Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Kenyan National Honours, who makes the Sports Category shortlist?

Jamhuri or Independence/Republic Day is usually the last major national day on the Kenyan calendar. This day also serves as  when the list of state commendations or honours are awarded to various Kenyan nationals who have served diligently and exceptionally within the given calendar year or in their lifetime. It is structured in the same vein of civil awards and decorations such as are awarded in the UK ( Kenya's former colonial master), US et cetera.
Kenya State Commendation Bars
Image courtesy  of http://www.coleccionesmilitares.com/

Immediately after Kenya's independence, the roll of honour was largely composed of politicians, businessmen, educationists and sadly cronies of the Government of the day. This was perpetuated in by the Moi government in the 1980s and 90s. Then came the Kibaki era which is coming to its sunset days. Again not much change there and though there have been a couple of deserving Kenyans who have been awarded, there are also some 'suprises' who show up every now and then. (FYI -In 2012, two of the President's children or is it First Family's were among those honoured)
Do you always wonder if you have made the list or at least someone who you know deserves? It was a bit of an embarrassment for the Kenyan state in 2004 when the Nobel Committee honoured Wangari Maathai with its Prize for Peace while back home the best we could do is offer her a Deputy Ministerial post with its lowly honours and priviledges.

All the same we have a list of the honours listed as follows;

  • Order of the Golden Heart - Chief/First Class(only Kenyan Head of State & other exemplary people from other parts of the world are awarded this) denoted as CGH, Elder/Second Class (EGH), Moran/Third Class (MGH)
  • Order of the Burning Spear - Chief (CBS), Moran (MBS) and Elder (EBS)
  • Order of the Grand Warrior of Kenya (OGW) 
  • Silver Star (SS)
  • Head of State Commendation ( HSC)
  • Distinguished Service Medal
  • Distinguished Conduct Order

This year there were a couple of sports personalities awarded including;

  • David Lekuta Rudisha (MBS)
  • Sam Nyamweya (MBS)

Last year's list included among others;

  • Collins Injera (OGW)
  • Humphrey Kayange (OGW)

Other previous honours include Catherine Ndereba (DSM & OGW), Tecla Loroupe (OGW), Ezekiel Kemboi (OGW), Jason Dunford (OGW) and Paul Tergat (MBS) to name but a few.

Pres. Kibaki garlands The Aga Khan with Chief of Golden Heart (CGH) honours - 2007
Now my beef starts with the 'economy of that list'. It was too short considering there are many sports personalities worthy of recognition whether still active, retired or post-humously. This has been done before. For example, Kenya never honoured her late boxing hero Robert Wangila Napunyi, marathoner Samuel Wanjiru, footballer Jonathan Niva, former tennis star Paul Wekesa et cetera.
Secondly, what criteria do the State operatives use to vet those deserving of these awards? Yeah what great honour did some of those mentioned bring us? For example, football honcho Sam Nyamweya though in charge of Football Kenya Federation currently, our take is that he has not really lived up to expectations. In fact, he could be part of why Kenyan football languishes in mediocrity. Look at how they handled the Henri Michel case. What about Sakata Ball?
Finally we're reminded that there was supposed to be a Heroes Corner at Uhuru Gardens. What happened to that initiative? Athletics Kenya came up with its own Sports Museum to try and honour those who achieved great deeds in the sport for the country, though it doesn't quite measure up to standards.

Next year at a time like this,we shall be having a new government and hope that they will improve on the way  we honour our sports people. They have been our greatest and most consistent ambassadors and should treated as such if not better!

Friday, 7 December 2012

Can Kenya Rugby 7s sustain the tempo, Mr. Friday?

The 2012-13 HSBC-sponsored IRB Sevens series has started with oomph for the Kenyan team. Last season, the team finished 12th ( last for the initial 12 -core teams) and risked being dropped from the 'core teams' status ( core teams are guaranteed of participation to all tournaments within a given season). Starting this season, IRB has introduced a new set of rules which shall see teams promoted and relegated depending on their final ranking at the end of the season. The series also saw expansion of the initial core teams from 12 to 15.
Back to the Kenyan game, in the off-season, Britain's former rugby player and coach, Mike Friday was hired to bring back some technical expertise and polish the Kenyan game known for its pace and brashness. After missing out on the Safari Sevens shield it seemed like it was 2011-12 season all over again but the last 2 rounds of the series have proved otherwise. So far the team lies joint 2nd overall (with Fiji) with a total amass of 32 points.

