Of Sports Legacies – Kenneth Matiba’s

In keeping with the spirit of localized sports content, we took time to pay homage to one of Kenya’s foremost entrepreneurs and influences of sports. Though known more for his political exploits than his sporting streak, his legacy will live to endure. Here’s to the late Kenneth Stanley Njindo Matiba.

In April this year, Kenya mourned the loss of one of its most astute politicians and efficacious entrepreneurs in Kenneth Njindo Matiba. Even more significant to this column, we lost one of the best sports administrators and visionaries the country has ever had.

Starting off as a senior civil servant, Matiba quit politics to join the world of business (before making a re-entry back to politics in the 1980s). His entry into one of Kenya’s blue chip companies, Kenya Breweries otherwise trading as East Africa Breweries Limited, his impact in both business and sports started being felt almost immediately.

The late K.N. Matiba tests the track at Nyayo National Stadium - Image courtesy of www.nation.co.ke
The late K.N. Matiba tests the track at Nyayo National Stadium – Image courtesy of www.nation.co.ke

First off was Kenyan football where he cajoled the revamp and formation of a new team to run the sport. This ensured that not only were the officials meant to be competent people but also accountable to both the sports people and sponsors alike.

As if to reciprocate his intended mission, Kenyan football entered one of its golden periods late 1970s to early 1980s. This was both at club and national team performances – where the AFC Leopards and Gor Mahias of yore won the CECAFA Club title and Harambee Stars the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup. In the same token, Matiba managed to develop an in-house team in the form of Kenya Breweries which would occasionally challenge the top clubs of Kenyan football then – indeed it was the foundation set in the 1980s which saw the club reaching the continental club cup challenge in 1994 – only to lose in the Finals to DRC’s DC Motema Pembe.

He had intended to professionalize football as early as 1978 while serving as the KFF Chair. Even though this never came to fruition following his resignation from the federation, he had aspired to leave the game with what would have been its enduring legacy. He handed over to the new team with the transparency and accountability of a custodian entrusted to run the federation’s properties.

To ensure his impact wasn’t restricted to one sport, Matiba assigned some of his colleagues at Kenya Breweries to manage the boxing federation. This was through one Marsden Madoka – as chair of Amateur Boxing Association (now known as the Boxing Association of Kenya). Through the latter’s stewardship, Kenya had its best decade to date in the 1980s when the national team, affectionately known as the “Hit Squad” participated in several international tournaments coming home with worthy wins. From the 1987 8-Gold medals performance in Nairobi at the All Africa Games to the first and only Gold medal outside of athletics for Kenya at the 1988 Olympic Games held in Seoul.

Would we forget it’s during Matiba’s stint in the Culture Ministry that Kenya hosted boxing legend Muhammad Ali as well as FIFA’s top honcho then, Joao Havelenge?

Talking matters Olympics, it was during his legacy that the Olympic Youth Centres were launched in Kenya. This was a youth development program meant to develop and nurture talent from all parts of the country. This program produced some of the best footballers who came of age in the 1980s including the likes of Ambrose Ayoyi, Davies Oyiela, Hassan Juma and Wycliffe Anyagu just to mention but a few. It is this breed of players who stood up to Egypt’s The Pharaohs at the 1987 All Africa Games only to lose by a goal in the gold medal match.

Kenya's Harambee Stars at All-Africa Games 1987 - Image courtesy of www.kenyanpage.net
Kenya’s Harambee Stars at All-Africa Games 1987 – Image courtesy of www.kenyanpage.net

The team had beaten strong teams that included Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions (who three years later made history in the 1990 World Cup in Italy getting to the quarter-finals), Malawi and Tunisia. Imagine where The Pharaohs are playing now? At the World Cup in St. Petersburg, Russia. If Kenya had only followed through with the dreams of the 1970s and 1980s? If not at international level, at least the continental onslaught would be more likely achieved by now.

Do you recall the Festival of Darts screened on national television in the 1980s and 1990s? “Gaame shot!” invoked one Sammy Lui Wang’ondu – who worked as Matiba’s PA at Kenya Breweries at one time and moonlighted as an MC on other occasions. For what would appear to have been a nondescript game, the sponsorship and screening of the same by Kenya Breweries popularized the sport immensely locally.

It introduced us to the English and Swahili banter of Michael Round-Turner and Dunstan Tido Muhando whose analysis kept us glued to the screens just before the English news on the only TV station then. Thanks to these developments, the Kenyan Darts national team participated in the 1993 Darts World Cup in Las Vegas emerging 8th out of 34 nations.

