Thursday, 29 September 2011

Kenyan Football - Of Elections, KPL & Cup of Nations qualifiers

The disconnect in the Kenyan football game has been playing on the scene for the better part of this week. Here are some of our pickings and thoughts about the same;
Elections Finally?

First the Interim Elections Board (IEB) confirmed receiving FIFA's funds around $ 100,000 with the Kenyan Government also footing the balance with an almost equivalent amount of slightly over $ 100,000 ( cash and in kind from Kenya corporate organisations). This was after the Interim Independent Elections Commission ( IIEC) had forwarded their budget for conducting the long-awaited polls. These must be the most expensive polls conducted by any sports body in the country.

That FIFA asked the Kenyan Government to foot their part of the bill should now mean that FIFA should allow the Government and by extension the Kenyan people to 'own the game' more. These polls would have come a long time ago and sorted the Kenyan football game if we had the wherewithal to reprimand corrupt and inept sports officials like the circus we've had with FKL and KFF. And it is revealed the interest the game generates not just from officials both legit and those with selfish interests. The corporate world has also been waiting in the wings to come on board and sprinkle the game with some goodies.

KPL Fixtures & Disciplinary Action

It is true that the
2011 Premier League as run by KPL has been an interesting proposition and the evidence from the buzz the games have generated is there for all to see. The teams have also been enjoying favourable and growing fan-bases for their players and on and off pitch antics. The screening of the games too has helped make this one of the best up and coming leagues in the continent.
But a few concerns here for KPL, there has been an inconsistent approach to the making of fixtures.
The most scandalous was the Ulinzi FC games where the team had taken the East African (in Burundi) and World Military Games ( in Brazil) representing the COUNTRY. Instead of moving their games, the KPL docked them 6 points and this was after raising genuine reasons for the same.
Reverse this and take to the disciplinary side, we have seen some teams get of too easy with little or no reprimand even after their fans continue raising security concerns for the teams, referees and general public. Gor Mahia is the biggest culprit here and their fans have been involved in more than one altercation since the season started.

We have a grudge match of the same with AFC Leopards coming up and though both teams officials are assuring fans of their security, what we saw after they drew last weekend doesn't make one feel too safe after all. Carry bare essentials I would say...
If the KPL officials are to be seen to be above board, such minuscule but significant decisions NEED be taken if we're to retain order and discipline in our game now and in future.

Kenya v/s Uganda 8th October in Namboole

This is a significant fixture in Kenya's national team's assignments and if we shall hope to challenge for continental honours in 2013. But quickly back to KPL, why would you fix major games a week or so to the game?
It is true you are running a league where a select few of the players are picked from for national duty. But it puts our boys at cross-purpose when the game at national and international level is not given the importance it deserves. Many of the players are proud to wear the national colours but not when they know it might not earn them any win or prestige among their peers.
Back the Oct 8 fixture, we have seen a flurry of activity as we try to equal what Ugandan fans showed us last year in the first game for the Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Kenyan politicians and media houses have been asking Kenyans to get their travel bags, fancy red t-shirts to quite literally 'paint Kampala and Nelson Mandela Stadium red'.
Where's the FKL or KFF in all this? Uganda's football body FUFA managed to lobby politicians and companies to bankroll fans coming to Nairobi last year and most Kenyan fans were stunned at the sheer numbers and the seemingly better co-ordinated fans from our erstwhile neighbours.
We know you're busy strategising for the upcoming elections and maybe the finances don't look so good after the postponement of elections 3 times. Maybe you can pull a few strings and endear yourselves to the discerning Kenyan fans and delegates.
But this is another major failure by football officials from Kenya to promote and try to get fans to rally behind their national team. We need a football association that cares NOT about how well their pockets are lined but one which serves to promote our kind of game within and across the borders.
CECAFA is back with us in November, what shall Harambee Stars have to show for it?

Monday, 26 September 2011

Kenya Rugby 7s we have the pedigree?

With the 4th round (Kabeberi Sevens) of a 5 rounds of the Kenya Rugby 7s series over at RFUEA yesterday, the Kenya Rugby Union officials and technical team for the national 7s team are almost set on who makes the cut.
There being a change in the Kenya Rugby Union to accommodate changes in the Safari 7s tournament among other major tournaments in the rugby calendar, it will be interesting to see how the players are able to adjust and pick themselves up from last year's dismal performance at the IRB Sevens World Series circuit.

