Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Sports Infrastructure- Step forward

Since the setting up of the Sports Stadia Management Board SSMB (founded in Nov ’02 and incorporated in May ’03), the management of sports infrastructure in Kenya has taken a turn for the better. From the now well maintained grounds at Kasarani Thika Road to Nyayo National Stadium (City Stadium is receiving a fresh layer of turf from FIFA’s Goal Project with in partnership with KFF/KPL) changes are visible, but I may ask is this enough?
On Saturday, the president intimated that the Government’s providing 100m KShs towards the rehabilitation and redevelopment of the Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret as a boon to the outstanding performance by our Kenyan athletes during the Beijing Games- Olympics and Paralympics alike.
The Government’s been busy with these grounds since that’s SSMB’s main thrust. But I’ll ask if this is enough?
Good to start but not enough yet!
Well it’s commendable that they have decided to introduce better income-generating schemes by selling the stadium rights to a willing corporate or brand for the prescribed time at the Nyayo National Stadium- the main stadium, the indoor arena (for basketball/boxing), and the aquatic centre. But what remains of other stadia across the country such as the Afraha Stadium in Nakuru,Kinoru Stadium in Meru or even Ruringu in Nyeri which were football-havens in their heydays?
The stadia must also start conforming to international standards not just in design but also in related infrastructure such as efficient transportation, accessibility, security both on match days and during practice, efficient water and sewerage systems, basically what would look like a small town’s infrastructure.
If our stadiums are to host teams –international –in the run-up to the 2010 World Cup, then this can be addressed. We can also start looking forward to hosting bigger and better regional games which will make this the host of choice in this part of the world.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

2010 World Cup: Some Reprieve

After enjoying the Beijing Olympics, the spotlight’s now been turning slowly as we start making the countdown to the 2010 World Cup.
Deliberately I have avoided naming South Africa as it becomes apparent that the country may not be ready to host the tournament which brings 32 of the world’s best in football-soccer if you’re American.
Some outstanding issues have been the security issues which continue to stick out like a sore thumb, construction’s 6 months behind schedule and the cancellation of two of the proposed stadiums and also the upcoming elections in 2009 even after the infighting in ANC seems to be simmering in some uneasy undercurrents.
It would also be important to note that fan attendance might be a consideration though they may get support from other African countries which will most likely see on of the largest movement of middle-class movement down South especially the football-mad, well at least for the 2 months.
Another factor which I have not seen highlighted is the fact that almost all World Cups have been held in June/July period and if I’m not wrong that time it’s usually chilly down South. The last few years has seen some drastic drops in temperatures making it snow even in some unfamiliar places. Maybe most cities will not endure such conditions but then again this is Africa.
FIFA officials made a visit early this month and Sepp Blatter who’s been advocating for the continent to hold its first World Cup gave them some reprieve for now. But even he’s not putting anything to chance and is rumoured to have put at least 3 other countries (almost none from Africa) on stand-by. For now though, he is working with the Azanians and even announced 2 free tickets each for all construction workers working at the stadium sites as a morale boosting effort to avoid perennial boycotts which have staggered progress in stadium construction.
But even with all these issues bubbling under, South Africa’s been known for its resilience and also has some of the best infrastructure in Africa. It also has some diversity in cultures which may work in its favour in welcoming different people from different parts of the world.
As we enjoy the ‘spirit of Africa’ advert on SuperSport as we watch European leagues let’s also work with the possibility of Africa missing out on the one chance which may help elevate its sports hosting stature.

Tribute to a worthy broadcasting lady

While in my hiatus, a great loss happened to our local broadcasting world with the death of one Anne Wambui Ofula. Having known her as would every Kenyan from her times as continuity announcer at VOK-Voice of Kenya (now Kenya Broadcasting Services) and later as news-caster to the more senior roles of programme editor and head of outside broadcasts once in awhile, I got to meet her in different forums especially sporting functions. I also consulted for some business interests and was particularly impressed in her zeal to get things done and the humble approach she had to life.
Of importance was that among her last public functions to act as Co-MC. She always complimented Sammy Lui –he of Presidential Press Service and on-and-off reporting for KBC. This was the KCC National Athletics Meet at Nyayo National Stadium in July 2008. Her final engagement was another sporting function though this time receiving the garlanded Kenyan athletes from Beijing (and I’m told that same day her daughter from overseas was also coming home). Alas as she closed her day some lunatic of a driver was driving in speeds not allowed on public roads and she had an accident which cost the life of one of Kenyan’s more consistent female broadcasters who put away personal ambition to help KBC remain in the spotlight despite the advent of all the new TV channels.
You’ll be missed by one and all ………lay in eternal peace.

