What makes for a Winning Combination?

By Richard Wanjohi

France - World Cup 2018 Winners
France – World Cup 2018 Winners

Starter

End of July and two World Cups down, what a year this is turning out to be! Starting with the more recent one, New Zealand men’s and ladies team both took home the butter by winning their respective titles at the Rugby Sevens’ World Cup held in San Francisco’s Bay Area in US.

Analysts had pinned hopes on Fiji or South Africa bringing their circuit experience but that didn’t count for anything. Add Kenya’s showing at the tournament and yes, dismal at its best – seeing as the Shujaa finishing 16th of the 24 teams.

The other more famous tournament is FIFA’s World Cup, this year played in Russia which saw European teams continue their dominance with a 4th win on the trot over the South American and other fancied teams.

This is with the French national team affectionately known as Les Bleus knocking Croatia 4-2 in one of the more entertaining Finals in recent history. Scores of fans across the world have christened this a win for Africa or indeed immigration…that’s not for us to say.

In the same period of the month, I was privileged to attend the third Rugby Conference which brings together stakeholders (sic) in the game of rugby within the country held at the Strathmore University. The theme of the sitting was aptly named ‘The Challenge of Winning’ – as christened by the host sports body Kenya Rugby Union.

This conference came on the back of a successful season 2017-18 for the Union which saw Kenya finish in the top 8 of the rugby series, the Kenyan women’s team win the Rugby Africa tournament, the 15-a-side team inching closer to a World Cup place in 2019 – all well and done for a sports association.

These 3 events got me thinking of what makes a winning combination. Does it come from a strong team riding roughshod over its opponents? Does it come from the scientific approach that have seen technology and other aspects of sports science come into play? Is it sheer luck or hunches by the respective team managers and team leaders?

Let’s take a deep dive:

Talent vs Team

In the now famous 2018 World Cup Final, football purists got their minds warped as the favoured teams started falling out as early as the first round. The Finals had a premiere appearance by the Croatian team. The tournament only one game which went goalless, missing out on the goals scored thanks to the exhausting extra-time games in the knock-out phases.

Many pundits attributed the fall of Argentina, Germany and even African teams on the lack of integration of the wealth of talent into the team structure. To paraphrase renowned management consultant Sunny Bindra in his weekly column, “…to win in football ( or any collective, team-based endeavor), four ingredients are necessary: first, a great ethos and shared sense of purpose; second, a ‘groove’ – a familiar and competent system of play (no matter what it is); third, some outstanding talent in key places; and lastly, great leadership, on and off the playing arena” – article titled Another World Cup; a Familiar Four-factor Theory We Can Apply –  Sunday Nation, 22nd July 2018.

Does this sound like something our teams do often? Does it reflect even both at our team and individual sport (where the ‘larger’ team consists of the coach, physiologist, team manager et al)?

Pre-tournament favourites’ slowly become post-tournament laughing stock. Individuals’ talent becomes anathema as experienced teams fall on the way side.

Image courtesy of www.back-post.com
Image courtesy of www.back-post.com

Sports science and Core competencies

Still with the football World Cup, a case has been made as to why it may take African teams longer to ever play or even win the trophy. While we harp on the strength and stamina of many a footballer from Africa, beyond this is a mental and physiological game which is played both on and off the pitch.

In Kenyan rugby scene, we have heard beliefs and whispers of how the game cannot cross to ‘non-traditional players’ from communities without a certain DNA or body stature. It is not for us to determine that here. But if the game of rugby in Kenya is to have a brighter future and pool of talent, this cannot fly.

In today’s sporting world, while the natural talent and flair may count for much, sports science shows that investing in the right nutrition, right training regime, right core competencies and attitude – such investment can go a long way in nurturing and growing nascent talent.

Big Data and Sports

In 2014, when Germany won the World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, data analysts and tech enthusiasts were harping on how the use of big data did help it secure the win. All fair and square. What happened in 2018, albeit with even more advancements and appreciated use of data?

Perhaps I should put a disclaimer here, I’m not in any way against the use of data but this cannot be done in a void and is one of the other components needed in a winning team. As part of a winning process, start the use of data to lay a foundation, build upon it and also track performances across all spheres of performance both on and off the pitch.