To other less visible sporting and outdoor activities including the Outward Bound and Hodari Boys Club – which sought to nurture young boys in their teens to formidable young men to the mountaineering club which did became an obsession to the man, Kenneth Matiba did it all. From snow-capped mountains of Equatorial Africa in Mt. Kenya and Kilimanjaro in Africa to Mt. Everest on the challenging and tall ranges of Himalayas in Asia. For him, it was not enough to put money into sports but rather put money where his mouth was. He did walk his talk, quite literally!

His lessons in sports business and management ought to be chronicled in the annals of Kenyan sport.  He managed to convince the sports federations to style up and clean house.  His was investing in sport but also ensuring the monies put into sports were well spent and sports persons rewarded for their performances.  Our current state of sport in the country is dire need of such a visionary.

Sports federations have been riding roughshod over sports teams and athletes. How do we explain the sad tale of two of Kenya’s top teams who still can’t afford to pay their players on a monthly basis? Why do the clubs have to depend on a single sponsor who whenever it doesn’t suit their needs withdraws sponsorship on a whim? How many times will we keep hearing of unpaid allowances and bonuses for teams on national duty?

Even with the enactment of the Sports Bill, the magic bullet that we have waited for to change and transform sports in Kenya is still a nonstarter. Two Cabinet Secretaries later, the National Sports Lottery is still a cropper even as our athletes keep bringing honor to this nation – at amateur, semi-professional and professional levels. We have seen divestiture by companies from sports on mismanagement of the sponsorship monies as well as increased costs of doing business – Naspers SuperSport comes to mind. If I were to list the companies that have offered to sponsor sports but give it a wide berth due to mismanagement and lack of foresight, I’d run out of space on this article.

What can we learn from the late Matiba?

For starters, sports federations have to learn to operate within the confines of their respective laws and those of the land. Transparency and accountability ought to be second nature to the daily operations.

  • To sports officials, the sports discipline is about the athletes or players – never about you. Let your actions and decisions be the yardstick by which the sporting fraternity uses to judge your performance. Your legacy should speak for itself not weekly press briefings.
  • To Kenyan corporates, put your money where your mouth is. Choose a sport, research well and be invested for the long-haul. The sporadic and measly sponsorships to get good mentions and media mileage will not fly.
  • Still on investment in sport, it should not be an afterthought and peppered CSR activities that brand managers run for. Offer the time, experience and skills to run sport like a business – for we ought to be in the business of sports in this century.
  • To sports athletes, players and coaches discipline, focus and leadership where needed will ensure success of your respective sports disciplines. In the crazy millennium that is the 21st century, yours isn’t an enviable task but it’s the one thing that you have chosen to do – do it well.
  • With his stints in both Kenyan football and other sporting activities, as well as his stint in the Ministry of Culture and Social Services, he served his country diligently. Though brief, the legacies left in respective disciplines are more than we can share here.

God bless Matiba’s time with us, rest in sport brave warrior!

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!

2011 Women’s Africa Nations Championship – Nairobi welcomes Continental Challenge

Kenya’s place as the continent’s one of biggest success in volleyball is without a doubt. That endorsement is seen in the current club and nation’s ranking among the best in the women’s game of volleyball.

It is thus Kenya’s team to lose as they host the Africa’s Nations Championship for the next few days ending on the 23rd of August. Due to the repairs taking place at the Kasarani sports stadia and also the need to have these games played in an indoor facility, Kenya Volleyball Association sought the private institutions at African Nazarene University and Brookhouse School to host the games divided into 2 pools.Image courtesy of www.sportsnewsarena.com

The games were necessitated by the need to get Africa’s representatives in the FIVB World Cup in November 2011 ( Kenya has represented Africa 5 other times with 2010 being the most recent, albeit to some poor showing). Some of the teams will also use the championships to prepare for the All- Africa Games which start in September in Maputo.

The pools are divided into;

Pool A: Cameroon,Egypt,Kenya and Nigeria

Pool B: Algeria,Botswana,Rwanda, Senegal and Tunisia

Saturday represented Day 3 of the games. Front-runners for the finals are already positioning themselves with Kenya hoping to retain its pole position. Stiff opposition comes in the form of Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria and Tunisia.

We wish the ladies team all the best as David Lung’aho’s charges look to retain their title as Africa’s Queens. Led by captain Brackcides Agala and seeing seasoned hands such as Janet Wanja making a comeback, it is without doubt Kenya’s championship to lose.

For more regular updates check these links, www.sportsnewsarena OR www.cavb.org

All-Africa Games 2011 – Is Kenya ready for Continental Take-over?

