Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Of CECAFA 2012 , Issa Hayatou's tightening CAF Presidency fist

Last Saturday opened this year's account for the continent's oldest footballing tournament. The opening game as aptly the one of hosts Uganda and their major protagonists Kenya. In what has become one of the most fearsome derbies in the region, the Cranes pipped the Stars by 1-0.

CECAFA wobbles along
This year though the tournament has managed to bring together almost all the Eastern and Central African teams with Malawi coming in as guests from the Southern part of Africa. After having had brief tiffs between the CECAFA Secretary-General Nicholas Musonye and the FKF Chair Sam Nyamweya, the tournament has gotten on without any hitches and with the added boon of being screened live on SuperSport (EA-9). Away from the pitch though, there was the annual congress held before the tournament as is tradition with most major football tournaments across the world. In that meeting, CECAFA chiefs (among them Kenya's FKF) decided to back Issa Hayatou to another term at the helm of CAF - he's been at it for 25 years and counting.
And as if not caring for the votes from this part of the world, Issa Hayatou admonished the CECAFA countries for not doing enough to host continental tournaments. None of the countries have ever hosted the Africa Cup of Nations ( the closest they ever came was when Kenya bid for the tourney in 1996 but bulked out before any ball was kicked). This is also seen in the fact that only Ethiopia is playing the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations after the rest missed qualification. Rwanda is the only country which came under positive light for having hosted the CAF under-17, under-20 and also bidding to host the CECAFA Senior Cup in 2015.
This says a lot about the countries from the region and the state of football therein. Compared to the Western, Northern and Southern countries, football is still under-performed in this region. From the lack of continental champions ( Uganda came closest, being losing finalists in 1978 to Ghana) and also for club championships where teams are routinely eliminated even before getting to the group stages ( the only club to have won continental honours is Kenya's Gor Mahia before the Champions League format was introduced).
This may have informed the rather loud comment from Kenya's new head coach Henri Michel of CECAFA tournament being 'useless' ( or maybe the words were lost in translation)...
Nonetheless as the tournament continues, football chiefs in the region need to find a way of raising the standards of the game. Both government and private enterprises will play a greater role in the realisation of this. But we should also call to account respective football associations/federations which need to get their act together and move from mere lip service and dependency on FIFA grants and blueprints and have an agenda for their own leagues.
Nicholas Musonye as Sec-General has managed to keep the various tournaments going and even attracting major sponsors every so often. But one man cannot manage a game of such magnitude. He would also need to build greater consensus across the federations. Also pushing CECAFA's agenda across the continent and challenging to continental honours will be another role to be seen.

All the same, root for your favourite team as we here at SportsKenya might be doing for the Harambee Stars however rickety their form is!

Quick Facts:

  • CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup came up in 1973 though its forerunner is the Gossage Cup started in 1926 between Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Zanzibar.
  • The Gossage Cup was sponsored by soap manufacturers' of the same name under the Lever brothers- which is now Unilever plc (British-owned)
  • The 2012 CECAFA tournament is sponsored by Tusker under East Africa Breweries Limited ( Diageo-owned company).
  • Uganda has won the tournament 12 times since 1973, Kenya 5 times (including a 3-peat in 1981,82,83), Ethiopia 4 times (last time being 2005)
  • Only Ethiopia from the CECAFA region is playing in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa.
Issa Hayatou's Iron Grip

Learn from the Best - Blatter (l) and Hayatou (r)
Image courtesy of   
As mentioned above, CAF President Issa Hayatou is in Kampala, Uganda to oversee the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup which ends in little over one week. It may seem that the respective football associations and federations have not made much of an impression to the longest serving football honcho on the continent.
Even then, our football officials have decided to back him up once again when the CAF elections come up in January 2013 in South Africa just before the kick-off of the continent's biggest football showpiece.
And in what seems to be an effort to maintain the status quo, CAF underlings in September amended the constitution to bar any major competition to this Cameroonian-born sports official. The amend effectively barred anyone who is not serving at the CAF Executive Committtee from running for any top job.
This effectively ended any chance of highly favoured Danny Joordan from South Africa ( who led a successful bid and hosting of the 2012 World Cup). It also knocked out Jacques Anouma- Ivory Coast born was also going to throw his hat into the ring for the top job. Read this interesting post here about African football officials oblivious to changes around them.