A lot has changed since the close of the season early this year, from a team of new officials to the new management team along with corporate sponsorships making positive entreaties to the game.

A provisional squad was named by new coach Mitch Ocholla and includes;

Dennis Muhanji, Kevin Keegan, Naftali Bondo, Nick Barasa, Patrice Agunda, Sydney Ashioya, Victor Oduor, William Ambaka(Quins); Collins Injera,Dennis Ombachi,Horace Otieno,Humphrey Khayange, LavinAsego, Mike Agevi ( Mwamba); Adrian Opondo, Felix Ayange, Michael Wanjala, Tony Onyango ( Strathmore); Andrew Amonde, Fabian Olando, Philip Wamae (KCB); Kennedy Moseti, Oscar Ayodi ( Homeboyz), Lawrence Buyachi, Peter Ocholla (Impala); Edwin Makori, Oscar Ouma (Nakuru); and Ben Nyambu, Charles Kanyi (Nondies).

New call-ups include Mike Agevi who completes a 3rd of the 3 rugby brothers Kayange and Injera , Adrian Opondo and Michael Wanjala of university outfit Strathmore which has been playing some of its best rugby among higher learning institutions and challenging the big boys too. It was also coached by Mitch Ocholla before his current new post.

It will be interesting to see how these players fare in the final 7s tournament in Mombasa at the Driftwood Sevens and how soon they can gel to be able to retain the Safari Sevens sponsored by Safaricom. It will be a good start to their IRB 7s calendar as we seek to get back to the top 6 7s playing nations.

During last week's announcement by Safaricom 7s of their sponsorships of the Safari Sevens, the Kenya Rugby Union Chair had the pleasure ( tongue-in-cheek...tsk, tsk, tsk) of the shift from the traditional RFUEA Grounds along Ngong Road to the Nyayo National Stadium known more for its footballing and athletics hosting than rugby.
This was not too much of a suprise given the venue hosted the Kenya v/s Zimbabwe Victoria Cup game earlier this year.
The Kenyan social media critiques went into overdrive and even launched a Facebook page The Home for Kenyan Rugby is RFUEA not Nyayo . The merits given for the move was to demystify the game and make it more appealing to the common man. It was because the RFUEA Grounds have been stretched in the last couple of years with a bulging crowd which makes it a logistical nightmare.
The KRU Chair also added that if Safari Sevens is to challenge for consideration to be added in the IRB Sevens World Series calendar, there is need for a proper venue and the sampling is to be done at Nyayo Stadium.
We made a little more scrapping and we learnt these are the figures at current IRB 7s circuit venues;

1. Gold Coast 7s: - Skilled Park (formerly Robina Stadium) : 27,400 seater
2. Dubai 7s :- The Sevens (stadium) : 50,000 seater
3. South Africa 7s :- Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium : 48,000
4. Wellington 7s:- Westpac Trust Stadium: 36,000
5. US 7s :- Sam Boyd Stadium: 36,800 expandable to 40,000
6. Hong Kong 7s :- Hong Kong Stadium: 40,000
7. Japan 7s :- Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium : 27,188
8. Edinburgh 7s :-Murrayfiedl Stadium: 67,130
9. England/London 7s: - Twickenham Stadium: 82,000

If you look at all those venues, the lowest is at 27,188 in Japan where the game is taking root just like Kenya. Most of these are designed for multi-purposes hosting more than just rugby, with 5 specifically designed to host rugby games. Hope this helps KRU in its decision to approach infrastructural developers from private and Government circles.

Patrick Makau rips Berlin & Marathon World Record too

After making his intent known last year at the Berlin Marathon, Patrick Makau came back yesterday and obliterated the field which included more fancied Haile Gebreselassie , smashing the world record in the process by a whole 21 seconds( finishing at 2hr 03 min 38secs).

We applaud his exploits and this shows the pedigree that Kenya has on the longest athletic event. Being one of the events on the World Marathon Majors (WMM), it will be even better if one of the Kenyans were to emulate last year's winner the late Samuel Wanjiru - fitting tribute to this great runner whose career was cut short earlier this year.
The current ranking for the WMM has Kenyan Geoffrey Mutai leading the pack with 55 points amassed from his win at Boston Marathon and 2nd place in last year's Berlin Marathon ( and also led Kenya at the IAAF World Cross-Country championships and won the Bogota Half-Marathon). There are 6 other Kenyans in the top 10 but the title for WMM Marathoner of the Year is clearly between Mutai and Makau.