South Africa beckons 
The three Kenya 7s Rugby shirts by Samurai Sportswear -
Image courtesy of Samurai Sports
The last event of the series this calendar year in South Africa shall represent a new set of challenge for Mike Friday's charges. First the absence of top try scorer Collins Injera along with experienced hands Biko Adema and Oscar Ouma is bound to be felt. Sydney Ashioya is also out with a hamstring injury. A temporary reprieve is the availability of Humphrey Kayange ( Injera's older brother) who shall be featuring for the national team colours for the first time this season. Call-ups to replace the former include; Billy Odhiambo, Fabian Olando and Oscar Ayondi.

Second, the team has already been seen to be a strong contender for the top 6 finishers and other teams have taken notice. This being the 3rd round you can expect a couple of tactical changes from those teams that have previously looked like walkovers. Though the pool looks favourable with Argentina and Wales being the main threats to clip Kenya's qualification to the Main Cup proper, the battle shall be from the Quarter and Semi-Finals respectively. The Kenyan team has been coming off too close in the finishing and decisive tackles. The conversion kicks have been off the mark especially in the Dubai series. The try-scoring

Third, the South African round is only the third in a 10-tournament series. Can the Kenyan team go the whole hog and sustain these sterling performances? It's been a good thing going but a dip in form might happen anywhere between the Christmas break ( January 2013) and the second one in April 2013. If the boys and technical team keep it together, we've got a good thing going. In any case, if Kenya can gun for a top 6 finish in any of the tournament's that translates to 12 points in the bag.
Points Awarded:
Top 6 finishers in each tournament are awarded points as follows;

  • Cup Winners (1st) -22 points, 
  • Cup Losers (2nd) -19 points, 
  • Cup 3rd-place playoff winner (3rd) -17 points, 
  • Cup 3rd-place playoff/loser (4th) - 15 points, 
  • Plate Winner (5th) - 13 points, 
  • Plate Runner-Ups (6th) - 12 points

Fourth, there was some change in the kit from Gilbey's to the Samurai shirts starting with the Dubai series. This though not a major concern ought to be addressed and finalised by Kenya Rugby Union officials. Shirt sponsorship should ensure that the team has unique identity and also serve to motivate them to improve their performance. There is also the added incentive of monetary amounts if well negotiated. Such details ought to be out in the public domain and not behind boardroom doors.

Fifth, there has been the remuneration and bonuses awarded by the team sponsors' Kenya Airways and also for finishing in the top 4. These monies should be paid as and when available to continually motivate the boys in the team. Donning national colours is a great honour but in this time and age, that honour has a price too. Being a semi-professional team aspiring to become fully professional in the next half-decade, substantive contracts with clear remuneration packages should be in every player's pocket.

Sixth rugby sevens will be premiering in the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. Kenya is one of the likely qualifiers from Africa and should ensure it sends the best team to the Games. Though its early days for that, the building blocks start now since over half the team might not be in the running for a place by then. This goes back to the Kenya Rugby Union officials. Ensure wider reach of the game, rigorous recruitment by the clubs, regular technical and development skills to the retiring players and practising coaches, additional investment through sponsorships and grants from relevant corporate bodies and sports bodies among others.

Finally, the same gusto that has been invested in the 7s game should be translated to the 15s game which is still tottering in Kenya. Remember rugby aficionados believe that a country's worth is known by its 15-a-side strength and depth. Are we working on this?

To Mr.Friday and the Kenyan team, Ngikufisela Inhlanhla in Port Elizabeth !

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Kenyan Blog Awards season - Nomination opens

For the rest of you, it's holiday season but for you in the blogosphere in Kenya, it's awards time! Yes, the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) Awards have opened the nomination for the awards to be given in 2013. If you have a blog, know of one, like one and wish to nominate it, then you can right ahead and do that here.

