Thursday, 24 November 2011

Harambee Stars Official Kit - How do we Source these?

Yesterday the new Football Kenya Federation made their first major undertaking by unveiling the team's kit at a Nairobi hotel. Well it was an honourable thing but it brings to question how we source these kits and why the frequent changes in the same. We have lost count of the number of times the kit has been changed. It also makes it hard for the fans to keep track of these jerseys which we have been trying to don for the games both local and regional.
Harambee Stars new kit - Image courtesy of

Asking FKF officials,
- What are the procedures of securing the team jerseys?
- Does it attract competitive tendering or is it a private arrangement of the Federation?
- How do you qualify whether to give it to one brand and not the other? Adidas, Nike or the other?
- How much does the Federation get for donning on that particular brand?
- How come we have not had any official shirt sponsor for the last couple of years?

These questions come in the bane that shirt sponsorships across the world are some of the main revenue drivers for major teams both clubs and national teams. Some have used it to leverage on their brand and won handsomely ( like the recently signed deal of Barcelona first-ever commercial shirt sponsorship deal). It also helps a country's citizenry identify with the team.
We have CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup and now we have to buy some new shirts again ...pray it doesn't change once the World Cup 2014 qualifiers start...

Rugby in Kenya - All that Glitters is NOT GOLD...but please put the SHINE BACK!

Up until late last year, the rugby fraternity had been one of the best managed sports federation in Kenya in any of the country's sporting disciplines. It had ( and continues) attracting major corporate sponsorship and has slowly edged to the upper echelons of sporting excellence thanks in large to the role the Kenya 7s team has played in increasing our visibility both local and international.

But with such exposure comes the very REAL possibility of attracting charlatans and hawks busy to reap where they didn't sow. It is also characteristic of one of Kenya's tragedy both in public and private business where those in charge are busy thinking of what is there to take out instead of being part of revenue and income generation.
When the new office at Kenya Rugby Union came into place, many were happy to see some smooth transition between former office bearers and current holders, another rare feat in Kenya's sporting bodies. But some were not entirely impressed and those in the rugby circles claim that seeing a former official from the 'mtaa clubs' ( apparently rugby clubs also have their own classification thanks to inheriting our former colonial masters social structures) taking over top office was  not amusing. Again it was felt that rugby had 'crossed over' to those without the rich and deserved heritage of the game in Kenya. On that one, the jury's still out there...
But over time, heads started rolling along with the usual semantics played to the media about making the game more professional as well as appealing to the lesser known parts of the country. There was also the quick change made to the Kenyan rugby calendar which still didn't raise much noise. Among the events affected was its premiere event the Safari 7s.

Then came the clincher when the KRU officials and organisers decided to shift the Safari 7s from its traditional home at the RFUEA Grounds along Ngong Road to the Nyayo National Stadium. This caused all sorts of noises from rugby purists and more discomfort to the organisers. But the beauty of having corporate backing is the financial and logistical muscle they can muster. And the event passed on without incidence and those in attendance loved the showpiece.
But the worms had to crawl out of the woodwork once it became apparent that there were some deals made under the table and the revenues coming from the Safari 7s seriously dented even after a reported improved attendance of about 19,000 fans for the 3-day extravaganza. The dailies were all too happy to splash these headlines as seen here.
Last weekend though brought more dissent from the clubs ( among them Kenya Harlequins,Homeboyz, Impala RFC, KCB RFC, Nondiescripts RUFC and Nakuru RFC) which opposed the expanded Kenya Cup which was to start last weekend and which now seems to be in limbo after these clubs formed what they call the 'Rugby Enterprise Limited'. Our informal discussions with rugby insiders inform us the expanded Kenya Cup would mean more fixtures for all the clubs especially to the Western region in Nyanza and Kakamega. Not that they wouldn't do it but most clubs have not had much financial streams and sponsorship as much as the national side (both 7s and 15s) and it would put much strain to their meagre resources.
It is also seen by most as a some sort of impunity by top officials when clubs which had been relegated are suddenly back in the top fold, negating the role of the Kenya Cup knock-out fixtures and diminishing Eric Shirley's significance.