I’ll take us back to the Rugby Conference where one Paul Odera – head coach of the Under-20s rugby national team gave a thought-provoking presentation on ‘Towards the U-20 World (Championships) – Process then Individuals’. In one part of the presentation, he underscored the use of data to track junior rugby players from the hours of sleep they get, food and nutrition habits, training and conditioning regimes among others.

He indicated this helps his management team understand not just the physical preparedness of the player but also his/her mental and psychological state way before they touch the ball on the pitch. It is instructive that this happens from a very basic level to ensure the team members are able to develop this self-discipline early in their careers.

How many sports teams and individuals are willing to go minutiae for a winning formula?

Sheer hunch or sheer luck?

In the 2018 World Cup Final, a number of football pundits captured on TV went ham on the refereeing decisions made which led to the first and second goals for France. It may or may have contributed to changing the course of the game.

But I usually argue, the opposing team has at least 90 minutes to score any number of goals they may muster. Why do we look for excuses, reasons one or the other as to why teams lose games? What with the Video Assisted-Refereeing making its debut in a major tournament. This will indeed impact the game of football in a big way in the near future.

But then again, to what extent can we attribute the French win to a fortuitous header by a Croatian striker? An innocent spin of the hand by an experienced Croatian defender? We never know what luck the French may have on the day, but they sure did take full advantage of it.

As a sports association, FIFA and the host nation Russia have scored major points with a largely successful tournament. How does FIFA manage to hold us captive every four years? Scoring major sponsorship deals (or partnerships as it were) as well as secure top dollar with TV and media rights in the process.

Why can’t Football Kenya Federation learn a thing or two from the parent association? Having changed its structure and elected officials a few years ago, there is nothing much to write home about. We have had many start-stop attempts at qualifying for continental challenges at a national team level. The consolation is a win of the regional cup CECAFA. Other than that, Harambee Stars has no official sponsor – from shirt, apparel to major endorsements even when a number of players ply their trade in Europe.

Supposition

In Asia, major countries including China, India and China have made very deliberate efforts to invest in sports. From infrastructure to engaging major sports associations as well as youth programmes to grow different sports disciplines. This goes beyond their traditional sports such as sumo and cricket to mainstream ones in athletics, basketball and football.

We have seen how they have exerted their influence has been with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and FIFA.  In the just concluded World Cup, both Japan and South Korea challenged the top teams and while they may have lost by a goal or on a technicality, the future does look bright.

Major European football clubs have added Asia as a must-stop locale before the start of each season. Whether it is commercializing the various sports properties or bringing the individuals closer to their fans, this is bound to serve as an allure for local leagues and teams.

Add the media investment and audience reach – the Asian audiences have been growing in double digits in the last 5 years. Mix it up with the budding local league scenes and home-grown players and talent pools, it is bound to be a potent combination to a winning strategy.

World Cup 2018 – ‘Best Ever’?

Summary by Richard Wanjohi and SK’s armchair analysts.

Oh how time flies when you’re having fun…that’s the feeling with the last game of the 2018 World Cup. Croatia coming undone by their own little errors and hasty referee decisions, Le Bleus finding glory after 20 years to get their second star on their jerseys and for both Luka Modric and Kylian Mbappe to claim individual honours for sterling performances.

Kylian Mbappe - Image courtesy of Getty Images
Kylian Mbappe – Image courtesy of Getty Images

Pundits have claimed this to be the ‘best World Cup’ in recent history or was it?

 

 

First things first. It was a World Cup of a number of firsts including;

  1. Video Assisted Refereeing (VAR) – the second or third eye, depending on how you’d want to look at it, became a phenomenon for the first time on a global scale. With the teething problems expected, every player and manager started insisting on using this even when it did not warrant. What was interesting though is while there were a number of penalty-kicks given, the supposed culprits were mostly not punished or it went unnoticed. It is important to note the VAR was initiated to help make decisions on penalties, red cards or mistaken identity.

22 penalties were scored out of 29 awarded, the highest-ever scored in a World Cup. Did VAR affect this?

