Friday, 27 February 2009

Football: House of Cards

From the recent resignation (more like forced stepping down) of the KFF Chair Mr. Sam Nyamweya, I’m getting more confused with our game. It’s not the coaches ( 2 who have already lost their jobs, 3 games into the Kenya Premier League proper; or even the national team coach who we recruit from some nondescript African team with such slapdash performance) to our managing boards ( which runs what ?)
The local football scene ought to give you a hint of what our game is going through. Both clubs representing the country in the continental challenges are out ! Now we wait to roasted by Africa’s best in the form of Tunisia and Nigeria?

I keep ruing the reason we got through into the 2nd round of the World Cup qualifiers/Africa Cup of Nations (no offense Francis Kimanzi ! ) but if we hadn’t gotten that far, at least we could have gotten reason to disband the Federation last year ,perhaps even be banned by FIFA(which is really not helping our cause by forming ad-hoc organizations by the name of Football Kenya Limited-to run the local game). That way all the vultures would have no prey to hover around and we could get the game in order once and for all. As I keep saying, wishful thinking!

Hockey: KHU or KUSA?

Last week I carried the article on the KUSA developments and as if on cue, 2 colleges in the Kenya Hockey Union League quit to join the Kenya Universities Sports Association hockey league. I hear there are some burning issues which the newly-elected officials of the KHU had not answered, plus given last year’s fall-out of the officials with major universities over the handling of the Kenya youth team at the continental championships (Kenya players boycotted over unpaid allowances and the team players were subsequently banned on returning from the event from playing with their respective clubs)
Kenyan sports officials seem like they all read from the same scripts and never infuse any professionalism in their respective offices. From hockey to football to athletics we seem to suffer from some fever of sorts.
How I wonder will they make up for the numbers if more university teams (USIU for example) leave? How will they cover for lost fees in entry fees from the teams? House built on sand methinks

Kenyan Rugby: Same team different roles

As comprehensively covered by my apt-blogger, the expected seismic changes in rugby may not be forthcoming. Without a doubt, Richard O & Co. have enjoyed some good times with the 7s scene really putting them above board on many counts. This is witnessed not just by the success on the grounds and 7s circuit but also on the amount of corporate support they enjoy (Telkom’s KShs.4 million sponsorship of Kenya rugby 7s team to Rugby World Cup)
The qualms come through with less significance of the 15-a-side game where Kenya lags behind our neighbours Uganda. A good initiative is the Bamburi tournament which pits some of the best in Kenyan rugby in select teams. Why can’t we build upon such and make the league more competitive?
The other concern is the lack of countrywide spread of the rugby game. This is seen in the major contributors being Nairobi and its environs and to a smaller extent, Western region. Though we have different tournaments played across the country in the national Sevens circuit, the recruitment and club developments have not been concurrent.
Well, as Mwangi Muthee outlined, Mr. Omwela you have your cloth cut out for now. Ride the wave while you can, we are watching!
Rugby World Cup:
I’ll be rooting for the local boys and expect an upset at the Games but you better watch those top seeds, I’m sure they will take their earlier beatings in the IRB Sevens easy. Come out with your guns, boots and hands blazing! You have our hearts , kazi kwenu ! Follow the RWC here

Friday, 20 February 2009

KUSA University Leagues- Can this be the future of Kenyan sports?

Over the last few years, our analysts for this blog have been taking a
keen interest on university sports development in the country. There have been some interesting advances made at various levels we can reveal.
Mitch Ocholla-Player/Coach Strathmore University Rugby team

Going by the soon-to-be revived Kenya Universities Sports Association –KUSA (see link here), we can say sports development is about to witness a revolution. Though established years ago, KUSA has been dormant as most institutions especially the public ones engage in sports more out of recreation than anything else. With fairly good infrastructure, most of these institutions became ‘more academic than the academia’ and great opportunities were lost.
As far back as 1987, when Kenya hosted the All-Africa Games, huge potential was there from these institutions and the inspiration from watching these Games led to quite a number of sport s enthusiasts in some of these institutions taking up the challenge and launching into sports. University of Nairobi’s Mean Machine-rugby and Terrorists-basketball as well as Kenyatta University’s Black Blad-rugby and Pirates-basketball were some of the budding teams able to compete at higher levels of regional and national leagues respectively.
The entry of private institutions saw a small renaissance of sorts with institutions like United States International University (USIU) and Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) ruffling feathers with the former featuring in both hockey and basketball while the latter even managed to win the Division 2 League in 1999-2000 only for the authorities to back out at the last minute and boycott the Kenya Basketball Federation’s Premier League.
The 2000s has seen more private and public universities in the country and with this the number of competitive teams in the various disciplines can easily make a competitive league. Among them includes; rugby 7s and 15-a-side, hockey, basketball, football to name but the main ones.
The existing infrastructure can be enhanced and others developed, like the current development of a sports complex at Strathmore University. This can ensure good grounds for developing and nurturing our youth. The cohesion and time spent by students is good enough to develop competitive teams. Most institutions would also be well-suited to manage the games since they have fully fledged sports departments and sports offices. Why not even offer degree courses in sports – management, business and the world around sports? At least that way, we can eliminate some of the mediocre fellows running most sports associations and federations in Kenya.
We can pick notes from collegiate leagues in developed economies like the US where college basketball almost rivals the NBA and has proved to be a favourable hunting ground for NBA scouts. The same can be said with their American football. In the UK, universities and colleges have competitive rugby league teams and rowing teams which have developed rivalries which are legendary at many quarters.
Coming from the East Africa Universities Games at Kampala, this year will see a new chapter in University Games and Leagues. This can be the call for Kenya to start developing a stable and lucrative sports forum not just for now but future generations. It’s a thought ….