Before Mohammed bin Hammamm in 2011, the only other person to have opposed Sepp Blatter's FIFA reign was Issa Hayatou in 2002. But unlike bin Hammamm who was hounded out even before he got his name on the ballot, Hayatou did manage to save face and ended up mending fences albeit conveniently with Sepp. He currently sits as one of FIFA's Vice-President. He also managed to become a member of the IOC representing FIFA though was shrouded in controversy late last year on corruption claims which were later dropped, but the damage had already been done. FIFA and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) had to drop his involvement in the Games football discipline. But this has not stopped him learning from Blatter, managing to run CAF's show almost as a one-man show. It is also rumoured that he is not in the best shape and suffers from some undisclosed condition. Wonder what new ideas he would have that have not been seen in the last 25 years of his reign.

On Monday 26th November, Liberian football authorities challenged CAF's amendment in the Court of Appeal for Sport (CAS) hoping to reverse the changes made in September. This is a far shot but still one of the many measures football authorities will need to come up to see a fair election. And while it remains to be seen if there will be any other worthy challengers to Hayatou's long reign, it will be important that the game remains the primary goal for seeking to head the organisation. But with the largess and political connections that comes with these positions, it will continue attracting more vested parties than those out to help the growth and sustenance of the football game.

For more on Issa Hayatou, check his link here and also read this piece from World Soccer's Mark Gleeson.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Paul Tergat nominated to head National Olympic Committee-Kenya...Good Choice

Having served to the mandatory age of 70 years, Kipchoge Keino is calling it a day at the helm of the  National Olympic Committee of Kenya. He held office since 2000 after taking over from then beleaugered Charles Mukora who had resigned after the Salt Lake City games debacle that rocked the IOC. In the 12 years at helm, Mr. Kip Keino has managed the best and one of the worst of performances by a Kenyan team in country's Olympic history. The most recent bad performance in London is one sticking point.
The speed-cop has also managed to keep steady the NOC-K but being a semi-independent sports body from the local national sports federations and associations, it has not been an easy task. His regular spats with the one of the most powerful sports association Athletics Kenya for example is another of the unforgiving jobs he had to do while as NOC-K Chair.
We shall not enumerate his major undertakings as Chair or shortcomings for now. That's for another day/post. We wish him well as he takes up his position as honorary member of the IOC.
Paul Tergat  - image courtesy of

In comes Paul Tergat. Now if ever there was an athlete who would rival Kipchoge Keino in terms of both national and international appeal, it is Paul Kibii Tergat. He has been on the running circuit until injury and loss of form made him leave the tracks and roads last year. His 5 consecutive titles on the world cross-country circuits, half-marathon and marathon races as well as his memorable but disappointing 2nd place finishes at the Atlanta and Sydney Olympics to another athletics legend Haile Gebreselassie.
Beyond his running exploits he has set up the Paul Tergat Foundation and also set up a private sports marketing firm, FineTouch Communications which handles the SOYA (Sports Personality Of the Year Awards) - an event used to honour Kenyan sports men and women who have excelled within a certain calendar year as well as honour those teams and past heroes too. He has also been serving as a Goodwill Ambassador for WFP- World Food Programme.
And though his sports organisations management may be in doubt, he has cultivated a relationship of mutual respect and honesty with Kenyan corporate firms and sports bodies - a rare feat for many sports people both active and retired. He has also been known to be a consensus builder and has business acumen which he will need to muster to run the NOC-K which still needs regular funding to meet its obligations.
As a former Olympian he did manage to embody the spirit of sportsmanship by not only losing gracefully two times to the same athlete but also cultivating a healthy relationship with his nemesis Gebreselassie. The two took battle from the cross-country tracks to the race tracks in the 10,000m to half-marathons and full marathons. They even broke world records in the marathon between themselves before Kenya's Patrick Makau took the course record in Berlin last year.
We do applaud him on his nomination and do hope the IOC picks him to represent Kenya in the greater Olympics body. It should also be noted that other Kenyan sporting bodies should take the lead of the NOC-K to nominate, vet and elect officials who's track record speaks for itself. Too many charlatans in town are costing Kenyan sport as great fortune and goodwill from their international peers.
Godspeed though to the "Gentleman''  !

