Monday, 13 June 2011

And1 Kenya Tour - Did it Live Up to the Hype?

Saturday 11th June and some of us sporting buffs in the country had one too many sporting events to attend but one that stood out for us was the and1 SpriteBall Kenya Tour which was ostensibly sponsored by Coca-Cola's Sprite brand. Read on for a quick recount of events happening on the day;
a) Ticketing and Gate Management - an online process through was activated a few days to the event to enable advance booking to the event. It was a smart move but that's where it ends. On arrival at the venue, no communication was made on how one was to confirm having made this advance booking. Being tossed around and having a bit of a miff with security personnel who were equally irritating made for poor gate management. No clear cut distinction too was made on the VIP booking (costing KShs.500) or regular ones (at KShs.200).

b) Security - Given that Kenya Basketball Federation Premier League games were still on, though scheduled for early starts; the organisers had to wait till 4.30p.m. to secure the venue ( managed by Sports Stadia Management Board AND NOT KBF as most people think...). There was a bomb sweep ( yeah we had Americans in the building) and this caused more inconveniences to sporting fans who had streamed in as early as 12 noon. Luckily the crowd was well-mannered and no scenes of commotion was seen thus far. There were 2 courts, the handball court (outdoor) which had screens and a basketball hoop which later served as the scene for the BlakeGriffin - Dunk-over-a-Car (The Chevrolet was donated by GM).
Here's the Dunk thanks to *mastabonk;

The other court was the Nyayo Gym proper (indoor) where the exhibition game between and1 players and Kenya-Select and much of the action was to take place.
However on allowing the crowd into the courts, there were serious security lapses. First the crowd was too big for the Nyayo Gym allowing people to sit right next to the playing court a few inches off. There were people hanging around the back of each hoop and this was also of concern given the players' getting their game on and the adrenalin kicking as the game went on. No serious injuries occurred (thankfully).
This easy access of the crowd though meant security personnel had problems trying to control the fans once the action started. Over-excited fans, groupies and some wannabe-photographers were all over the court each time a player from either and1 or Kenya select made a great play. At half-time it took more than 10 min to clear the court. By the end of the game when one of the Kenya-Select point guards outplayed an and1 guard, the crowd went berserk and even by the final buzzer fans were either throwing empty plastic soda bottles or running into the court like headless chicken.

c) Venue- as earlier reported, the venue(s) for the games were the handball and basketball courts both of which are managed by the SSMB. With the clouds hanging heavily before the start of the games, most of the people in the crowd didn't take much chances and ended up in the Gym.
The lighting was good save for the fact that there were no effects thus making some boring ambience. 2 large screens had been positioned opposite each other; at the VIP side and directly opposite it. This was showing the action outside (at the handball court) and also running promotional ads for the DJ Unit and Sprite's too.
The ancient scoreboard that has been at the Gym since 1987 was our source of information as the game progressed but since KBF or SSMB have never found it urgent to bring it down and modernise the whole thing, most people were agonised trying to see the scores.( The timer on the board usually has a problem differentiating between 3 & 8 min and this had the game's MC in problems each time the clock was running out).
More cause for embarrassment was to come once the skies opened up and the rains pounded Nairobi, the roof at Nyayo Gym started leaking and the game had to be stopped as the MC saved the situation placing his treasured white towel on the court. 

d) Sponsors Overload - it was a great job for Coca-Cola through Sprite to agree to sponsor the event. In fact the original and1live Tour was not even supposed to head to East Africa but guess some strings were pulled and we got our share of the action. With every ticket purchase came 2 free half-litre sodas or 2 Dasani water 300 ml bottles, fair enough! But these bottles turned out to be anathema once the crowd got excited. Enough litter made its way onto the court causing much eyesore to the game.
There were banners too pronouncing the sponsor's cause , all good but methinks its time too that Kenyan companies started investing in digital platforms for the ads. More screens and the lighting in the court would have longer lasting impression than the now usual and ugly banners which are overdone.
We're also wondering if this association with the Kenyan basketball game will continue or shall it be a once-hot-now-cold relationship with KBF? True there is lots of ground to be covered by the authorities but you can cut them some slack for now...

e) And1 v/s Kenya Select :- once the exhibition game started, the and1 team seemed to be taking off with the game only for the Kenyan players to start settling in and making impressive plays and almost answering their critics with 3-pointers and alley-ups just like the best of them. The only problem is that much of the game now turned to more of showmanship and no better structured moves. Not that much of the crowd cared anyway, some of us love a more competitive game even if its streetball.
Without a doubt, Kenyans can make the cut for some of the best teams but we do not have the structures to nurture this talent and channel it to the more lucrative leagues in Europe and America. One of the and1 players was originally from Uganda and we also know of Hasheem Thabeet playing in the NBA, how come Kenya can't afford a player even in the college basketball teams? Over to you KBF!

Well, when all is said and done, it was a nice break from the lacklustre games that occasion the KBF Premier League. KBF should take up this chance and spice up things for fans to come back week-on-week. Some fan was heard saying that if KBF officials cannot handle the game then they should leave it to such organisers and corporate firms to make it happen. It is true that KBF has not made any commercial sense to most corporate firms, well this can be a start.
(Sports) event organisers also take note, NEVER ask a crowd to show up at a certain time only for your arrangements NOT to be up and running. Luck was on your side that this was a manageable crowd and there were no reported scenes of violence or otherwise. Other sporting disciplines will not be so patient. Also if you have to host a foreign team, all those security checks can be done well in advance and you shall save us all the hussle.

{Thanks for Twitpics to @kenyanpoet & @itsbuddhablaze, we shall be posting the images up soon}

NBA Playoffs ended early this morning or late evening depending on which time-zone you live in. Dallas Mavericks ended up scorching Miami Heat 4-2 in a best of 7 series and denying the fancied Big 3 of Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh their first ever championship rings. However this accorded Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Peta Stojakovic their first rings each of these long-time playing stars.

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