Athletics: Cross-country preparations

The Kenyan trials are in place and the select team for this year’s cross-country challenge will assemble coming Monday at their usual rendezvous in Kigari College-Embu. Athletics Kenya has on its calendar the main cross-country event for qualifying our athletes tomorrow at Ngong Racecourse.
A break from the recent past where the media was allowed access to the athletes was necessitated after Athletics Kenya felt they have been disclosing a tad bit too much to the rest of the world thereby letting our competition know their tactics. A plus from our pundit!
This year will also see the team congregate for at least one month before the championships. This will give them ample time to be able to work on their strategies and also mould unity within their ranks. Another plus!
Usual rendezvous –Kigari? That puzzles our pundit….why would we train relatively high altitude and red soil regions while the competition will be held on man-made tracks in some forlorn though fast-developing desert region? Will the lads be able to work with the heat and the windy conditions? Amman-Jordan will serve these up. A minus if you ask me
This year a number of young athletes will be making their final run as they look to graduate to the more competitive grounds at the race-tracks at the Grand Prix and other athletic meets. This should be one year where they can finally wrestle the individual title from the all-too-familiar Bekele. Thus far he has made enough history and we can’t let him retire without a loss on the trail. Any takers here? Asbel Kiprop and Cherono can you hear me?
Let’s crown the next John Ngugi and Paul Tergat!

Rugby Sevens….are we there yet ?

The last month or so has seen Kenyans follow with keen interest our boys rock the IRB Sevens rounds in New Zealand and USA. Along our wake has been massive wins over more established sides which got everyone’s attention, with the local media taking it a notch higher by reporting only what served to whip up our deflated spirits (its been an eventful month for most of us...we thought last year was bad…huh !)
True we ought to be happy for our team’s success but again my skeptic self checks in…are we there yet?
Early this week, I caught the Kenya Rugby Football Union KRFU,chairman Richard Omwela being hosted by the only sports FM station in Kenya- Radio Jambo –and was requesting for support for the forthcoming youth rugby tournament which Kenya will be hosting in May. Laughable to say the least, how you can be convinced a few lawyer friends will land enough funds for such an undertaking is funny. The usual song of let’s get the Government’s support will be the next chorus.
We’re also playing in the World Cup Rugby Sevens tourney in Dubai in March and I can tell you it won’t be easy beating the teams as we had done in the earlier series. I’ll not go to the nitty-gritty here but you can find more comprehensive info here.

Kenya Football Fantasies- Harambee Stars get new coach

Bravo! Hurray! A new national coach has been appointed! Kenya can now smile as we look forward to a successful campaign to 2010…
I’ll be usual skeptic and reserve my celebrations for after 2010. If this Government and football management bodies are anything to go by, we have no business going to any major campaigns between now and 2010. That’s from what I see from my penchant position.
How can we place our hopes on one individual/institution while there are serious problems from the underlings? What shame that we seek technical assistance which we can’t even afford and expect to move up the ladders in continental and indeed world football? Our continental challenge through our fledging clubs should inform this decision and see that we have a much urgent job of developing the game at lower rungs if we hope to see more action at higher levels.
Last year was a perfect starting point but with the shenanigans of Football Kenya –with FIFA’s backing thought we can take one step back and muddy the waters again. Now even the Government is once again held ransom by these spoilsports and we think our game will ever move forward. The man they hire doesn't even have what it takes to be a winning coach *<$$$>*?
I’ll need more convincing that some PR job from the Government and FKL body to convince me to go watch any games featuring our local boys. The month of March which also happens to be my birthday month is where we start off and good luck Mr. Hey! You need all the works of a miracle !