  1. 4th Substitute – this was the case for the games that spilled over to the extra-time period. This was brought about seeking to give teams the oomph and urge to win the game in extra time and where this did not happen, seek to replace one goalkeeper with a more experienced penalty-stopper.

Of 6 games that went into extra-time, only 1 was won within this period. The other 5 went into the dreaded penalty kicks. Maybe it’s time for a return to Golden Goal rule?

  1. First held in Eastern Europe (and 2 Continents) – thanks to the expansive land that is Russia. The tournament spread across the country that could easily call Europe and Asia its home. Does that qualify it as the first to be held on two different continents?
  2. Fair Play to decide qualification – for the uninitiated, FIFA introduced a Fair Play method which sees teams try not accumulate yellow and red cards which cost them in later stages. This was the case for Senegal which saw them miss qualification with Japan taking its place after they tied on points and goal difference.

Group Stages and Round of 16:

The tournament kicked off with the hosts Russia taking on Saudi Arabia as a team with a mission. Off the blocks with 5-0 win meant it would see a good number of goals. The hosts held good spirit to advance to the knock-out stages.

African teams would find it hard done not to have a qualifying team – albeit the Senegalese losing on a Fair Play technicality.  The favoured teams such as Nigeria and Egypt left it too late to make an impact in the tournament.

Asian teams also found the going tough with only Japan moving to the knock-out phases – and lose to semi-finalists and 3rd– placed Belgium.

Germany continued the ignominy of immediate previous winners being eliminated in the first round – following in the footsteps of France in 2002, Italy in 2010 and Spain in 2014. Champions curse?

As it were Europe carried the day with 10/16 teams in the knock-out round of 16.  South America had 5 and Asia 1.

Then there were 8-4-2: Quarter-Finals, Semis and Finals

Europe once again carried the day with 6/8 team playing out in the quarter-finals. Some argued the weather being a factor, others blamed it on the exhausting European leagues. Whatever they chose, this was surely taking a Eurocentric twist.

Russia had continued with their fairy tale chase of honours which were halted by eventual finalists and 2nd –placed Croatia in a cracker of a match. Favoured teams in Brazil and Uruguay were hastily shown the door.

The semis looked in both games as final-before-finals as France battled fellow-French speaking Belgium and Croatia sought to ride the English 3-lions into the finals. Pundits and TV rights holders would have loved a French-English Final but the Croats had other ideas.

The Final was a first for Croatia while it was the third appearance for the French. The latter having won 1998 and lost in 2006 came with their tails wagging. Croatia on the other hand were novices in this space and it showed in conceding fouls which eventually cost them the game. Their comeback wings were clipped even before launching by FIFA Young Player of the Tournament – Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and an own goal by Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic who later scored Croatia’s second – earning the infamy of scoring on both ends of the goals in a Final.

Final Score: France 4 – Croatia 2.

France - World Cup 2018 Winners
France – World Cup 2018 Winners

Awards & Quick Numbers:

  • Luka Modric (Croatia) – Player of the Tournament (Golden Ball Award)
  • Kylian Mbappe (France) – Young Player of the Tournament
  • Harry Kane (England) – Highest Number of Goals Scored (Golden Boot) – 6 Goals
  • Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) – Most Saves 27 – Goalkeeper of the Tournament
  • Ivan Perisic (Croatia) – Most Distance Covered – 72 kms
  • Sergio Ramos (Spain) – Most Passes – 485
  • Neymar (Brazil) – Most Attempts – 27
  • 169:- Total number of Goals Scored; (including 12 own-goals the highest-ever);
  • 4:- Red Cards (one of the lowest in recent history)
  • $ 38 Million for the World Cup Winners – France; $ 28 Million for 2nd Place – Croatia and $24 mill for 3rd place
  • $791 Million – Total Prize Money paid out by FIFA in the 2018 World Cup

Our Top 5 Goals of the Tournament:

  1. Ricardo Quaresma (Portugal vs Iran)
  2. Denis Cheryshev ( Russia vs Croatia)
  3. Benjamin Pavard ( France vs Argentina)
  4. Philippe Coutinho ( Brazil vs Switzerland)
  5. Musa Idriss ( 1st goal – Nigeria vs Iceland)

Top 5 Brands:

FIFA - Brand Partners and Sponsors - Image courtesy of www.fifa.com
FIFA – Brand Partners and Sponsors – Image courtesy of www.fifa.com
  1. Nike – with at least 3 of the top 4 teams being in their stable, the biggest coup would appear to be Nigeria’s shirt design which sold out minutes after being officially released.
  2. Adidas – seems odd that the competing apparel brands should be in the top 5 but yes Adidas did have a few wins with the less sponsorship deals and Telcra ball design.
  3. Hisense – it may have come in for some poor showing in this part of the world, but it resonated well with its audiences on social media platforms and activations. Let’s see what numbers it makes in the next few years.
  4. Budweiser – being the only other drink sponsor of the World Cup, it had some work to do playing catch up with Coke. It did deliver some interesting campaigns and has been having positive conversations online.
  5. CocaCola – for a brand synonymous with the World Cup, they’ve not let their guard and slept on the job. They keep challenging other sponsoring brands on how best to leverage their sponsorship deals.

 

Notes:

Figures from www.fifa.com ; additional info from www.statistica.com and www.guardian.com and Twitter account @Sporf

World Cup 2018 – 5 of the Best! 5 Stadiums

By Richard Wanjohi

As promised, we at Sportskenya are excited about the World Cup 2018. We started our review of 5 of the Best! Today we look at ‘our’ 5 Best Stadiums hosting the extravaganza. We have based our review on the following;

  • Name and Design,
  • Capacity,
  • Sustainability and Accessibility, and finally
  • Wow-effect.

Take a look (in descending order starting with the 5th to the 1st)

Fisht Stadium - Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Fisht Stadium – Image courtesy of Wikipedia

5. Fisht Stadium – located in Sochi, near Georgia/Kazakh border – most southerly venue of the 2018 World Cup. It is close to the Black Sea and the word Fisht in the local language means ‘white head’ – served as the host stadium for 2014 Winter Olympics.
Unique sloping look designed to resemble snowy peaks with temporary seating at the North and South ends closing the open spaces which offer spectacular views of Polyana Mountains and the Black Sea.
Capacity: 47,459 fans
Sustainability: Previously hosted Winter Olympics and will be venue for
Matches to be hosted: 4 group matches; 2 knock-out games (1 Last 16 and 1 Quarter-final match

St.Petersburg Stadium - Image courtesy of DepositPhotos.com
St.Petersburg Stadium – Image courtesy of DepositPhotos.com
  1. St. Petersburg Stadium – located in St. Petersburg, on Neva River – most northerly venue of the extravaganza. Formerly known as Zenit Arena or Krestovsky Stadium, has the unique design of ‘The Spaceship’ by Japan’s Kisho Kurokawa ( who also designed Toyota Stadium in Japan). It’s equipped with a sliding pitch and retractable roof.

Capacity: 68,134

Sustainability: will play host to Russian club Zenit St. Petersburg and 4 matches of Euro 2020.

Matches: 4 group matches; 2 knock-out games ( 1 Last 16 and 1 Semi-Final).

Kazan Stadium - Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Kazan Stadium – Image courtesy of Wikipedia
  1. Kazan Stadium – located in Kazan – capital of Tartastan – confluence of the Volga and Kazanka Rivers.

It’s got a similar look to the new Wembley and Emirates Stadiums in the UK. It has previously hosted the 2017 Confederations Cup, 2013 Summer Universiade and is home to Russian club Rubin Kazan. It also hosted the 2015 World Aquatics championships where the football pitch was replaced by 2 swimming pools.

Capacity: 44,779

Sustainability: Being one of the most versatile and multi-sport venues in Russia, it also hosts a local top tier side in football.

Matches: 4 group matches; 2 knock-out games (1 last 16 and 1 Semi-final).

Spartak Stadium - Image courtesy of RT.com

  1. Spartak Stadium – located in Moscow. Previously known as Otkritie Arena, it plays host to one of Russia’s biggest clubs, Spartak Moscow. It has a fancy exterior design which features hundreds of connected diamonds which will be changed to reflect the colours of the playing nations.

Capacity: 43,298 fans

Sustainability: It’s played host to top tier club Spartak Moscow and continues to be among the

Matches: 4 group matches and 1 knock-out game.