While we applauded the winning of the race by the Kenyans in Berlin, it has become the norm for media-houses and print media to start shouting the prize money that the individuals shall collect. It is all good an informative but let's not shine too much spotlight on such trappings. We all know what happened with the Samuel Wanjiru. These sport personalities now become the focus of unwanted attention and fraudsters to boot.

Haile Gebreselassie's loss also shows the toll the road races usually have on many an athlete. It will be imperative for the authorities at Athletics Kenya to manage our talents to ensure that if we're to have track and road specialists; each sticks to their specialisation. Road-running is known to wreck havoc on the knees and ankles. Ask Paul Tergat, Charles Kamathi and now Haile Gebreselassie.

All the same, let's celebrate the win one more time!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

What IAAF can teach FIFA

Coming after a successful World Championships at Daegu - South Korea, the world athletics body IAAF, can offer a lesson or two to the football world's governing body. Though IAAF is not as big as the monolith that FIFA is, these two bodies run their respective independent disciplines overseeing what the national associations undertake among others. While one is more or less an individual sport, the other is a team sport with slightly more challenges in its running and management.

What can FIFA learn:
- Any sport federation/association is larger than a single individual - while FIFA has focused much of its day-to-day running to one individual or set of people, this has meant the focus has almost become more about the individual than the sport. It is true that the President ( oh how they love these titles) becomes the global ambassador of the sport but his word should not be law and the secrecy with which some his day-to-day management practices are only add more questions than there are answers.
In the IAAF, they have managed to demystify the organisation and no single individual is all-towering, all-powerful to overshadow it.

- Commercialise but don't be greedy - the level at which each of the sport operates have been succesful largely due to the adoption of commercial aspects in the 1970s (for FIFA) and 1980s (for IAAF). These have seen the organisations stage some of the most successful events in recent across the world to varied audiences all the while meant to appeal to a wider global audience. But this commercialisation should NOT be on over-kill. Sample this, over the last 2 World Cups, FIFA has made profits much to the chagrin of the host nations who are left with infrastructure that they either don't need or use and much-maligned governments who go all out to deliver the goods but neglect their citizenry. IAAF on the other hand has seen most of its events held with modest budgets and less of a strain to most of the host nations. This is from the World Cross-Country to the World Athletics Championships.

- Do not micro-manage national federations , and they should be open to dissolution or otherwise - FIFA's national bodies across the world run like semi-autonomous bodies with little interference from the national governments of the day. This maybe a boon or a bad idea from whichever side you want to view it. Classic case, look at Kenya. We have a vibrant football culture but the game is almost dead at national level. Compare that with their athletics counterparts...most of this is repeated in other developing economies.

- Where there is smoke , there is fire - corruption claims have almost always riddled sport and both disciplines are no exception. But while FIFA dithers and seeks to bury their dirt under the carpet, IAAF has dealt with such claims rather swiftly. Once a claim is made of a corrupt official, they are asked to step aside with little or no fuss. Look at the ruckus that accompanied the departure of football officials in the names of Jack Warner and Mohammed bin Hamamm for FIFA? And you can be sure this is not the last you are hearing of either...

With these few tid-bits, sports associations should know that sport is universal and while commercial interests have pervaded most sporting disciplines, let's not forget to enjoy running the sport for the greater good of those who participate and earn from it. The world should be entertained and wowed by sport NOT turned off and wondering what might have happened.

Kshs. 110million for Harambee Stars - Too Little Too Late?

The sceptics in us always bring out the other side of the story. We applaud the efforts the Government through the Harambee Stars Management Board is engaging in. Yesterday they managed to secure KShs. 110 million 3-year sponsorship if the Premier is to be believed from the EABL - one of the region's most profitable companies.
(Image courtesy of