2011 sees the start of what ought to be a busy 2 years for most sporting associations in the country. Yes we have the continental championships in the form of All-Africa Games this year being held in Maputo (official site here) starting us off. The next major sporting event is the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London – a major one since Britain are Kenya’s former colonial masters…
Back to the All-Africa Games, over the years, these Games have enjoyed or lost their glare depending on the country hosting them and again because the prestige attached to the Pan-Africa games have been eroded by more commercially lucrative sporting events for the different sporting disciplines.
Again the secretariat that run the AAG have not been able to get the Games to be a major attraction to the continent’s different states. As is often the case with most African states saying or promising one thing and actually doing another, the same has been the case with AAG. Remember that fiasco that almost became of the 4th All-Africa Games with Kenya hosting the continent 9 full years after 2 postponements?
The current Games were handed to Mozambique after initial hosts Zambia were unable to host due to lack of funds. Even current hosts Mozambique have their own challenges with them not having a hockey pitch worth hosting international games.
So what chance does Kenya have of topping the tables at the AAG?
The best performance the country has enjoyed was back in 1987 thanks of course to hosting them. That year and the build-up to the Games produced some of the best years for Kenyan sport with the national football team being a regional powerhouse & almost beating Egypt in a controversial final game ( we must remember that is the same year that Gor Mahia achieved continental supremacy in the club Africa Cup Winners Cup – Nelson Mandela Cup). The athletics team was able to hone skills that aided them in the 1988 Summer Olympic Games where we harvested 4 gold medals.

The boxing team ‘The Hit Squad’ was in no nonsense moods and collected 10 out of a possible 12 gold medals and went on to produce Africa’s first gold medal at the Korea Olympics thanks to the late,Robert Wangila Napunyi.
Other success stories were the hockey team was represented Africa albeit with no win at the 1988 Olympics; a medal in tae-kwo-ndo & also the emergence of Kenya’s women’s volleyball from their male counterparts.

24 years later, the dynamics have changed drastically. We have the usual shenanigans of lack of funds, more corrupt sports officials and vested interests among a myriad of challenges. The Sports Ministry has announced that Kenya will be represented in 19 disciplines out of the possible 23, laudable so far. But that’s almost where the good news ends.
Of all the sporting teams, the athletics one is the only one which conducted competitive and transparent team selection. Most of the other associations are plagued by disagreements over team selection, availability of funds and officials. Take a case of the boxing team, officials are busy suspending each other, while the game has lost its place in the national sporting scene. Where the team was enjoying participation to continental and international championships such the King’s Cup in Bangkok, there is no team worth talking about. The last time we sent a team to the Commonwealth Games it was some embarrassment with most of the boxers not able to keep up with modern scoring techniques and really no punching worth their gloves.
Look at the hockey,basketball, tae-kwon-ndo teams to name but a few. Pathetic to say the least…
The Assistant Minister of Sports announced that there would be no joy-riders on the teams going down south.

  • Good pronouncement but aren’t you the people charged with the responsibility of securing the nation’s interest for the good of our sportsmen and women?
  • Except for Athletics Kenya, Kenya Rugby Union, how are the other sporting bodies even still in existence? If not trying to give a semblance of a league, most are walking ghosts with officials out to enjoy office trappings for their own selfish gains and allowances leaving bankrupt bodies.
  • What sense is there in carrying a bloated team in the name of representation & national pride instead of a few well-selected and competitive teams which are almost certain of securing victory in their disciplines?
  • Mr. Minister Sir, even in our beloved athletics we have seen the national team selection take place only for our brothers and sisters to go falter at the continental stage after mismanagement by their agents and lack of proper training schedules. What plans do you have in place to ensure this doesn’t happen?
  • You have done great to change the lot for sporting people and teams going for national representation. Great that you are committing KShs.200 million of the 300 meant for preparing the contingent to Mozambique. But do you usually insist on comprehensive reports from these assignments and do you ever act on them anyway?
  • All-Africa Games should be the breeding ground for our teams to shine on the bigger international stage at next year’s Olympic Games. What is the Government doing to improve on previous performances and restore Kenya’s pride on that stage?
  • We had our swimmers do a great job in Algiers in 2007, Beijing 2008 and last year in New Delhi. Do they stand a chance of winning more medals and making us even more proud in London next year?

Answers to this questions will mean our participation in Maputo will not be another joyride and restore some pride to the country as well as ensure nurturing budding talent which is waiting in the wings. Anything short of those answers and Bwana Waziri, you shall be carrying 200 athletes and 200 officials busy on a sight-seeing trip and learning the local Portuguese dialect more than national duty.
It’s your call!

Check our earlier post on 2007 All-Africa Games as well as SportsNewsArena’s article on 2011 AAG.

Kenya Karate host the World in Malindi for International Club Championships

Martial arts in many a parts of the world has been popularised since the 1970s and 1980s thanks to the Oriental movies with the likes of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Hollywood actors like  Jean Claude van Damme and Wesley Snipes. Most often than not it is a young boy’s dream to be able to throw those kicks and punches but with the discipline and rigorous training, it is never anyone’s cup of tea.