Saturday, 14 February 2009

NBA All-Star Weekend

Basketball fans brace yourself for a weekend of action ! NBA All-Star weekend is on ! This year the NBA will be parading its best stars at the Phoenix -US Airways Center.
Of course you and I know what our most favourite highlight of the night is, The Dunk Competition ! Last year's winner Dwight Howard-Orlando Magic will be taking on Rudy Fernandez-Portland Trailblazers, J.R Smith-Denver Nuggets,Nate Robinson-New York Knicks. The 6 foot 11 inches- center will hope to replicate last year's action and this maybe decided even before it starts...but then there are always suprises on NBA All-Star Night.
Other events on the roster include;
- Haier Shooting Stars
- Play Station Skills Challenge
- Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout
- Sprite Slam Dunk.
The starting line-ups for the East and the West are also listed here;
Kobe Bryant-L.A Lakers,
Amar'e Stoudemire- Phoenix Suns
Yao Ming-Houston Rockets
Tim Duncan-San Antonio Spurs
Chris Paul-New Orleans Hornets
Dwayne Wade-Miam Heat
Lebron James- Cleveland Cavaliers
Dwight Howard- Orlando Magic
Kevin Garnett- Boston Celtics
Allen Iverson-Detroit Pistons
Last year the East led by Lebron 'King' James won over the West.
You can check out Dwight Howard's dunks during All-Star weekend 2008


Here's some interesting article on the origins and success of the NBA brand thanks to its innovation

Animation : Supa Strikas

Image courtesy of Supa

For those who love animated series ( some of us are still suckers for these things), the Supa Strikas animated series will be screened on your local TVs courtesy of Nation TV ( NTV). This is one of the most favourite animations with the young ones and young at heart. Previously this series has been covered on Nation Newspapers (every Saturday) with a full comic, once every month.
It generates some interest among the teens and I'm always having to fight with my nieces to read the comic. I guess now the fights are over.
Do catch these series on NTV every Saturday and Sunday at 10.30 a.m. -at least some more meaningful content from the weird cartoons that have made it on our screens these days.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Kenya’s Beijing Olympic Report Out

The Beijing 2008 Olympic’s report is out 6 months after the Games were officially closed. Some interesting findings indeed and a feeling of self-aggrandizing for the (National Olympic Committee of Kenya)NOCK officials boasting the best performance in the country’s Olympic participation;
Among the main features are;
- recommended training before major Games be at least 3 months,
- reward system to include coaches and team managers
- best performance overall since Kenya’s entry into the Olympic family in 1956
- strategic plans for the different disciplines need to be made in advance to be able to ensure a better way of realising more medals at the Games

Curious discrepancies;
- Despite not mentioning it, there were 2 athletes dropped. One under the recommendation of Athletics Kenya and the second on allegations of drugs usage- silent treatment to a hot issue such as drug scandal maybe fair but not enough.
- Total budget was pegged at KSh. 82.3 million, though the Government is said to have provided KSh. 86 million and a total sum of KSh. 200 million for both Olympics & Paralympics- so where did the 3.7 million go to? This is also not inclusive of corporate sponsorship which may have roughly been over 50 million
- Reserve athletes as would be the case for such occasions were replaced with officials (technical as they say) - are these really necessary? I’m yet to see what new ideas they’ve injected into sports
My thoughts
1.It is illusionary to think that we succeeded when we win all 14 medals from one discipline. If the other disciplines would have to justify their participation, at least a few other medals would have come Kenya’s way.
Fault:- Poor technical support- we don’t have the expertise and are not investing in it to ensure our sports men excel-look at boxing which had 4 boxers almost all eliminated in the preliminaries
2. Why do we have corporate involved in sports management to infuse some professionalism in some of the associations ? If we wait for some of the disciplines to be led by the current officials, we’ll be dead before the 2012 Games.
3. We’ll need to hold sports officials for monies spent in international meets. I find most officials as hangers-on for the ride ( and holidaying) rather than engage in networking for their respective disciplines as well as gauge their competition. Why would we be having officials carry their family members financed by public coffers ? Accountability !
Fault: Government officials are the worst hit. I understand more than one official had their families along with them for the 2 ½ weeks in Beijing. We’d have sacrificed these for a few youth who excelled to encourage new talent for the next Games- my illusions !

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Branding: What next for brand ‘Phelps’?