All good thus far, but why did we have to wait till when we're hanging on the edge of the cliff where the national team is threatened with elimination from the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON)?
Well, one can argue that our football authorities (or non-existence of the same) have never had any agenda for the national team. The dismal crowd that showed up for the Kenya v/s Guinea Bissau game is clear testimony ( the crowd watching the KPL's Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards attracted almost three times the number...).
  • OK post 2012, we have the 2013 AFCON to think about. This was occasioned by the concern that having this continental championship along with the World Cup in the same year sort of drains the players from the continent who have to play for their national teams. The whole commercialisation aspect for FIFA also played into the hands of CAF officials having not option than to change this to an odd year tournament.
  • Thus the 2014 World Cup qualifiers come into play too.
  • Such stop-gap measures that we have often adopted for the national team need be a thing of the past. Does it have to take Government officials to rescue the team when we ought to have a federation pitching their case to the Kenyan corporate firms?
  • We have a shirt deal which was never made public and the ever-changing colour of the strip makes such a hard-buy for fans willing to don these during national team fixtures. Shouldn't it be considered as one of the revenue streams for the national team kitty?
  • Can we also engage a full-time national coach? Not that we're against Zedekiah Otieno but managing one of the top ( and more demanding) teams in the KPL and the national team is no walk in the park. Having Musa Otieno as an assistant coach was a smart move but can we transition fast and either give him the job or decide to recruit a proper tactician for Harambee Stars?
  • We may also need to decide who runs the national team, the Management Board, KPL or FKL...whichever body feels sufficiently able should be left to handle the team with little interference.
All we shall be doing is ruing missed chances which we ought to have taken from the word go. Let's hope our boys came find the magic to outplay and outmanoeuvre Uganda Cranes at their hunting backyard. After October let's compare notes...

{Talking of which when the HELL are the Kenyan Football Elections??? We're tired of shifting goal-posts, changing dates to suit some candidates and all those shenanigans...have a bad feeling about the whole process or the charade that it might be}

Monday, 5 September 2011

Daegu is Done....Bring On Maputo !!!

The last 10 days or so have seen Kenya placed firmly among top nations and its has been a class act from our athletes. After giving a modest review which we guess among other things lifted their performance, we applaud their efforts and take a bow for it. The 13th Edition of the World Athletics Championships are truly memorable.

The performance speaks for itself, 7 Gold ( & 2 team titles for Marathon), 5 Silver & 4 Bronze. {Our review had the total medal tally at 4 Gold 5 Silver and 8 Bronze; with 2 of the Gold correctly predicted for 800m & 3000m men's steeplechase}.
What's even more uplifting is the fact that women almost matched the men's performance with one Vivian Cheruiyot taking the 5000m & 10000m double. The marathoners both men and women made it a successful start and end to the championships. They took individual and team titles much to the delight of the South Korean fans who seemed to have a soft spot for us. The added incentives of bonuses from event sponsors, Toyota and TDK as well as the Government of Kenya's promise to handsomely reward our sports personalities seems to inspire them to greater heights.
While this has been the best outing in the World Athletics Championships since their inauguration in 1983, we have now set the bar for future athletes starting with the more immediate All Africa Games in Maputo where we shall have the juniors in athletics and other sporting disciplines represented. These should set the stage for what ought to be a memorable 2012 Olympic Games in London where as a former colony of the British we ought to give a good show of what or how far our sporting prowess has come. Shall we live up to the expectations? We shall be watching....

SportsKenya's Best Performer Overall (& Women's Performer):
Vivian Cheruiyot (Gold) - Women's 5000m & 10000m:- Winning two long distance gold medals in one championships is the stuff legends are made of. You're a true Africa running Queen. Maybe next time we have such an outing, Kenya should have a lady as the team captain...huh?

Best Men's Performer:
Abel Kirui (Gold) - Men's Marathon :- Another sterling performance and retaining back-to-back world titles in the race. All this and beating the 2nd placed Kenyan by a whole 3min.

Best Men's Young Performer:
Asbel Kiprop (Gold) - Men's 1500m:- After making amends from previous major championships including the last World Athletics c'ships in Berlin, it was about time, this future legend got his own and the country's gold.

Best Women Young Performer:
Milcah Chemos (Bronze) - Women's 3000m steeplechase - though the favourite for the gold, this young lady was beaten to 3rd place but her potent is there to see and it shall be interesting to see how she holds up by next year's Olympics.

Best Team Performance:
Women's Marathon : The ladies set the pace for all the other gold medallists by opening the Games on a high taking 1-2-3 and thus getting the team title for the marathon. They even had one of the best sporting fair play moves by waiting up on one of their own as she fell at a watering area. True heroes if you ask.