One of the quickest things that Kenya Rugby Union would have to do soonest is to 'gorge out the rot from the wound before it makes their limb weak'. By this we say call that Extra-ordinary General Meeting that has been pending and let clubs and officials alike iron out those issues before they become any worse. Not that it's going to be the easiest thing to do, but once such mechanisms are in place they help avoid major schisms in the overall running of the Union.
Secondly, its is time that the Kenya Rugby Union started working and appearing to be a unit with the top officials having regular briefs say every 2 weeks to let the public and discerning rugby fan of the game's going-ons. Bad PR is not good for any organisation worth its salt and the bad press the Union can be undone by such briefings. It is also sad that there seems to be leakage of information both true and false which makes it hard to know what works and what doesn't.
Third, it would be fair to appease clubs and seek to understand their challenges and not necessary bull-dozing rulings or proposals to expand any of the tournaments or leagues. The very existence of the game is because of the league structures in place and once these break down, the rest is just a shell which amounts to nothing. Work to see the feeder programmes for the clubs are in place and the lower teams learn from more established sides.
Fourth, if the Kenya Rugby Union officials were uncomfortable with those running the day-to-day happenings at the Union's office, they would have vetted them and those not found able asked to transition slowly to those  newly appointed. The minute you start 'wrecking' every known structure and establishing your own set, it shows hostility and even those not in the wrong will start viewing you with suspicion. The office's staff are quickly deteriorating into some disillusioned personnel and that's not the best way to start your 2011-12 year.
With the 7s team about to start the IRB 7s 2011-12 circuit, there was the expected changes made both to the technical and actual team. It is tough to set a team and it is even tougher to hold one which needs to meet the expectations of its citizenry and the continent. The team has a tough call seeking to restore its place as one of the best sides not in the traditional top 4 of the IRB teams. Mind you the happenings at the office and the bad Press will most definitely affect their morale and game going forward.

And finally to the sporting fraternity in Kenya, do we always have to shoot ourselves in the foot when we have good thing going? And also when are we ever going to see corrupt and inept sports officials charged and hauled to courts and made to pay for their misgivings? Maybe when we see a few necks hung we shall be more careful with the way we run sport...

Monday, 14 November 2011

IAAF World Athlete of the Year ...Vivian Cheruiyot surely deserved IT!

Over the weekend, the IAAF accorded the world's athletes a chance to wine and dine with some of the best in the sport and also honoured the finest athletes for the 2010-11 season at a gala dinner in the high-status island of Monaco. Kenya had a reason to watch this more carefully as two of its best athletes this season were among finalists in a selection for the top honours of World Athlete of the Year - Male & Female. But no it was not going to be ...A local daily had even splashed the story in a 2-page feature only to quickly apologise to its readers for the anomaly. Sally Pearson was named as the World Athlete of the Year- Female ( the Male one was always going to one of the Jamaicans after they wowed the world at the Athletics championships in Daegu taking the 100m, 200m & crowning it with the 4x100m relay in world record time).

So that we don't seem like we're just saying this to run our mouths & trumpet our nation's exploits, let's look at the facts and achievements here to show the difference between Vivian Cheruiyot and Sally Pearson;
Vivian Cheruiyot (Kenya):
Vivian Cheruiyot

Gold - Africa Athletics  championship (5000m)- Nairobi
Gold - Commonwealth Games( 5000m)-  New Delhi, India
Gold - Continental Cup ( 5000m) - Split, Croatia
Silver - World Indoor  championships ( 3000m) - Doha, Qatar

Gold - World Cross-Country championships ( Senior Women) - Punta Umbria, Spain
NB: Helped Senior Women win overall title too. 
2 Gold - World Athletics championships ( 5000m & 10000m) - Daegu, South Korea
NB: She retained the 5000m which she won the 2009.