Luzhniki Stadium- Image courtesy of RT.com
Luzhniki Stadium- Image courtesy of RT.com
  1. Luzhniki Stadium – also located in Moscow, it is Russia’s crown jewel among its stadiums. It is the most storied one given the number of events it has hosted including; 2017 Confederations Cup, 1980 Summer Olympic Games, UEFA League matches and 1999 Final to name but a few.

Capacity: 61,009 fans

Sustainability: Though the athlete’s tartan track has been removed for the exclusive use of football matches, it remains one of the most ubiquitous venues.

Matches: 4 group matches, 1 last 16, 1 semi-final and the Final.

Here’s a graphic representation of all 8 stadiums below;

russia-2018-map-football-stadium-landmark-infographic-soccer-icon-set-arena-strategy-world-cup-vector-illustration-MB8K1B

 

World Cup 2018 – 5 of the Best ! 5 African Teams

World Cup 2018 Review by Richard Wanjohi 
Just days to the World Cup, we at SportsKenya look at 5 of the best! The first of the posts starts with a look at 5 of Africa’s representatives at the 2018 edition. Enjoy!

FIFA World Cup 2018 Logo (courtesy of FIFA.com)
FIFA World Cup 2018 Logo (courtesy of FIFA.com)

5 African Country Teams

  1. Egypt
    (FIFA ranking 46th worldwide, 5th in Africa)
    The Pharaohs; first African country to play in the FIFA World Cup back in 1934 (coincidentally also it’s best-placed). Playing in its 3rd outing, it has one of the strongest African teams on paper. It has won most of the Africa Cup of Nations making it a formidable opponent. It carries one of Europe’s lethal strikers in the just-concluded season who broke both club and Premier League scoring records.

X-Factor: Mohammed Salah has been a fresh breath of air, helping his club team to the finals of the UEFA Champions League. Though recovering from a shoulder injury sustained a few days ago, any coach would be foolish not to include his in their roster.

Mohamed Salah - Image courtesy of arabnews.com
Mohamed Salah – Image courtesy of arabnews.com

The Egyptian’s other well-tested players include Arsenal’s Mohammed El Neny; Al Ahly’s Ahmed Fathy; West Bromwich Albion’s Ahmed Hegazi, Aston Villa’s Ahmed El Mohamady with goalkeeper Essam El Hadary expected to become the oldest player to play at the World Cup if he does get selected to start in June 2018.

Team Manager/Coach: In Hector Cuper, they have an unrelenting coach who’s been with the team since 2015 and saw them reach the Africa Cup of Nations Final in 2017 losing to Cameroon. Egypt’s main undoing will be a lack of international exposure for some of its players. The religious rites of the Ramadhan may also come into play.

Group A includes hosts Russia, Uruguay and fellow Arab state Saudi Arabia.

Our Prediction: Advance to 2nd Round and possibly the Quarter-Finals.
Kit: Red Shirts, White Shorts and Black Socks OR White/Grey Shirts and Black Shorts
Official Kit Sponsor: Adidas

2. Nigeria
(FIFA Ranking – 47th world; 6th in Africa)
Fondly known as Super Eagles – note the word Super, showing the cockiness of the West African brothers. This will be their 6th outing having represented Africa in 1994, 1998, 2002, 2010 and 2014 and now in 2018. Physically they have one of the strongest teams given, but as we’d know, the World Cup is not about the strongest team on the day.
Only Cameroon has qualified for more World Cups from the continent.

It has been a formidable team in each of the World Cups with the 1994 and 1998 more memorable as in each of the two they qualified to the 2nd round.

The squad has a good mix of experienced players including captain John Obi Mikel who plies his trade in China’s Tianjin Teda, Victor Moses – Chelsea; Alex Iwobi – Arsenal; Kelechi Iheneacho – Leicester City and Elderson Echiejile – Cercle Brugge from Belgium.

X-Factor: John Obi Mikel – on a good day he can initiate attacks and play well with the frontline of Victor Moses, Iheneacho and Iwobi to finish off the game.