Monday, 12 November 2012

Gor Mahia hooligans put blemish on KPL Finale

In what had promised to be a tense and exciting final kick of the Tusker-sponsored KPL, there just had to be some people hell-bent on spoiling the party. Well, the script got flipped on this last day and for some fans it was too much to bear. And true not everyone emerges tops but surely its not an excuse to take it out on perceived rivals or innocent citizenry.
AFC Leopards v/s Gor Mahia earlier this year - Image via

First things first though, we condemn the actions of those Gor Mahia fans who damaged property and other movables on Saturday after their final game against Thika United. Your actions led to the prolonged chaos and unnecessary tragedies to innocent by-standers who had absolutely nothing to do with the game. 

Secondly and this is where we still believe KPL officials still turn a blind eye and deal with Gor Mahia club with kid gloves, condemnation and punishment should come in HARD. The club has its share of troubled matches and this past season was no exception. There was some semblance of punishment but KPL and Sports Stadia officials bulked down at some point due to shrinking revenues. But what good does it do when a single club's fans threaten an entire league's future just because of some few bad elements? If points have to be docked or games played in empty stadia, so be it...ili iwe funzo!

Third, many ardent Gor Mahia fans are quick to excuse themselves and say that those causing problems are thugs and not anyone associated with the club. But isn't it a familiar trend, draw or lose a crucial game and some form of chaos comes from the proceedings of post-game activities? Out of 16 teams in the Kenya Premier League, which club has the highest incidence of fan trouble, riots, property damage etc? The record speaks for itself, season in, season out.

Fourth, internally the club's officials have to ensure they identify and weed out elements who keep repeating these unnecessary activities. In leagues such as the South American and European leagues, hooligans have been identified by respective clubs officials and blacklisted by security organs who share these across borders. Though not entirely weeded out, clubs which deviate from a semblance of order are heavily punished and thus officials have decided to be pro-active unlike their counterparts here.

Fifth, for once we agreed with FKF officials who had advised for the game to be moved to Kasarani Stadium on Thika Road ( good god it didn't happen, otherwise the renovated grounds would have been defaced ...maybe.... But Gor officials pleaded with KPL and SuperSport for the game to remain at City Stadium. Except for the artificial turf that was installed, those grounds are not fit for a game of such magnitude. Nairobi City Council (will it exist as is or does it change to County of Nairobi???)or whoever is in charge of the grounds needs to close for a year or so, make proper sitting spaces, proper security arrangements and lighting(floodlights), parking lots and access points and move those hawkers surrounding the stadium. And any day it hosts such a match have proper security systems and traffic regulation.

Sixth it is tragic that the very same political elite that seek to identify with the club do not condemn and make the bad elements stand out when they cause such destruction. Let's not lie but the club gets its largest followership from one of the Kenyan communities but that doesn't mean it doesn't have other fans from other communities. Thus the politicians may go easy on the Gor 'fans' for the fear of antagonizing a valuable voting bloc asset. That our politicians have perfected the smoke and mirror acts has also pervaded our sports scene and it's something we will either learn to live with and suffer for it or deal with it before it takes our football back to the doldrums.