Sally Pearson ( Australia):
Gold: Commonwealth Games (100m hurdles) - New Delhi, India

Sally Pearson 
Gold: World Athletics championships ( 100m hurdles) - Daegu, South Korea
NB: Worthy mentions, broke National & Oceania record to 12.48 secs

While the IAAF used the 'excuse; that Sally won 10 of 11 competitions she entered, Vivian on the hand did not lose any race she was entered, even national trials which are usually a killer if you ask any Kenyan athlete. So that doesn't fly with us.( No offence to Sally Pearson's person, but the facts are just that FACTS!)

Maybe the IAAF powers-that-be know something we don't but for us, Vivian Cheruiyot remains the World Athlete of the Year and not the Performance of the Year b******t you awarded to this sterling lady. Maybe they had other thoughts of trying to appeal to a wider world audience especially for the people down under. or maybe Kenyans just threaten changing athletics' world order, wonder what would happen if an African sprinter upset the form book...

One John Velzian - a well-tested hand in athletics in Kenya who has helped map out consecutive routes of the Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon as well as the 2007 World Cross Country championship track among others in country and the region; who also doubles up as a youth coach and training expert. He has seen the growth and development of athletics since the late 1950s to the current times. He was awarded the Coaching Lifetime Achievement Award ...( guilt conscience IAAF or what?).
Check out this article from the Sports Illustrated archives on this 'unappreciated' athletics legend in Kenya here 

Friday, 11 November 2011

2014 World Cup in step at a time...

Kenya's baby steps to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil starts in the next few hours. Yes we have a new 'sheriff' in town by the name of one Sam Nyamweya, yes the form-book tells us that we shall make it to Group qualifying stages and yes we also have a 'new coach' to boot...
Well, given the haphazard we have managed our football affairs, we have the PERFECT opportunity to paint a new picture and write history all over again.

FACT: No Eastern Africa has ever been represented in this global festival of sport. We would love to give all excuses and we also know the reasons but we can't afford that now.

FACT: In the 2010 World Cup qualifiers, (CAF) Africa zone East African states performed so dismally landing the bottom-places for those that were in the Group stages. Kenya finished with 3 points (eventual Group B winners were Nigeria with 12) while Rwanda had 2 ( Algeria won Group C with 13 points) and Sudan had 1 point (Group D's winner Ghana had 13).

FACT: There will be 52 countries fighting for 5 places. Of course with Africa's 'dismal' performance, the extra 6th place which had been granted (thanks to South Africa hosting the tournament) seems not to be so urgent to FIFA's powers. What are our chances?

FACT: Kenya has had a different coach/team manager since 1995. Some of course come back in but there has never been any taking charge of the job for more than 12 months consecutively. Not that we are even close to their achievements, Germany has had 10 managers since 1928 2 years before the World Cup started...

We could go on & on but that brief record speaks you start your journey Harambee Stars boys, go out & show us the miracles CAN & DO happen!

Government of Kenya Pay-out - Great but more needs to be done...