John Obi Mikel - Image courtesy of Jollof Sports
John Obi Mikel – Image courtesy of Jollof Sports

Their main challenge has been player disunity in previous tournaments, as well as delayed payments in allowances and bonuses. The team has also had the unlucky streak of losing in the group stages in the last 2 consecutive World Cups. If they can cross that bridge this time, who knows they might be Africa’s first nation in the semi-finals…or as Daniel Amokachi said purpose to win the World Cup?

Team Manager/Coach: After working with Nigerian managers, the Nigerian Football Federation settled on German’s Gernat Rohr – who’s previously managed Burkina Faso, Gabon and Togo national teams.

Group D pits them against Argentina, Croatia and Iceland – one of the toughest groups!

Our Prediction: Advance to 2nd Round and Quarter-Finals
Kit: Green Shirt with White & Black Sleeves and White Shorts OR All-Black with Green trimmings
Official Kit Sponsor: Nike

3. Morocco
(FIFA Ranking: 42nd world and 4th in Africa)
The Atlas Lions were the first African country to win a group match in 1986, going on to qualify for the 2nd round only to be eliminated by West Germany.

Morocco jersey and shorts - Image courtesy of adidas.com
Morocco jersey and shorts – Image courtesy of adidas.com

Their main undoing would be the lack of World Cup experience being only their third time and first in over 30 years. The team is also drawn against Spain and Portugal – who emerge as favorites to move to the 2nd round. The other team is Iran in Group B.

Group B consists of Spain, Portugal and Iran.

The team has a mix of players plying their trade in the European leagues as well as a sprinkling of Moroccan homegrown talent. Most of its players maybe unknown but such is the tag that makes them lethal as they were in 1986.

The team also qualified conceding only one goal, showing the defensive depth.

Team Manager/Coach: The current manager is Frenchman Herve Renard who has previously coached the Zambian and Ivory Coast national teams.

Our Prediction: Group stages (either finish tied 2nd, losing out on goal difference or 3rd in the group).
Kit: Red Pants, Black Shorts and Red Socks with White trimmings OR All-White with Red trimmings.
Official Kit Sponsor: Adidas

4. Tunisia
(FIFA Ranking – 14th world and 1st in Africa)
The Carthage Eagles – come into the 2018 WC in their fourth time of asking having been at the 1978, 1998, 2002 and 2006 edifices. The team has a heritage of upsetting the form book in its first outing beating Mexico 3-1 in Argentina in 1978 as well as drawing in the same tournament with West Germany.

Subsequent participation has not yielded much but this can be the source of strength to draw from. The under-dog tag works well for a well-gelled team which plays under the radar of its main opponents.

Tunisia National Team - image courtesy of fifa.com
Tunisia National Team – image courtesy of fifa.com

Group G’s made up of Belgium, England and Panama. The former two form the favorites to win the group. It will take more than a sterling performance to get through to the second and subsequent rounds.

Team Manager/Coach: Nabil Maaloul is entrusted with guiding the team to a favorable performance compared to the previous outings. He’s one of only two of African’s coaches from their home nation.

Our Prediction: Group Stages
Kit: White with Red trimmings OR Red with White trimmings
Official Kit Sponsor: Puma

5. Senegal
(FIFA Ranking: 28th worldwide and 2nd in Africa)
Famously known as The Lions of Teranga their proudest WC moment was shocking the defending champions France in the 2002 World Cup in South Korea & Japan, and will look for the same inspiration to get them through this time.
In 2002, thanks to their sterling performance and a second round knock-out ‘golden goal’ they managed to become the 2nd African country to sail to the quarter-finals only to be knocked out in the same fashion.
The team is made up of members plying their trade in top flight football in England and France including; Sadio Mane- Liverpool, Cheikhou Kouyate – West Ham United, Diafrra Sakho of Rennes, Moussa Konate – Amiens and Kalidou Koulibaly of Napoli.

Group H  other members include: Colombia, Japan and Poland.

Sadio Mane celebrates goal with Senegalese teammates - Image courtesy of Getty Images
Sadio Mane celebrates goal with Senegalese teammates – Image courtesy of Getty Images

X-Factor: The foursome of Kalidou Koulibaly at the back; Cheikhou Kouyate and Idrissa Gana Gueye in the middle and Sadio Mane at the front form a formidable core of the team.