Thanks to some ‘innocent pose’ some of the most lucrative endorsements have just been blown away. Michael Phelps-easily the most recognized Olympian now may curse his ‘bad devils’. Another wrong pose may now cost his brand which had really improved thanks to the sterling performance last year. It makes me wonder whether his publicist and PR people are doing their job.
Before last year’s Games, the only other incident was a drinking altercation and earlier bad Press conferences which improved after opening up the rather introverted youth. He reminds me of our local football star; Dennis ‘The Menace’ Oliech who had grown bigger than the locals knew him and was clashing with everyone from football officials to local Press as well as his fans. At least now, he’s been humbled though he still needs some professional publicist and PR guy to work on his public appearances.
As for Phelps, he may need to consult guys who worked with Kobe Bryant, the guy seemed to have been buried by the sex scandal that befell him but he came back and is now the NBA’s biggest star. His estimated worth due to endorsements was running into over US$100 million-the first swimmer to break that ceiling. M. Phelps can also hope that Chinese companies let this one slide but again, he better know he’s grown into a man now and he better act like one! 24 and more than 10 Olympic gold medals’ is not child’s play!

Naspers acquires English Premiership TV rights

( Thanks to your comments on the GTV article below, we can now report the following)

Following GTV’s closure, Naspers has acquired rights to the English Premier League games for an undisclosed fee. The company was among the companies that had bid for the rights together with GTV and DSTv last year but lost out narrowly with GTV getting 80% of the games while DSTv managed to get 20% (though they did screen recorded games).
This is some relief to the English game’s enthusiasts, who were beginning to rue their weekend afternoons thanks to these acquired tastes. I'm afraid though that DSTv will maintain monopolistic tendencies which may hurt growth and competition in pay TV.
Lesson learnt: We should look to improve our own before seeking other leagues-at least the loss would be more bearable.
See details here

Nyayo Stadium gets new name

Finally some good news comes through…after some great work by Sam Mwai and his team at Sports Stadia Management Board, one of Nairobi’s premier sports grounds will now operate under the name- Coca-Cola National Stadium.
The grounds which have a football pitch, basketball court/gymnasium, handball pitch, swimming pool and volleyball courts will need the estimated US$ 1.5 million (approx.KShs.117 million) which Coca-Cola has signed to acquire the rights over the next 3 years. The courts especially, badly need some refurbishment from the torn turfs to the poor lighting and scoreboards’ installation.
I pay great respects to Sam and the rest of team for seemingly making headways in the midst of troubled waters in sports management. They have managed to put up with some abysmal and incompetent sports officials likes of which manage football. I guess the attendance of important fora like the recent Soccerex exhibition in South Africa may be bearing fruit.
I also hope you keep the focus right through into the World Cup next year. Who knows you could be rewarded with some top international teams paying a visit to your stadia for preparations for the 2010 WC.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Wretched Weekend

This is one weekend that Kenyans would love to forget. With the disasters striking us at our weakest (though without sounding insensitive, this could be avoided) to bad shows by our Kenyan teams.
The loss by our cricket team is not something we thought about before hosting them. It is should be a case of serious concern since Kenya is playing for the World Cup qualifiers in March and with such outings (given last year’s dismal performances against South Africa’s and India’s A teams- sort of junior teams) we can only hope for divine intervention. Missed opportunities are what there are! Cricket Kenya-now louder in its silence than its activities, any leads on what to expect?
Football- OK that much I’m not surprised because while we extolled our national team, our local clubs are still in their doldrums when it comes to international exposure. This is a direct correlation to the management of football which I have documented here more times than any sport. Mathare United may have a fair chance of qualification.

Photo courtesy of The Standard

Gor Mahia’s last international engagement was 8 years ago and then we throw them Armée Patriotique Rwandaise (APR) –Rwanda-regulars in continental championships and current CECAFA Club champions, joke, BIG JOKE! Return leg- Kigali – 15th Feb and we expect to win by 6 clear goals …another miracle waiting to happen!
It's ironic that while our Kenyan boys are getting whipped, a Kenyan footballer is making things happen across the borders for Yanga.
As shown below, GTV closed shop and thereby going under with people’s money in subscription rates. Pub owners are the worst hit and a cursory stroll in town on Saturday and Sunday was evident that most enthusiasts find it more entertaining at these joints. For those with multiple subscriptions, it was lucky for them though some English games may have been recorded and shown later (DSTv/MultiChoice). As my friend Bankelele says, one of Kenya’s premier ISP’s can now pitch its solution (Zuku) and hope to fill in the void ( where I find GTV were part of the offering). But Kenyans being the skeptics they are might take time appreciating such solutions which don’t come easy…+ subscription rates maybe slightly higher given our appetite for foreign programmes.
Kenyan sport will surely need a kick going into the second month of the year as we prepare to go for the cross-country championships. At least our athletes have redeemed our pride in more times than one, but we better find this elsewhere…can all who say YES please stand-up ?