Wednesday, 24 February 2010

MacDonald Mariga - Making the Champions' League cum English Debut ?

After creating such a buzz during the transfer window in January, our very own McDonald Mariga's about to take to the pitch, this time on a high profile game which might just launch his career into greatness.
Playing for one of the continent's revered sides and playing against one of England's best hopes for a Champions League win, Mariga will come up against tried and tested pedigree at a continental level.
It's good that for a long time now most Kenyans have rooted for either an English or Spanish side but Italians, we've never really fancied. Well feast your eyes on this one ! Tonight at 2245hrs on your favourite sports channel (if you have cable) or if they screen it on the normal network(s). Here's the squad named by Jose Mourinho.

Football Broadcasts - Another Radio Station joins the Circus

Those of you who make time with your favourite radio presenters and stations will notice that there has been an increased occurrence of stations broadcasting live football games.
Commendable it would be BUT I can't emphasise the fact that most of these focus mostly on the English Premier League and Champions League on weekdays. A great departure was the Africa Cup of Nations and of course we have the World Cup coming up in June which the national broadcaster and Radio Africa Group are hoping to reap handsomely.
On Saturday, yet another local radio station , Milele FM (specialising in playing rhumba music) broadcast the English Premiership games in partnership with BBC ( Idhaa ya Kiswahili) - great for your average football fan but disastrously to the growth of local game.
With the interest in the local game rising, we are bound to have fans starting to tune into the stations to find their favourite presenters as they make-believe and blow themselves hoarse as they bring the games.
Though it seems like a conspiracy by the media companies especially TV,I think they can serve our state of the game better by reducing these channels. For their business model it will work in the short term but for the local and continental game, no way.
While we all remember during the Africa Cup of Nations especially the final games, we know how Egypt v/s Ghana's game was beamed albeit to a reduced audience across it as most people preferred watching the EPL's Arsenal v/s Man U !!!
The dilemma first for the Kenyan football authorities is to sort out the first few problems of an unattractive game which needs to be worked on to impress upon fans to make their way into the stadiums. This will in turn become an attraction for the fans to come watch these fixtures. The incentives are coming through with sponsorship packages as corporate companies make their way into the game, KDN, Sofapaka and others thank you !
Ultimately, the local radio stations will have no option to give the local game preference over the other leagues. No illusions about this, we need to build our OWN!

Monday, 22 February 2010

Serena Williams expected in Kenya next week

Kenya's slowly becoming a hotspot to major sports stars. This week we receive Serena Williams for her second visit into the country courtesy of the HP organisation and Build African Schools (BAS) Foundation. We surely hope this is the beginning of a host of stars, given our strategic spot across the continent.
Last week we had former Newcastle start Alan Shearer make a stop in the country. Now Serena, who's next? Tiger Woods? Cristiano Ronaldo or ?

Thanks to Tennis Info Blog for the information.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Football In Eastern Africa - 'The Invisible Region ' & Nicholas Musonye's growing stature

Courtesy of's Sven Frandsen, read through why the Eastern part of Africa will not be enjoying much boons from the World Cup and the frills of major tournaments. Once again Nicholas Musonye comes out blazing with the a true picture of the situation and could it be that this guy should be heading the Kenyan football fratenity. He saved AFC Leopards from CAF's axe and his efforts to bring CECAFA to the forefront of continental football. He also made a strong case for football in war-torn Somalia at the CAF meeting which is said to have impressed FIFA gurus. Hmmm an interesting year indeed for the CECAFA man.
You can also read this about the dearth of players from Eastern part of Africa,which may have helped Sven develop his article for Soccernet.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Kenyan Football :- Are we ready for take-off?