Yesterday the Government of Kenya (GoK if you like) hosted sporting contingents that represented the country in the various sporting events ( All-Africa Games held in Maputo-Mozambique; World Athletics Championships held in Daegu- South Korea as well as Youth Commonwealth Games at the Isle of Man).
On card was the (un)official handing back of flags handed to the team captains by the Head of State. The more significant part was the handing out of bonuses which had been promised to medal winners of these events.
This has been a laudable feat by the GoK since they initiated this a few years ago. Mr. Pres, though went on to make 'pronouncements' where we shall put them (GoK) into task;
  • 47 stadiums - this one is quite ambitious and laughable to say the least. While we seek to develop sports development at the lower levels, this is one area we have not been successful. Look at the existing infrastructure and it paints a sorry state. We do not have proper steps to develop and maintain grounds, sporting clubs and related facilities. We have also not done a good job to providing incentive to private entrepreneurs to encourage investment in the same. We have not safeguarded what would be some major sporting grounds such as has been seen in Nakuru's Afraha stadium, Nyeri's Ruringu stadium, to name but a few.
So Mr. President, please check again, this might be paying lip-service to sport.
  • Bidding and Hosting International events - in the last 20 years we have managed to host some good international events. But if you look carefully, EXCEPT for the All-Africa Games in 1987, the rest have been more or less single discipline events; the most recent Africa Athletics Championships last year in August. Most of these have also been for less than a week going if we look at time spent within our borders. That informs our lack of facilities for hosting fairly large teams of participants. Sample this, if we bid for the next Commonwealth Games, where would you host the contingents of over 40 countries? Can our infrastructure withstand added pressures of the visitors ( traffic especially)?
We need to stop making populist statements just for the sake and carefully look into seeing to it we develop sports centres which can support modest numbers of visiting and local sporting enthusiasts...learn a thing or two from Munich's Olympic Stadium.
  • Sports Lottery - this is another of the proposed developments which is included in the work-in-progress, yet-to-be-tabled Sports Bill. Another noble idea that seeks to raise funds for competing teams to major sports events such as the Olympic Games. We have a big one in 2012 in London ( which also coincides with the Queen of England's Diamond Jubilee...see the significance?). Given Kenyans' love for lottery and such like activities, this is a process that needs to be done with proper audits and openness to avoid the fraud that plagues such processes. It would become another major flop if any undue influence and inconsistencies are detected.
Mr. President, this is the part where you ought to admonish the Minister for Youth & Sports asking him where the 'hell' the Sports Bill is. Your term in office is slowly edging to its sunset & what better way for the youth and sporting talent to remember you than a Bill recognising their worth and contribution as well as formalising sports development in the country?
  • Sports Fund - though it might seem unrelated, I would wish to add this to your plate for consideration. Why? Well we have seen many a sporting talent blossom in their short-stints or even in their fairly modest careers only to fall into hard times once they are in retirement. Some have fallen off to the need of rehabilitation from drugs and alcohol abuse. Well such a Fund would be set aside to lump an athlete's part-winnings and bonuses almost like the retirement funds and one can access these in their later lives. It will go a long way in inculcating a culture of saving in our current generation which is out to spend every single cent in sight.
Mr. President, once again, consult with your worthy economic advisors and the retired both current and soon-to-be would be in awe of you for remembering their fate.

Over to you, GoK!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Safaricom Safari 7s 2011 - Hit or Miss?

This year's Safari 7s in its second year under Safaricom's sponsorship stable marked one of another's Kenya major milestones on the sporting calendar (notice how Safari 7s and Safaricom 7s sound synonymous...?). We managed to spend at least a better part of the weekend following the action live and seeing the activity on both social and other media. Here's our take;
Hit: Venue
Most of the controversy plaguing the event was the shift of the venue from its traditional home at RFUEA Grounds on Ngong Road to the more spacious ground at Nyayo National Stadium. The beauty of it was the space available for fans; service providers who included caterers, entertainment and parking lot. This was evident from the concert held on tail-ends of all days as they engaged the discerning younger-at-heart crowd. For security purposes too, the stadium was an easier venue for the security apparatus though at times the security personnel got over-zealous in their searches.
The pitch was a little bumpy of course due to the fact that it hosts most of the Kenya Premier League games but it was well-maintained and the markings and extensions done in good time to save rugby players adjusting. The warm-up areas were also a welcome relief for all teams before and after each game.

Miss: VIP, Canopy please?
For those who paid a little extra for VIP, except for the plastic seats and some partial cover from stadium setting, there really wasn't much else to write home about. In fact some of those who were at the 'Russian stands' seemed to enjoy more of the happenings on the grounds. Also when it came to the elements, majority of the crowd was exposed especially when the rains descended on the grounds on Sunday. For future events, event organisers can source some form of canopies which can be drawn and retracted as and when necessary.