Brief Hiatus

Thanks to the competitive nature of our world nowadays, yours truly had to take leave for the past few days to among others things sit for exams. What I observed is the natural fear of human beings or is it Kenyans of anything with the term ‘exams’ in it. There were some brave ones who even requested a take-away and I almost fell off my seat from how funny that sounded. I’ll not celebrate early though.
I’d also the chance to attend Marketers’ Night where one Mr. Idy Enang Commercial Director-Cadbury Nigeria Plc who talked about Personal Branding and even noted accomplished sports personalities who have managed to live beyond their active careers and still make money or a living out of their ‘self’- who would have known that George Foreman has barbecue jikos named after him? It was an interesting talk though Mr. Kalombo may want to add a few more names who will give more than a sales pitch for their companies or products. I would also suggest a quick-fire quiz next time, with mobile telephony there’s bound to be Google and Wikipedia to the rescue… else would explain guys getting the distance between the Earth and the Moon to the nearest 10th of a mile? It’s a great event on the whole and worth any marketer’s time.
As it is, we’re back streaming!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Feeling Good -Kenyan Inc

Kenyan sporting scene seems to be enjoying some feel good factor at the moment. After a sterling performance at the Olympics, our Kenyan boys picked up from there and ran with the ball, well almost literally!
Saturday’s game had a carnival mood to it and Kenyans had all sorts of avenues to get the games updates. From the screens (SuperSport & KTN) to the radio stations (FM stations mainly) and web-based sites. This meant for an 1 ½ most streets were clear of human traffic.
As we speak our Kenyan paralympians are in Beijing doing their thing. I can almost expect more than 2 gold medals and the carnival mood continues….
But the underneath this is a façade of uncertainty and mismanagement. There’s also lack of creativity and development in some areas.
o How come it’s only athletics which got us medals from the Olympics? We came close in some events outside athletics but misses ain’t good as a bronze or silver medal.

o In 2 weeks time, the Athletics Kenya fraternity gets a new breath of life …well I hope so, what does this portend for the discipline? Over the weekend one official tried to enumerate the reasons for his re-election but in my opinion he didn’t address his office and chose to focus on success of the Association instead of his own.

o Coming to the world of soccer, is it me or do you wonder when Kenya signed apparel contract with Adidas? If so, when and how much is it valued at? Still on that, I saw different jerseys (one with KFF’s multi-colored logo while another with a bluish logo) on Saturday leaving me to wonder which the legitimate ones were. There was also no local company willing to sponsor the jersey’s frontal?

o Who can answer me on this? Does KFF run the national team and if so is it through the Harambee Stars management team? What role does the Kenya Premier League play? Can’t the two bodies merge and work together?

o In Saturday’s game, I saw at least 5 different local firms which I presume sponsored the game in one way or the other- from Kenya Data Network (KDN-Butterfly) which had its logo all over our screens – Standard Group which screened the match live through its TV station KTN, Radio Africa (Kiss FM), KPMG which sponsored the time updates, to EABL which still manages to throw in a brand or two in such events. What is each firm’s contribution and role in bringing the game(s)?
As we continue in this mood, I also must keep reality in check just to know where our heads are headed to and not use our hearts to lead our sports into greater glory.

