2011 sees the start of what ought to be a busy 2 years for most sporting associations in the country. Yes we have the continental championships in the form of All-Africa Games this year being held in Maputo (official site here) starting us off. The next major sporting event is the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London - a major one since Britain are Kenya's former colonial masters...
Back to the All-Africa Games, over the years, these Games have enjoyed or lost their glare depending on the country hosting them and again because the prestige attached to the Pan-Africa games have been eroded by more commercially lucrative sporting events for the different sporting disciplines.
Again the secretariat that run the AAG have not been able to get the Games to be a major attraction to the continent's different states. As is often the case with most African states saying or promising one thing and actually doing another, the same has been the case with AAG. Remember that fiasco that almost became of the 4th All-Africa Games with Kenya hosting the continent 9 full years after 2 postponements?
The current Games were handed to Mozambique after initial hosts Zambia were unable to host due to lack of funds. Even current hosts Mozambique have their own challenges with them not having a hockey pitch worth hosting international games.
So what chance does Kenya have of topping the tables at the AAG?
The best performance the country has enjoyed was back in 1987 thanks of course to hosting them. That year and the build-up to the Games produced some of the best years for Kenyan sport with the national football team being a regional powerhouse & almost beating Egypt in a controversial final game ( we must remember that is the same year that Gor Mahia achieved continental supremacy in the club Africa Cup Winners Cup - Nelson Mandela Cup). The athletics team was able to hone skills that aided them in the 1988 Summer Olympic Games where we harvested 4 gold medals.
The boxing team 'The Hit Squad' was in no nonsense moods and collected 10 out of a possible 12 gold medals and went on to produce Africa's first gold medal at the Korea Olympics thanks to the late,Robert Wangila Napunyi.
Other success stories were the hockey team was represented Africa albeit with no win at the 1988 Olympics; a medal in tae-kwo-ndo & also the emergence of Kenya's women's volleyball from their male counterparts.
24 years later, the dynamics have changed drastically. We have the usual shenanigans of lack of funds, more corrupt sports officials and vested interests among a myriad of challenges. The Sports Ministry has announced that Kenya will be represented in 19 disciplines out of the possible 23, laudable so far. But that's almost where the good news ends.
Of all the sporting teams, the athletics one is the only one which conducted competitive and transparent team selection. Most of the other associations are plagued by disagreements over team selection, availability of funds and officials. Take a case of the boxing team, officials are busy suspending each other, while the game has lost its place in the national sporting scene. Where the team was enjoying participation to continental and international championships such the King's Cup in Bangkok, there is no team worth talking about. The last time we sent a team to the Commonwealth Games it was some embarrassment with most of the boxers not able to keep up with modern scoring techniques and really no punching worth their gloves.
Look at the hockey,basketball, tae-kwon-ndo teams to name but a few. Pathetic to say the least...
The Assistant Minister of Sports announced that there would be no joy-riders on the teams going down south.
- Good pronouncement but aren't you the people charged with the responsibility of securing the nation's interest for the good of our sportsmen and women?
- Except for Athletics Kenya, Kenya Rugby Union, how are the other sporting bodies even still in existence? If not trying to give a semblance of a league, most are walking ghosts with officials out to enjoy office trappings for their own selfish gains and allowances leaving bankrupt bodies.
- What sense is there in carrying a bloated team in the name of representation & national pride instead of a few well-selected and competitive teams which are almost certain of securing victory in their disciplines?
- Mr. Minister Sir, even in our beloved athletics we have seen the national team selection take place only for our brothers and sisters to go falter at the continental stage after mismanagement by their agents and lack of proper training schedules. What plans do you have in place to ensure this doesn't happen?
- You have done great to change the lot for sporting people and teams going for national representation. Great that you are committing KShs.200 million of the 300 meant for preparing the contingent to Mozambique. But do you usually insist on comprehensive reports from these assignments and do you ever act on them anyway?
- All-Africa Games should be the breeding ground for our teams to shine on the bigger international stage at next year's Olympic Games. What is the Government doing to improve on previous performances and restore Kenya's pride on that stage?
- We had our swimmers do a great job in Algiers in 2007, Beijing 2008 and last year in New Delhi. Do they stand a chance of winning more medals and making us even more proud in London next year?
It's your call!
Check our earlier post on 2007 All-Africa Games as well as SportsNewsArena's article on 2011 AAG.