Over the weekend, we made time to visit the curtain-raiser for the upcoming season in the Kenyan football calendar & to a large extent, we were not disappointed. The game between Sofapaka & AFC Leopards had not had much hype but a fair crowd should up to cheer their favourite teams;
- Fanbase - given last season's hype by SuperSport and Kenya Premier League officials, the fans for both teams should up for what looks like a most interesting season. Though AFC enjoyed a larger crowd, as the season progresses we shall see a growth in Sofapaka's fan-base especially if they conquer their continental assignment.
- Ticketing - the prices for the tickets were reasonable enough and any fan worth their salt should not even go there complaining about this. The russian side was at 50 /= and the sheltered area 100/= with the main dais 200/=.

- Stadium management - the grounds looked well-maintained but might need more sprucing up especially as the season warms up proper.
- Refreshments & snacks - the fancy-looking hawkers selling the snacks got a boost from Coca-Cola which made their day by giving them easy vests to carry the bottles. This is a welcome move since the Sun was beating down on us for the better part of the afternoon.They were also affordable unlike other events where catering costs an arm and a leg.

Areas to Work On;
- Ticketing - Though the prices are fair, can the ticketing guys (one firm called Sports Ticketmasters) try and organise for advance tickets? For logistical purposes as well as security measures during big matches, they might need to work on this urgently.
- Security - I noticed less than 10 police officers around the grounds even when you consider that there is a police station right there at the stadium grounds. Given the penchant of fans getting carried away and questioning rather loudly the officials/referees word, a contingent of not less than 20 police and maybe security guards and volunteers is a future consideration. At one point, one of the linesmen had a bottle of soda hurled at him, not good in bigger (and most likely tense) games.
There was also a section of fans who were smoking some not-so-legal stuff and would most likely not be suitable in case of crowd trouble.
- MC and entertainment before and at half-time- This was a bit wanting and did not have the uumph that the crowd would participate in. One of the reasons people come to watch the game live is get entertained not just by the game but also antics of the acts as they get ready to watch their favourite players. As for the MC, he was more concerned with the English Premiership game which was to be screened later that evening than telling us more about the two teams on the pitch.
- Technical expertise of the teams - Though they have been having at least 2 months off the pitch, there were some wanting moves by both teams. AFC seemed most affected especially their forward line. Maybe it's the fact that they are moulding a new team but they need to come up with a tighter game.
Sofapaka looked more comfortable on the ball and looked more dangerous on the counter. They will need to work on their backline though especially given the Egpytians penchant for quick counters as seen during the African Cup of Nations.

If what we saw on Sunday is anything to go by,and if the Kenyan football officials do not interfere, Kenyan football might just be ready for take-off!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

SuperCup : AFC Leopards v/s Sofapaka

The Kenyan football season's curtain raiser opens this weekend where last season's winners of the Kenya Premier League - Sofapaka and Football Kenya Limited (FKL) Cup - AFC Leopards will be playing for honours and prize money of around KShs. 500,000 for the winning team and the losing team, KShs. 250,000.
It shall be interesting seeing the new season start with much aplomb given the interest generated by the Africa Cup of Nations (though Kenya didn't make the cut) and the Mariga saga.
Both teams have also been building up for the new season with AFC having more controversies than successes. Sofapaka have managed to secure a couple of sponsors who will ensure they have the money to challenge for continental honours.
AFC have also made changes again to their technical bench as shown below;
Jean Marie Abeels has been elevated to the position of Technical Director,
Chris Makokha - Head Coach;
Roberto Bollen - First Assistant Head Coach;
Aggrey Imonje - Second Assistant Head Coach; and
Washington Muhanji as the Goalkeeper's Trainer.

Sunday 3p.m. at the Nyayo National Stadium and for those not in live with the smell of the raw nerves & sweat and the beautiful grass, catch it on SuperSport.

MacDonald Mariga's Miss - Lessons for Kenyan football

Thanks to the dithering football authorities and the usual last minute haste and Mariga missed out on what the local media had already hyped as the deal of the year. What is even more amusing is the fact that our very own PM tried gaining mileage too saying how he'd helped acquire a work permit after placing a call to the UK authorities. Laughable if you ask me...
Photo Courtesy of Inter Milan official website.