Team Manager/Coach: Aliou Cisse – who captained the team in 2002 comes back as team manager and hopes to inspire the team from the bench to better the performance.
Our Prediction: Advance to 2nd Round and depending on their opponents, could play in the Quarter-Finals for a 2nd time.
Kit: Green Shirts and Pants OR All-White
Official Kit Sponsor: Puma

Football Kenya falters again and again

Football Kenya fallacies
After securing fresh mandate from the football fraternity in the country, the current Chair one mercurial Sam Nyamweya seemed to have finally come in through the main door to bring order to the rather chaotic scene that is Kenyan football.
But barely a month in office, the Chair started making moves which have since started becoming all too common and frequent. Last year in the first week of December , it was announced that from 2013, all football tournaments that were to be played in Kenya from the lowest levels to the senior ones would have to seek Football Kenya Federation’s clearance – the main gist of this was the many corporate-sponsored tournaments which football officials have salivating and rubbing their hands with glee due to the monies involved.
Early this year one of the country’s professional players made formal complaints about refunds not made to him for air travels made during national duty. Another player still also complained about his use of image and non-compensation for the same. Both these cases were poorly managed by the FKF team which started making pronouncements of how unpatriotic our pro players had suddenly become.

As the country was preparing for the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers for 2013, it became clear that the technical team did not have what it takes to deliver the goods and the campaign was in shambles by last month with sacking ( and ‘appointment’ as football technical director )of the national coach.
By this time also the cracks had started emerging between the Chair and the Vice-Chair along with other branch officials who have not been accommodated in some of the rushed decisions made by the Federation.
Mid-last month, one of the biggest football tournaments, Sakata Ball was cancelled by the sponsors Safaricom in the last minute after it emerged that some FKF officials had made a claim for a percentage of the sponsorship fee(s). This was clearly without justification.
The straw that broke the Camel’s back was Monday’s announcement to the media that FKF had resolved to suspend Vice-Chair and of the Nairobi branch officials for some fabricated and cooked-up issues. And in quick succession, the Chair proceeded to appoint one of his handy men to the post of Vice-Chair.
There are many other issues which we would wish to highlight, but let’s not bore you to death with the sad song(s)…

Same old, same old…
What irks us here at SportsKenya is the fact that once again, Kenyan football is a non-starter, largely due to an incompetent leadership team which is bereft of any new ideas to inject into the local scene. Some have been hoping that the current Chair – who’s well known for his dubious character and political machinations – would somehow see the ‘light’ but that very light has been put off for many a football fan.
KPL as sponsored by SuperSport Limited has been trying against all odds to restore some order into the game. But interference has been seen from FKF e.g. the media accreditation process which was done in a shoddy manner, disciplinary issues relating to the suspended games as well as the tiffs with some of the refereeing officials who at times are at pains to gain control of the game but can’t due to fans’ pressure.

The usual nonchalant stance by FIFA is not entirely suprising given the fact that the first port of call for the current Chair after his election was the Swiss city of Zurich. It may also not be lost to us that the current FIFA President is on his last days and wouldn’t want to antagonise officials who might come back for his neck upon retirement.
The Kenyan Government through the Ministry of Sport is the lame-duck which pipes threats but never makes good its word. Mr. Minister, you can bite the bullet and disband the top team since we have not even qualified for the AFCON coming up in 2013 anyway. And the more we wait for semblance of order to take place, the more the disorder and misconduct of the top organs will continue.

If we can make that sacrifice and bear the painful process for at least 6-12 months, we can midwife a new management team that will have not just the goodwill of football practitioners and enthusiasts but also serve as a lesson on how not-to-mismanage the universal game of football! Well until then, we can forget any meaningful change in the Kenyan football status in the near future…

Football Derby exposes Kenyan football soft underbelly

Many had gone to the game expecting it to live to the hype but what transpired on Sunday is the sad reality of what the Kenyan football game should address and hopefully learn from going forward.
Before going all ham on this post, we seek your indulgence on an article carried by the Daily Nation last week on Wednesday 14th March about how ‘financially-troubled clubs being dropped from KPL‘. The article sought to give direction on what would happen to clubs which have not had proper finances being demoted to lower rung leagues from the Kenya Premier League.