Hit: Ticketing
For sometime now the ticketing for the event had been on an upward movement but somehow the crowds still managed to make way to the former venue. Maybe it was the mystic of the game or the euphoria related to the Kenya Sevens team. This year, the ticketing was well-tiered, affordable and also offered various points of purchase. Some are of the opinion that the prices should go down further but economies of scale and recouping for organisers and KRU suggest otherwise.

Miss: Top Teams, Main Guest
While we saw the likes of Samoa in town to the Samurais and Auckland Vikings (who make up much of the Fijian and New Zealand national 7s teams), it would have been better to have more IRB circuit teams on board. We have also seen the likes of Chester Williams, Gordon Tietjens to name but a few who have proved to be star attractions for those who follow the international game. It had been rumoured that there would be a big name coming but alas.

Hit: Media Centre
For those who got lucky to access the media centre, it had a great working environment. Equipped with handy laptops with fairly good Internet speeds, the place was always a buzz with activity. Save for a few big egos who hogged workstations for hours on end, those who were in it for their professional jobs found a quick way to upload information, images and keep those not at the venue abreast with the developments. Also compared to last year's one, this one didn't suffer from the elements when the weather suddenly pulled suprises on all. Kudos too to the catering teams for keeping the media peoples well-fed & watered!

Miss: Kenyan Team not making the Finals
Well, this was not entirely suprising for any follower of the national team. This was the first outing for the technical team marshalled by one Mitch Ocholla (Twitter handle @mokojolo) deputised by Charles Cardovillis. Both individuals have their work cut out now from this showing. Also the boys in the team were slow off the blocks due to minimal play since the team reassembled. There were individual touches and plays but as a team, there is lots of work to be done. The Gold Coast Sevens fixtures are real baptism of fire, but if that's not what you need I don't know what else you will.

Hit: Time Management
Most tournaments and events of such magnitude usually fail largely to lack of time management. Many who came thinking that fixtures and games would be delayed due to one reason or the other were shocked. Except for the last day when the downpour almost made it impossible for the pitch, the games went on and finished on time. Day 2 and Day 3 being the main attraction were well-managed and ended in good time. The Final was held and done by 6p.m.( even the trophy presentation too). Kudos to KRU on this one!

Miss: Corporate Sponsors Lost?
Some of the corporate sponsors had some great banners and logos on the communication both on print and other media. But most did not utilise it to the best of their abilities. This is a question posed to marketing and brand managers, when you seek to sponsor a major event of such magnitude surely you don't expect the event organisers to also 'sell your communication' and/or 'promote your products'. Still on corporate sponsors, where were the Brand Kenya and other bodies promoting Kenya as a destination ?

Hit: Live Coverage:
For some who had thought the ball had gone from SuperSport, how wrong you were! They not only brought in some of their best hands in broadcasting but also had the games live on SS9 throughout the tournament. And for those who managed to catch it, it was a beautiful sight to behold. We had our own gents and ladies handling the pre and post-game interviews (including one Herbert Mwachiro @herbotawa & a lady who's name eludes me, but has a great voice and looks to match...)

Some Hope:
- Hoping to stage a circuit leg in the IRB Sevens Series , this is a step in the right direction, but a lot more needs to be done. Majorly attracting bigger teams, attracting more fans and also more investment by corporate sponsors. This will make it easier to attract and pay for premium services and promises to give a boost to event organisers.
Still on the venue, some die-hard fans felt that the game's been taken away from them, since the playing area was slightly further from the fans stands. The same comment too came from some of the players. But this being a first, we shall hope to see more fans streaming in next year to give it that electric aura. And as one Mr. Jack Ojiambo ( he of Capital FM 98.4 Jazz Club) said, each one of the participants took something with them and shall be ambassadors of the event wherever they go across the globe. 
- Also there were some unconfirmed reports that rugby authorities might consider taking the Safari 7s to Kasarani which is almost complete from renovations. We hope it is just that because another change of venue will surely see fans down to a trickle and display apathy to new settings.
All in all ,we enjoyed ourselves and hope the Kenyan rugby 7s team now embarks on some serious rebuilding to get their act together by 25th November to start the challenge for 2011-2012 IRB Sevens Series. Over to you Mitch and the Co!