Karate in KenyaImage courtesy of www.mullychildrensfamily.org 
This month (March 25th -31st ,2011) though, the Kenya Karate Federation is about to make many dreams come true for the hundreds who put in days and months of training at their local clubs.  Having won the bid to host the International Karate Club Championships last year, the Federation is making a good case for non-traditional Kenyan sports. The unsung truth though is that Kenya has achieved favourable continental success in another technique of martial arts Tae-kwo-ndo with a couple of medals in the last 15 years or so at the All-Africa Games and major tournaments.
The tragedy (as is usually the case in Kenyan sports) is that not much investment has been made in inculcating these disciplines into the fabric of not just your common man on the street but the youth and sports clubs around the country. Most of these have the sport more for fitness or defensive training – which makes it quite popular with disciplined forces and security firms.
However, the Kenya Karate Federation which has had past luminaries such as Karimbhai, and with its current Chairman media-savvy Caleb Atemi (who previously worked with NSSF) are hoping to endear themselves to Kenyan martial arts enthusiasts with the upcoming club championships. Incorporating the kata and kumite  forms of the Karate (Shotokan) form of art, they are sights to behold and worth watching. 
Hoping to secure funds from the major Kenyan corporate firms and a media partner, the club championships will be used as a training and selection platform for the Kenyan national team for the All Africa Games. The championships shall be held at the Blue Marlin Hotel in Malindi. We at SportsKenya hope to send one of our contributors( where possible) and capture a few interesting stories from that side of town. For more info, check this link.

Seeing as it is, this sport originated from the Orients with Japan being a focal point. With the latest double tragedy of earthquake and tsunami, our prayers to those affected. We also hope as one of the proponents Sensei Gichen Funakoshi sought to spread the art across the world to counter loss of Japanese clubs , teachers and students. For those who can make it, Kenya and indeed the world shall forever be endeared to your participation.

What will save the ailing Kenyan Basketball scene?

Kenya is easily one of the best sporting nations in the continent. But some of the disciplines are clearly putting the nation to shame. Coming as it from foreign assignments, it’s a bit disheartening given that there is quite some interest for some of the sporting disciplines, only for the squabbles, demotivating practices to chase away any interested parties – be they youth talent or corporate organisations.
Patriotism v/s Exploitation
Kenya Basketball Federation, led by none other than Mr. Paul Otula. What is happening in Rwanda? Having gone for the All-African Games qualifiers, the teams (both men and women) were seen to be likely to qualify for the continental games to be held in September this year in Maputo, Mozambique.
Before leaving there was a statement made that the national teams training would not be entitled to daily allowances which are usually mandatory for players for engaging their services. For most of these players, there are no regular sources of income and such a declaration would be clearly break the morale of the team.
Getting to Rwanda and the teams do not have official kit for training and have to borrow from their hosts. Also there is no team doctor ( totally suicidal given the physical toll that the game takes on players). All over sudden all hell breaks lose and the team captains ( Ben Oluoch and Angela Luchivya) are handed an indefinite ban for allegedly pushing internal revolt and boycott from the players. From unconfirmed sources, one of the reason was that the players were getting a daily allowance of KShs.500 ( around $6.25). Even if its is patriotism, this is a pittance for national duty. Then follows a unilateral withdrawal of the Federation from the qualifiers as a way of seeking to cover the underlying issues instead of addressing them ( though the Kenya National Sports Council had to intervene and ask the teams to continue playing).
What is wrong with these sports officials? If you had no funds going into national camp, it wouldn’t hurt to appeal for funds from the locals. It would also be better to clearly outline the trip’s difficulties in good time in case any player wants to withdraw their participation. Clearly it’s not too much to ask, but when shall you take the game to another level?

Co-op Bank v/s KCB Lions 2010, photo courtesy of www.michezoafrika.com

Disgraced Play-offs
If the end of the season was anything to go by, we are not entirely suprised by the happenings in Rwanda. The men’s playoff finals were a sham. Game 3 had to be abruptly stopped with the claim that one of the team’s fans (KCB Lions) were going to disrupt the game and cause physical harm to referees officiating the game. Some of the players from the two teams ( the other was regular play-off contenders Co-op Bank) are in the national team of course, this time representing national interest.

But for a Federation not able to organise its own house, it is not for the Commissioner of Sports to call them to order. There have been claims of maintaining the status quo, but even then, there is nothing much to show. How many basketball courts have they been able to build? How many teams are currently playing in the national and formerly provincial leagues? Does the Federation have a plan of what they want the game to be now, in 1 year, 5 years? Having a senior FIBA official from the continental body ( by the name of Maurice Aluanga who was once KBF Chair), what synergies has the Federation sought to build the local game?

Someone needs blow the whistle on this situation before we lose the game and it becomes a by-gone era. Anyone courageous enough to call it as it is?
You can follow the local basketball scene here, www.kenyahoops.wordpress.com