Seventh, sections of the media have not been active enough in condemning and/or calling those charged to take more responsibility on such activities. We have heard that some sports editorials are compromised before stories are aired either for fear of reprieve from sports administrators who 'grease' those in the take with freebies, tickets or accreditation to international events. These are elements who are putting our sports scene in serious doubts. What happened to the proverbial 'voice of reason'? For those of you who think hooliganism is a way of sport, then we should stop humouring ourselves that we are helping the game. Hooliganism and its associated acts is bad for any sport and should be rooted out of Kenyan sport before it develops strong roots. It's interesting that a game like rugby which is known to associate with toughness and rugged players and who's majority of fans indulge in alcohol but are some of the most disciplined and gentle ones you'll ever come across. Maybe there is something we can learn from our rugby counterparts.

Oh and by the way Gor Mahia is facing AFC Leopards in an FKF Cup in a few days time, wonder what shall pan out of this derby? 

For those wishing to engage in further literature you can read this link here on Soccer Violence in South America's Argentina. You can also check this on Hooliganism in the UK. We sampled the following Twitter comments and views on the post-match activities; {and the views contained therein are not in any way endorsements or approval of this blog's views and as such should be treated independent of the same}
@AKenyanGirl If #KOTs can make a stand against MPigs, we can and should do the same to #GorMahia. Say no to terror and murder in the name of football

@mmurumba Love for football can never be justified by hooliganism. #GorMahia shouldn't be allowed to participate in #TPL if they can't accept defeat. ‏

@LukoyeAtwoli #GorMahia fans who make political statements (Gor, Obama, Raila), then complain when violence is blamed on ALL these are being disingenuous

@‏LarryMadowo I'm ashamed to be a #GorMahia fan. Which doofus supporters cannot accept a loss without violence? Plonkers still stuck in the Stone Age, nkt

@MauriYambo Leaders who bask in #GorMahia's glory days but 'hide' when hooligans flood the streets R doing us all a disservice. Time 4 serious man-talk!

@4lifestan A lot have been said concerning the #Gor eventful day, but if the end justifies the means, the club have a lot to ponder on a serious note.

@doreenapollos: Then you see juvenile #Gor fans posting rude tweets in defence,not knowing that rude attitude isn't helping but stamping the hooligan's view ‏

@pmusesya If @robertalai wasn't a #Gor fan, he would be tweefing and condemning and leading a movement against them...oh well, (shrugs) ‏

@suehlawrie This #Gor issue is about thugs and criminals who CHOOSE to attend Gor matches. It does not mean they are Gor fans. Fans respect their clubs.

@mosemogeni It doesn't matter how big or small the club is, if ur fans are criminals, bring them to justice. #Gor ‏

@kachwanya Football is awesome and at the end of week people get something to be excited about but at the end of the is just a game..

Friday, 9 November 2012

Kenya Premier League...finally of Age?

One year short of marking its 10th anniversary since it was formed the highest professional league for the game of football has seen what may be its best season so far.
KPL Logo - courtesy of

And in 2012....
The 2012 season started with the new office running Football Kenya Federation after years of bickering and court proceedings finally gave way to a compromise agreement. The warring factions of Football Kenya Limited and Kenya Football Federation each contested the elections with other favoured contenders.Sam Nyamweya and his retinue started by stating they would not interfere with the Kenya Premier League, more out of fear of losing out TV rights and sponsorship from SuperSport than any good intentions.
With that KPL CEO Jaco Oguda and Co. set about to look for corporate sponsorship as well as ensuring that clubs in the league maintained a certain level of professionalism. Up until this season, the league had not secured a title corporate sponsor making operations at the KPL offices and wider mandate a challenging task. Interestingly many clubs in the league have managed to attract big money with the likes of AFC Leopards, Gor Mahia, Sofapaka and Thika United among others getting 3-5 year commitments from Kenyan corporate firms. And by a stroke of luck the former big teams who have yet to win the revamped KPL have performed fairly well with both AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia fighting to the last match hoping to be crowned winners. Reigning champs Tusker FC have also an outside chance of picking the silverware again dependent on the top 2 teams faltering.