What do we learn from this ?

First we are celebrating a single player almost making it to the English Premiership League for the first time, well and good. But shouldn't we be sad that it has taken us almost 18 years to get what would have been the first player into the EPL ? Countries such as Congo (both Congo Kinshasa & Congo Brazzaville already have two players having played there even when their states are not the most stable economically). You can also check out the spread of international players currently playing in the EPL here.
Secondly if this is not a good enough wake-up call for the Kenyan football authorities then I don't know what is. Forget the fancy bid they made for the 2016 Africa Cup of Nations ( Big Joke !)Forget the Antoine Hey fiasco (Mr. PM he DID NOT IMPROVE Kenyan football). If there is a time that Kenyan young players will get inspired in playing the game it is now. If you put a little more effort and time in investing in the Kenya Premier League as SuperSport has so willingly been patient with you, then the yield will be a whole load of talent.
Third expounding on the 2nd point above, if you have good local talent it automatically means you develop a good local scene. Coming from the Africa Cup of Nations, the North Africans and some West African countries have shown us that they have what it takes to earn bragging rights, ask the Egyptians.
That's fair enough for now as we look forward to a new season 2010 !

Mariga's Boon:
It may seem lost that he didn't make it to England, but methinks he will improve dramatically working under the 'The Special One'. It may also be right given he has a chance playing in the Champions League fixtures starting soon.
Who knows in the summer his tag may improve dramatically and may find just the right suitors?

Monday, 1 February 2010

MotorSport - San Valencia Rally School breaks new ground

Awhile back when the rallying world seemed to have come down crumbling after the withdrawal of the Safari Rally by the WRC gurus, rallying enthusiasts all but gave up on this fledging sport. Not one to be faint-hearted both on the wheel and off it, it requires lots of nerves, guts and also the good-old mullah ($$$)to go with it.

That's why there was cause for celebration when retired (& soon to come out of retirement...)one Phineas Kimathi of San Valencia Group - which operates eatery and catering services around Nairobi - came up with other rallying veterans ( Abdul Sidi, Azar Anwar, Asad Khan and George Mwangi) to form the San Valencia Rally School.
The first of its kind in the country, it is hoped to develop local talent into rally drivers and impart a bit of the technical aspects of the sport to the younger and upcoming rally drivers.

Hoping to incorporate other worthy components such as WRC's Junior World Rally Championship, and other aspects such as may involve rallying, it is a fresh way of developing our drivers and inspiring future ones at that. We hope such initiatives will give impetus to the local organisers to up their game on rallying to get the Safari Rally back to the WRC circuit, that way your efforts will not be in vain. You can also learn more from such rallying schools as this one at Silvestone.

2010 Africa Cup of Nations - Are we ready for the World Cup?

With the tournament coming to a close last night with the Egyptians winning the trophy a third time in as many times crowning a sterling performance from much of the homegrown talent.
Having been threatened by the initial attacks on the Togolese team (which has since been banned from CAF tournaments, absurd if you ask me...), the tournament had a hot-cold feel to it which meant there were spectacular moments but also the usual drawl that such tournaments have. These are our take-outs worth noting;

1. Security - this has becoming of paramount importance since the 1972 Olympics when Israel lost some of its members to a fundamentalist group. This should have been avoided at the start if the Angolan authorities had not overlooked the fact of Cabinda being a potential trouble-spot. Future tournament organisers will also need to notify the countries available means of entry into their countries to avoid such travesties as endured by the Togolese team.

2. Sponsors - for once most the companies who sponsored the tournament made an effort to localise even their communication using largely African players and people too. This is a boon to the fledging industries in sports, advertising and marketing which couple together to make it possible to enjoy the tournaments.
A mention too for the SuperSport sportscasters for adding the African flair to their wardrobe. Though some people looked awkward in the flowing designs, it was refreshing to see the change from the more formal polo shirts to the truly African wear.

