also deeper insight and research when writing the articles since this has been a penchant of this particular publication which some more seasoned newspaper readers say is a matured tabloid.
Buy yourself a copy of The Standard !

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Olympic Qualifiers: Controversy creeps

Finally our athletics team to the Beijing Olympic Games was selected having come from a busy previous weekend of national athletics championships hosted by KCC at the Nyayo National Stadium. Most events had familiar faces winning thus booking their places. With the exception of the marathon, most of the other competitors had to roughen and toughen up on the tracks on Saturday.
Roughen it was with some cases of spiking by fellow competitors as well as the usual shoving and pushing. The spiking was evident especially in the longer races with the 3000m steeplechase having more controversy than competition. 4th placed Brimin Kipruto asked AK officials to investigate the eventual winner on these under-hand techniques of winning the race. So bad was the incident that video footage showed Brimin openly admonishing Ezekiel Kemboi who was a close 2nd for the better part of the race for distracting and spiking him.
The other controversy was regarding the inclusion of Veronica Nyaruai who finished 5th in place of Mercy Wanjiku and Regina Jerotich who finished 3rd and 4th respectively. I mean even if she had finished last it seems the so-called 'experience' would have saved her legs . Please !
Methinks each of these is a genuine case and the athlete(s) should be given a hearing and the outcomes released at least 48 hours after the qualifiers to be able to act decisively on such cases in future. This will also give time for study of footage and any other evidence availed. It’s sad that the level of competition seems to be eating into our athletes’ heads with some going to any lengths to win a race including age-cheating (especially for the juniors), illegal tactics such as spiking, and even changing citizenship!
AK should also be careful in future not to have 2 athletics meets occurring within a week. This may lead to burn out which afflicts our athletes as well as injuries as seen last weekend. Sad too that not much emphasis had been laid on short races and field events which we can diversify into and work for wider medal prospects.
By the way, what is happening to other disciplines? I haven’t heard much buzz about these. Any progress?

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Shambles: Typical Kenyan Face

Saturday and my weekend rendezvous led me to our premiere sports events hosting grounds at the Kasarani Grounds. I had been dragged out of bed to go watch some sport that most young men love imitating from the Kung-Fu movies- Shotokan Karate!
But as is symptotic with most Kenyan sports events, the place was deserted for the better part of the earlier morning and was it not for the presence of white attired guys, you’d feel lost too. The other comforting presence was that of the South Africans invited to grace the event.
My accomplice and I had to wait for at least 4 hours before the event started in earnest and the officials didn’t make much of an apology. They hadn’t even secured a public address system for use over the weekend leading to some embarrassing moments. Once they started though, all this was forgotten.
Oh, for those who came in late, Shotokan Karate is a form of martial arts tracing its origins in Japan but now practised across the globe. A typical Shotokan tournament has 2 sections;
Kata-which features a string of movements done by an individual or team showing the mastery and grace of, moves (different katas for different belt grades). It is also necessary to note the movement, breathing (kime) and strength are carefully watched by the judges here. The most points scored wins you the category you compete in.It’s almost like choreography or routine dancing.
Kumite- is more of a mock fight between 2 individuals where one tries to score points by hitting the opponents at areas below the head and above the navel-though sweeps off your feet are allowed. A perfect score would entail hitting the target with right technique and executing the move to its completion. The kicks, punches, and other techniques are usually controlled though once a while this is forgotten and a bloody nose and broken limbs are not rare.
Back to Kasarani, Saturday had the competitors exhibit their katas. As expected though, the South Africans swept the locals with their good movement and mastery of the techniques-though our locals seemed to lick their boots all too easily. Too bad with the disorganisation, I couldn’t muster enough courage to find myself there a second day.
The sport though is integral to our lives not just in self-defence but keeping fit and clear of the mind as practised by ancient Japanese rituals.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Sprawling at the Nyayo Stadium

Flagging off of rally cars at KICC.
Last weekend was a busy sporting one and for those of us who love the outdoors,the skies smiled at us and gave the warmest weekend in a long time.
Starting with the KCB Safari Rally on Friday,for those working Friday afternoons,most of you had to steal a few man hours from your employer to be at the Uhuru Park spectator stage.As the organisers try to impress the WRC officials,this will remain a feature for the coming years. But unlike last year when most drivers hit their legs on the pedals, this year was a cautious approach as some didn't want to ruin their lovely looking machines. Kudos, Azar Anwar-Kenya,Riyaz Kurji -Uganda and Jon Williams for kicking up some dust at the Park.
As expected all we could see were the green and blue of KCB Bank along with peripherals of co-sponsors like Triton,Security Group,as well as the nicely branded rally cars in the colours of their sponsors.The event continued for on Saturday where drivers were penalised heavily for taking short-cuts to the Elementaita check-point (how can that happen with more than 1 driver as well as the increased levels of scrutiny? If it was back in the day I would understand but not in the era of GPS & all that technology!)

400m women hurdles at the KCC Athletics Meet
Come Saturday and my patriotic self made his way to Nyayo Stadium for the weekend's action. This was the KCC Athletics Meet.While some of us had mistaken it for the National Trials for selecting the national team to the Beijing Olympic Games, the organisers had planned this as a final meet of the KCC-sponsored athletic meets held across the country.
The event didn't even have a cover charge making me 'imbibe healthily' in flavoured milk as the scorching sun burnt us on the terraces. A fair crowd had gathered at the Stadium but the majority were athletes or former athletes. It was worth the while as the organisers kept feeding us with events which ran concurrently both at the field and track.
KCC had its colours all over the place making even some track commissars wear their pink t-shirts. They invited top Government officials to grace the event (and give long boring speeches,though the PM told us how he was once a then Kenya Amateur Athletics Association official-Nairobi area...I need to check my archives). Some finals had already taken place.But what I found missing was the top athletes as most opted to train for this weekend's national trials. That event ought to have doubled up as the trials to avoid burn-out and distractions from training.But this is Kenya -things have to go to the dogs for people to start pointing fingers.
Slow Afternoon:

Co-op Bank player takes a free-throw shot on the line
With the heat from the Sun,unless you have a fair share of melanin & are used to bare rays,I couldn't take the heat anymore. I strolled by to the Nyayo Gymnasium to indulge in a game I've always loved-basketball. These guys had the audacity to charge entry fees.On entry I almost walked back noticing the low turn-out.What was worse wasthe game itself which was like a loose version of street guys warming up. What could be an ideally saucy fixture had no landmarks of a cracker game( Co-op Bank vs UON Terrorists). I got really miffed with the last game being a walk-over to one of the teams as their opposition didn't have the courtesy to even show up! Lord did I feel cheated ! I tried walking back to the track event only to find the wrapping up things,damn !
It was a contradictory run of events to see the 'rainbow' of our sporting disciplines and events.Rainbow because when one is shining with potential the other is slowly dimming the spotlight on itself. What do I mean ? Look at athletics,they can easily attract attention and command some of the best revenues in the Kenyan sports scene.The AK Chairman even intimated to the powers-that-be that Nyayo Stadium is on land initially allocated to the athletics body.
Basketball on the other hand is struggling to find its place. The gym is never full(only when 2 university teams face-off) or when the play-offs start and still it is not anything to write home about. I didn't see a single to Kenya Basketball Federation official at the venue. The players looked miserable ,some barely having fed well to play with others looking blood-shot from an evening off their favourite drink.
This shows the lack of investment in some of our sports disciplines. Hey where are you entrepreneurs and game-lovers ? Can you hear our cries ?
I'll be doing a feature soon on the growth(or lack of sports in Kenya soon)Don't turn off the lights just yet !