SuperSport's influence and other clubs' rise
With these clubs along with mid-level teams such as Thika United, Sony Sugar, Chemelil Sugar making fairly good performances, the media sponsors SuperSport have ensured that the wider audience not able to attend the games in the various stadia get a snippet of the action - Remember SuperSport have made the biggest investment into the KPL through securing exclusive media rights. The SuperSport honchos signed an initial 3-year contract in 2008, before extending it to 5 years in 2010 to end in 2015.
In its first year of coverage, SuperSport screened 22 games which has risen by 300% to 90 games shown on SuperSport including a channel launched in 2011 specifically targeted to the region, SS9 EA. In addition to this local media personnel have been trained on live coverage, camera, web among other technical aspects of the trade.
Back to the league, in its 9 years since 2003, the Premier League has seen different teams emerge as new kids on the block with Ulinzi FC ( largely associated with Kenya's Defense Forces) win the title 4 times (from 2003-5 and 2010), Tusker FC 2 times (2007 and 2011), Sony Sugar in 2006 and Sofapaka 2009. This has helped the League get wider appeal with each of these clubs getting its own followers. Still these clubs have not attracted the number of fans that traditional teams have seen for their games but it's a work in progress.

Sell your Soul
In the 2012 season, finally the League did secure title sponsorship with Tusker, EABL's flagship brand with a 3-year contract worth KSh. 170 million. Though widely celebrated across the country, its our belief that the KPL officials sold themselves cheap in the rush to obtaining the deal. Our thinking is informed by the fact that there were other suitors willing to associate with the game both in the drink brands and a few telcos whose balance sheets would only spot a slight blip. Again, the KPL officials are still learning the ropes of relating and associating with the corporate types in the country who still view sport as a recreational activity.
Another deal signed in the 2012 season, saw Puma secure the deal for supplying footballs to the clubs in the league. The deal is worth KSh.10 million though no real monetary value is attached to the deal, yet again raising concern of who negotiates these deals for KPL.
By now, those charged with seeking sponsorship and long-term deals for the League should ensure they argue their case and seek better deals for the game. They should also see even if the deals do not fully come with monetary benefits, the KPL secures some form of commitment from corporate firms that will see investment in the game.

Future Prospects
And as the 2012 season comes to a close, there are lots of areas that need to be worked on. These include the following;

Club management vis-a-vis KPL Agenda
Many clubs in the KPL are still run by officials who's agenda is not entirely in the interest of the club or game.  There are also many charlatans in town seeking to run clubs while they can't run a household to save their souls. In times to come, KPL should ensure that clubs adhere to a certain code of ethics when it comes to management and financial aspects. It will be in the best interests that a club's promotion to the top flight comes with a certain sense of responsibility and accountability. Oh by the way, KPL books for the last 3 years should also in the public domain for those in the game to know what and how the League is run.

Security and Discipline
This is still a sticking point in many league games. This is especially the case for the big games among traditional foes. Though KPL puts the liability and responsibility on the clubs, it ought to wield wider influence and consult with security experts on how to manage crowds and game situations. The Disciplinary Committee should also come down heavily on any club or fans who display intolerance and commit repeat offences relating to crowd trouble and harassment of fans. This will make it attractive for the uninitiated fans and also traditional ones who are yet to step back in stadia to make that move. They should also vet security apparatus who's personnel at times work in cahoots with the fans to either smuggle in illegal stuff or use fake tickets to enter various venues.
The same should be reciprocated by players on the pitch. Many a times we have seen footballers question the decisions made by the referees and some even result to physically abusing the officials. These incidences should become a rarity if KPL thoroughly and regularly trains the centre field officials along with club representatives.