3. Timing - not seemingly supporting the European team managers, the tournament needs to have a longer period between one and the next tournament. Though CAF's Issa Hayatou , thinks otherwise, the level of competition would be heightened if there is a wider period and also allow for the players to give their best as compared to what they currently have to endure. Some of the main contenders had to contend with 4-6 players of the first team injured.
Again the pressures on the host country have all been there to see, like Burkina Faso in 1998 and Mali in 2002. Though FIFA has made the changes into an odd year,so as to see the possibility of not clashing with the European and World Cups, the work is cut out for the CAF officials.

4. Trophy Design - Now that Egypt has won the trophy 3 consecutive times, does the old tradition of keeping the trophy stand? If it does, it's about time CAF developed a more representative and iconic trophy. The current World Cup is a good starting point.

Stadium Management - It was clear that most of the stadia were being used for the first time and the toll on some of them made it hard to train and play at the same time. Taking us back to the 3rd point, the organisers ought to give the host country ample time to develop the stadia and also test them with local or international fixtures. That way no excuses of not training at the same grounds will be heard like what we had in the Angolan tournament.

Africa Cup of Nations cum World Cup qualifiers - judging from the performance of most countries that qualified for the World Cup, it shows the need to have it held every 3-4 years. Though 3 of the countries qualified for the semi-finals, the lacklustre performances in the group stages and the quarter & semi-finals depict a worrying picture. Unless the countries pick themselves up and play with serious passion and technical approach, I don't see anywhere more than 2 countries going into the second round of the World Cup.

7. Local vs international tacticians - Once again, we argue the case for local coaches taking the national teams. Look at Egypt, Algeria and Nigeria, though the latter two didn't win anything substantial, the use of local coaches showed why we need to do away with the notion that expatriates will make our game. What's even more interesting is the fact that much of the Egyptian team had players from their local league. I wonder how they lost the WC qualifiers again...
(Don't you just love it?)
I'm sure the South African LOC for the World Cup has been camping at the Angola cities taking notes. I don't foresee the two tournaments ever coming into such close proximity as it has this year. Thus South Africans, you've the work cut out for you !

MacDonald Mariga 's Promised Deal ? No Celebrating Yet

Over the weekend, the local Press and sports enthusiasts were treated to some interesting news about one of Kenya's sterling footballers about to make his forays into the richest Premier league in Europe -EPL.
While perusing I noticed a rather disappointing tone to most of the stories which highlighted more of what he is supposedly going to earn rather than tell us more about his exploits on the pitch and impact in his current team Parma in Italy.
Something else we must realise is that the deal is not yet sealed. As Mark Kaigwa notes in his blog- Mariga's likely miss , we must remember that Manchester City is currently the richest club and though we would love to have him join them (the first Kenyan player if he does to play in the English Premier League), there is the small matter of whether he will earn top notch playing games or languish on the bench ala Angola's Manucho @ Manchester United.
As a player though, he has managed to stay in good playing condition given the very physical nature of the Italian game - catenaccio. If he makes it to the English game, the pace, weather and exhausting schedule is something to think about. He may also need to consult some serious tax guys to sort out his pay and any endorsements (if they come his way) since England is known to have one of the tightest tax regimes in sports.
As the January transfer window comes to an end in the next few hours, we hope history shall be made but with much thought and hindsight before embarking on the English rendezvous.

Kenyan football officials you watching?

Did you know that...
- Mariga was part of the Kamukunji High School - that included Dennis Oliech -Auxerre (France) who won two national titles in 2002 & 2003.
- His deal to Parma was engineered by former Swede international Martin Dahlin - first black player for the Swedish team which went on to place 3rd in the 1994 World Cup in the US.
- There are reports of interests too from Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan
(Sources: Wikipedia &