Feel Good Inc-Gorillaz

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Kenyan Golden Queen

She's summed up her season with US$ 1 million jackpot for the Grand Prix Golden League events finishing at the Belgian meet last night. She's been a phenomenon since coming onto the scene at the Kenya trials early this year for the All-Africa Games beating her erstwhile colleague Janeth Jepkosgei.
The other Jackpot contender Blanka Vlasic let it go after the rains made the surface in Brussels slippery thus leaving the whole loot to the Kenyan.
At only 18 years of age, Pamela has the world at her feet. Coming from the Olympics where she outsprinted her competition, she can only hope to be around long enough to win major championships. She can also challenge bone of the oldest world records on the Guinness Books-the 800m currently at 1:53.28 held by Jarmila Kratochvílová -Czechoslovakia set in 26 July 1983 in Munich, Germany.
She's truly gold !
Golden League Facts:
- In its 10th year, this series of events covers 6 Grand Prix meetings in Europe ( Oslo, Rome, Paris(though Monaco was dropped in 2003), Zürich, Brussels and Berlin).
- Jelimo is the first Kenyan to win all or part of the jackpot. (In 1999, Kenyan-born Wilson Kipketer now a Danish citizen won 1/2 of the prize with middle distance specialist Romanian Gabriela Szabo)
- The eligible events include; Men's 100m, 400m, 1500m, 400m Hurdles, Long Jump, Javelin Throw & Women 200m, 800m, 100m Hurdles, High Jump.
- This year it was branded ÅF Golden League after Swedish company ÅF
Additional info from here.
You can also read this article.

Friday, 5 September 2008

SportsFanLive arrives: Social Networking for sports fans

This is for those with an obsession into sports-like I would easily qualify.

Just in time for fantasy football, Dave Katz, a former Yahoo programming exec, is launching a new social network this week specifically designed for sports enthusiasts. Katz is taking on some major players in this space like his former employer and ESPN, but hopes that a blend of social features and news aggregation will give him an advantage.

read more | digg story

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Football –go gaga!

With the football season in Europe back as the summer break’s ended, Kenyan football is almost ending its season. Of importance for now, is the upcoming World Cup-cum-Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers with Kenya’s Harambee Stars facing the Namibian team. Back in May, Kenya seemed to have lost its direction only for the team to stage a turn-around and win 3 of its last matches (against Guinea and Zimbabwe).
After changing coaches and getting to rally local supporters in the home games, the Stars have regained a respectable position and are now seen as one of the most likely teams to proceed in the group.
While this has helped raise the profile of the game locally, much needs to be done on the technical and relevant support for the local teams to be able to provide fodder for the national team. After watching a few local games, I’m sure this can be done and with the right team, Kenya can be in the World Cup in 2010.
The local fans have streamed with enthusiasm to the national teams games and are slowly getting back to the locally played league games. TV stations and local radio stations are fighting over who should screen the fixtures (media wars between 2 local stations, KTN and KBC over who should have exclusive rights to screen it-though I’m sure KTN would hope to borrow from DSTv which will screen the game as part of their support to the local game).
This should be exciting if the Stars win since every corporate firm would want to be associated with the team –KDN has already committed KShs. 3 million- out of which 1 million goes to team if they win Saturday’s game.
Coming hot on the heels of Kenya’s success in the Olympics, the local boys will hope to keep our hopes high and also enjoy the trappings of success. Surely who wouldn’t want to see their team in the World Cup? Kenya is currently ranked at position 86, can't wait boys for you to break the 80s barrier before end year.I would go gaga!

The local football scene still needs a lot of improvement to move from current almost mediocre standards to better standards. Thus said, the flurry of sackings and team realignments are worrying. The KFF and KPL whichever runs the league and national team are also looking desperate as each tries to outdo each other. We better take note of this because if the team qualifies then all hell breaks loose in our rather uncouth football management.
And for all those corporate firms wishing to put their money into football, better know what and who you're dealing with.
Otherwise, we'll keep enjoying more of the European football from the comfort of our seats.

Corporate hypocrisy

After Kenya’s success in the Olympic Games, almost all Kenyan corporate firms are falling over themselves looking for this or that reason to identify with the team. I heard an advert about some insect killer associating with Kenyan runners and how its killing action will have the same effect on household pests…how crazy! All good if the KShs reach our local stars and, even more pleasing if the money’s invested in the development of the different sports. But is it happening? NO!
Kenyan captain and 800m gold medalist noted that while the athletes are rewarded for their performance, it is also important to also consider rewarding the technical personnel. It would also be prudent if the Government to invest heavily in sport he noted.
Earlier I said to NO to the question because as you would see, some athletes complained about a locally-based multinational using the athletes’ images without remunerating them with any form of consideration- though they handed out gifts to the medalists as they joined the gravy train of Kenyan companies.
While the rewards serve to motivate the athletes and encouraging young upcoming ones, they end up losing meaning in the long-term if there is no continuity and longevity in the investment in sport. This is what has helped most countries and sports associations develop top events and be able to deliver such spectacles as the Olympics and the World Cup. Until that happens in Kenya, I will term this as sheer opportunistic!