Talking of venues, though it's not KPL's main concern to build infrastructure, they should impress upon local and regional authorities to make invest more in better infrastructure in the stadia, parking lots, training grounds and youth centres. In the upcoming system of county governance, those that seek to engage the youth and related activities will have a lead in attracting viable investments. We have seen many a housing projects come up with golfing estates, but it sure would also help if they had training grounds for football and other outdoor games. The same would be great for youth centres.

Financial and Legal Expertise
Though the KPL has officials who are experts in these fields, they need to engage more hands in both departments for the League to be able to develop strong and stringent mechanisms for clubs and those with the interest of the game to operate. Sponsorship deals secured on the cheap should become last resort not options explored and hastily signed. There also need to be consultations with those in the professions to provide training in sports finance and sports law.

Club Youth system
Famous clubs have made it a priority to invest in their youth development programs. It should be of urgency since many clubs are starting to attract talent from lower rung clubs but the reservoirs are not enough. The system will not only ensure continuity for the clubs but also see former and retiring footballers engaged in their favoured club activities instead of wasting away in destitution, drug abuse and alcoholism. It has worked in developed leagues such as Spain, Germany, Holland and now England. Investing in the club's youth will also see a better national team from the under 12 all the way to the senior side for Harambee Stars.

And this is looking forward to a better league in 2013 and coming years...and raise a glass to the winners of the 2012 season !

Friday, 2 November 2012

Sports & Taxation in Kenya - Big Black Hole in the Pocket?

Uproar  greeted claims by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) to claim taxes ( back taxes included) on Kenyan sports men and women on their winnings and other takings from across the globe.
The background of this came after KRA under the guidance of Treasury, was asked to tighten the belts on revenues and given a fresh target of approx KShs. 1 trillion for the financial year 2012-13. This is with increasing financial commitments that the Government has undertaken in the last couple of months trying to contain wage bills of teachers, doctors, as well as civil servants.
Tax Burden

Back to sport, the bone of contention was the fact that most of the athletes who participate in races and events abroad usually get taxed from the host countries. As such their claim was that there is the double taxation case. They also portend that race prizes should remain untouched as they bring these monies back to help not just their families but other dependants.
In all fairness though, it remains every citizen's duty to remit taxes on their incomes or earnings made, as and when they are declared. It is also necessary that tax authorities in any country try scoop as much revenue to the common'basket that is Treasury coffers.
But a major disconnect is realised when tax authorities are very aggressive to take from our pockets, the sports investment is worse than dismal to say the least. Look at any of the last 5 financial year's budgets and their figures for sport. Be it in the form of new infrastructure, research or even in existing structures. 
The funds that KRA is busy chasing, at least a certain percentage should be reinvested in sport. This is usually a tricky one for Treasury and Government authorities and this should be seen to be done.
The other concern is that, the Government has over the last 3-5 years tried giving bonuses to athletes and sports people who win and perform outstandingly for the country. Thus should the hand that gives be the same one that takes?
Another concern is that the Government has been paying lip service to other incentives for sports in general. From double taxation policies with other countries to tax holidays to willing sports investors and again the yet-to-be passed Sports Bill ( which is becoming a nuisance for any new Minister methinks...)
Advanced economies have also the same dilemma with taxation and many  a European countries have been known to come down on earnings by sports personalities. A recent case of Usain Bolt avoiding the UK in favour of Paris comes to mind. We also know of football players insisting on higher wages to cover for the tax deductions in some of the major leagues in Europe. 
The beauty of the countries in Europe and America is that at least there is investment in sports both in infrastructure, human capacity and technology. A recent example is United Kingdom's sterling performance during the London Olympics. It was no fluke after the authorities and national olympic association took to heavily invest in their sports people. Of course some will say that they had home advantage but give it to them that they made a deliberate effort to invest in their several attempts. {Here's is some policy from the European Union 
As Kenya enters the next 50 years of self governance, the Government needs to get serious with its engagement with sport. Even with its many flaws, the sports scene in the country still has a lot of ground to cover and cannot afford to be stifled by knee-jerk policies to try to sustain unreasonable wage bills in the long term.