For some interesting images from the weekend action check this link ,

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

November 2011 - Sporting Bonanza

New month, new challenges, new opportunities. Yes, Kenyan sports scene is experiencing good things for this 2nd last month of the year 2011.
Safaricom 7s 

And to start us off is one of Kenya's premiere events the Safari 7s which saw it changed from the usual mid-year period to November so as to align with the IRB 7s circuit which starts end of November 25-26th in Australia. Riding on the back of a new management team as well as loaded sponsorship deals, it will be a defining season for the Kenyan team which seeks to regain its touch as one of the best playing units outside traditional rugby powerhouses. 3-5th of November make a date with Kenyan team as it seeks to start 2011-12 season on winning note.

After missing 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, Kenya starts her journey for the FIFA World Cup to be held in Brazil in 2014. This is against a backdrop of major changes in the sport mainly the Kenya Football elections which brought in new office bearers and new body Football Kenya Association. The national team also got one of its former handlers, Francis Kimanzi ( currently managing KPL side Sofapaka). 11th November make a date with Harambee Stars as they starts this arduous journey.
On the regional front, CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup starts on 24th November to 9th December 2011. This has Cup has eluded the national team for the last 9 years and this could be a nice way to warm the boys up for World Cup qualifiers and also rise up FIFA Rankings.
At a local level though the Kenya Premier League comes to its final leg as teams seek to represent Kenya in continental challenges. It has been another competitive year for the SuperSport-sponsored league which has enjoyed increased interest from local football fans and TV alike.

The Kenyan women's team is back in Japan to represent Africa in the FIVB Women's World Cup. Since it is not their first outing, we are hoping the ladies can finally muster some steel and win a game or two to place Africa's representative at a better place. Being the highest ranked women's team from Africa on the FIVB World Rankings ( currently at 15th place), it will not be an easy ride brushing with top sides such as Brazil and Germany.

Kenyan Basketball - image courtesy of
The Kenya Basketball Federation Premier Leagues come to an end. This season has seen some resuscitation of sorts with the #FridayNightBasketball building a good fan base which is seeing some basketball streaming back to the Nyayo National Basketball gym. The Friday games have organised courtesy of Kenya Basketball Federation, CodeRed DJs - an entertainment outfit which is making entreaties into sports events management and has some sponsorship from GM Kenya. Unconfirmed reports intimate Zuku has developed some interest in screening the games on its ZukuTV.
Catch these games in every weekend culminating with the Finals last week of November or early December. In those news, those of you who love the NBA are surely hoping the lock-out can be quickly resolved for what looks a torrid season for this league which is any basket-baller's dream.

New York Marathon 2010 - image courtesy of AP
The World Marathon Majors continues on with New York Marathon scheduled for 6th November at "The Big Apple". With Kenyan marathoners enjoying one of their best seasons so far, it will be good to see who runs with this one. Last year's second placed, Emmanuel Mutai starts as favourite for the men's race but looking at the retinue and pedigree of Kenyan runners and Ethiopians chasing hard, it will be anyone's day. In the women's version, Mary Keitany will be hoping to add another WMM title after taking the London Marathon earlier this year.

What is slowly becoming a laid-back and rallying relic in this part of the world, the East Africa Safari Classic Rally is back after one-year break. Featuring former world champions in motor rallying and cars that won the races back in the day, the rally will drive through parts of the East African states of Kenya and Tanzania (click this for East Africa Safari Rally Route map).
Some of the expected drivers include former winners of the earlier version include Bjorn Waldegaard, Ian Duncan, among others. The Rally starts on 19th November at the Sarova Whitesands finishing at the same venue on the 28th. For you who loves adventure and the beauty of the savannah, make time to trail these rally enthusiasts.

Whichever sport tickles your fancy, enjoy this and other sporting bonanzas from in and around the country. Cheer your favourite individual, team or country as the year rolls out another month.