This year the categories include among others;
1. Best Tech Blog
2. Best Creative Writing Blog
3. Best Agricultural/Environmental Blog
4. Best News Blog
5. Best Sports Blog ( you can nominate yours truly)
6. Best Travel Blog
7. Best Corporate Blog
8. Kenyan Blog of the Year

Nominations end on 1st of February 2013 and judging follows for the top 3 in each category after which the winners will be announced and awarded.{ SportsKenya was among the top 3 nominees for the inaugural awards in the Best Sports Blog category earlier this year}

For more details, check this link by BAKE and also check out the BAKE aggregating page here.  

Jackie JanMohammed, can Kenyan Cricket be re-born?

Congratulations Mrs. Jackie Janmohammed for scoring a first on many counts in the muddled waters of Kenyan sport! It's another milestone for women in this part of the world and also for those in the cricket game. Enough with the pleasantries!

Jackie Janmohammed - image courtesy of AFP

The hardwork starts now. Former Cricket Kenya CEO Samir Inamdar waxed lyrical of leaving the sports association with the whole bag of monies and 'structures'. But his legacy is best underscored by the dismal performances that the Kenyan national team and loss of supremacy among other non-Test nations that were close to the Test playing status.

Another piece of baggage you might have to deal with is the chasm created between the various branches which led to two of the main branches boycotting the elections. This one is not your undoing but the earlier you win them into your fold the better it will be for the game.

There is also another disturbing observation and related to the point of the various branches. Among the top officials, there is not a single representative of the two branches. There is also no representation of what would be called 'indigenous' representation. A cursory look at officials elected in Sunday's elections, none come outside of the Asian/Muslim communities. Part of the causes of the schisms  in the previous office was because of this 'race' issue. It is an unspoken evil but one which continues to haunt the game. The psyche in some of the teams and to some extent in the national team does reflect in their performances. Mrs. Jackie, you will need all the lawyering expertise to sail through these murky waters. It's never a cup of tea but it's the reality on the field.

Some goodwill inherited from the old order is the media rights that were secured with SuperSport to screen some of the East African cricket games. That is another channel you might want to approach for both the local league and national games. TV has been known to transform many a sport and cricket will be no different. Work your magic with the corporates and that balance sheet that Inamdar & Co left will look like a mockery of what revenues and sponsorship you may attract.

Appointing a worthy CEO, another brief waiting for your delivery. The previous CEO Tom Sears left in a huff claiming to have been under security threats among a host of other issues. It will be important that the next CEO comes from a rigorous and all-inclusive process. His/her brief should be delivery the game back to its glory days and ensuring a vibrant national league as well as the reaffirming Kenya's supremacy among non-Test playing nations. There is also the national coach issue. You might want to start that on a clean slate or is it a fresh pair of hands?

The issue of development of talent from the lower rungs and to provide players for both club and country is something else to look into. You might need to borrow a few notes from Mr. Janmohammed who was part of the development team in the early 2000s when the rain starting beating Kenyan cricket hard. You should also involve some of the former and senior players in these development plans. That a player like Maurice Odumbe is still able to put together a tidy number of runs as well as run the field like the days of yore before he was demonised is something to you can use to inspire the younger lads. Kenyan sport has never been known to pay tribute to its former stars but you can change the tide with that in cricket.

Do not sit in the beautiful offices that host Cricket Kenya's office in Ruaraka but do a lot of legwork in the clubs in Ngara, Parklands, down in Mombasa, Nakuru and Kisumu. That way you will learn a little bit more than what those fancy reports may say on paper. You can have a word with some of the groundsmen on those fields. They may know a thing or two that will give you better insights into the game.

Lastly we have 2015 World Cup coming up and Kenya's participation is currently in dire straits as we lie 6th ICC World Cricket League championship, with 2 games to play. The two top teams of this League will automatically qualify for the Cricket World Cup.But this is almost in vain though there is one last reprieve of the qualifying tournament in 2014. If Kenya can finish in a respectable position in his League and get its act together by 2014, we should be the suprise package once again in the 2015 hoping to repeat the heroics of the 1996 and 2003 national teams.

Mrs. Jackie it's your call, score a century or get bowled out!