Dropping the Ball? 

It sought to give a clear signal to clubs which have not been able to meet their financial obligations such as paying their players, having concrete contracts for the players as well as functioning secretariat would face such consequences.
The same article estimated each club’s requirement for a season at between KSh.12-15 million. Of this amount, each club is estimated to earn about KSh. 4.4 million from SuperSport who are funding KPL’s activities thus far.
For the last two seasons, we have seen many a club come into the top league but struggle through the season to meet their financial obligations. This season already Rangers FC has been sending red alerts to potential financiers to come to their aid.  They have even contemplated changing their base to create veritable home support in a bid to attract fans to their games.
This is just one of the concerns that KPL needs to address. One of the ways it can aid in this is by securing an overall title sponsor for the Premier League similar to what other leagues in more ‘developed football economies’. This would ensure some more subsidies for the clubs from the KPL in terms of bonuses and assured revenue.

Secondly, the KPL needs come up with a blueprint which would ensure that by the time a club is in the Nationwide League, it is already approaching potential sponsors with the promise of support if they do indeed qualify for the top flight.

Thirdly, with new devolved system of governance, it will be imperative for urban centres in the different counties to come up with social amenities such as stadia, community grounds and related infrastructure. If they can manage to convince a few of the towns which have basic stadia to spruce them up in time and relocate them to these towns, that would build home support for the teams and in longevity ensure wider spread of the game.

Fourth as we saw on Sunday, only a few of the top clubs can muster huge crowds. If the level of competition is enhanced and less emphasis is laid on these top teams, the other teams will also start enjoying sizeable crowds during their games. See what has happened to Sofapaka, Ulinzi FC to name but a few?

Fifth, the security levels at most the games not just the big derby matches but also those in smaller towns leave a lot to be desired. Many a times the Kenya Police are contracted to suppress any crowd trouble but this needs reinforcement from private security personnel.

Sixth, heavy penalties should be incurred by the hosting team in case a game has crowd trouble, no amenities or poor surfaces for the play-grounds. Even the Nyayo National stadium which has been hosting majority of the games! It was downgraded by FIFA due to fan trouble and lack of proper sitting arrangements. It is a no-brainer on this one!

Seventh, both KPL and FKF need to engage professional hands in the management of the game locally. Too many quacks are masquerading as sports administrators but we have seen a rather sorry state of the game at times.  The fact that players can go for months without pay while their managers/team owners ‘roll in 4×4 vehicles’ leaves a lot to be desired. Same applies to player agents and any other personnel relating to club/game logistics. FIFA is always willing to help and are regularly offering workshops and seminars to help with capacity building.

Eighth, since 1995, Kenya has not had club representation at continental level beyond the 1st or 2nd round qualifiers. This is not by accident, its because we have not invested in the game and when we do, it such knee-jerk situations that it fails to make any impact. Lack of proper structures at the top has meant management-by-crisis which has seen us where we are.

Ninth, social media’s with us! But have we used those channels appropriately? As noted by another blogger here. That fans and club enthusiasts can use these channels to hurl abuses at each other is such a sad state of affairs which won’t help bring back the many fans who are yearning to watch live matches.

So going forward, it is bad that the game on Sunday ended the way it did. But if FKF and KPL can pick lessons from this, it can be a new phase for the game going. 

Sepp Blatter & FIFA retinue to visit Kenya ( East Africa) soon

With Federation of Kenya Football having conducted a relatively smooth election to merge Football Kenya with Kenya Football Federation, FIFA powers that-be had to acknowledge the legitimacy of the new office holders. The new chair, mercurial Sam Nyamweya  managed to hold audience with FIFA President Sepp Blatter in November 2011 a few days after the elections and the latter promised to make good the new office’s endorsement by paying a visit to the region with Kenya being part of the circuit visit.

FIFA Pres. Sepp Blatterimage courtesy of http://dadoubd.canalblog.com/

Work on another of the sites for the FIFA Goal Projects is said to start soon in the lakeside town of Kisumu. So while FIFA prepares another whistle-stop trip around Eastern Africa, we thought of a few things they ought to consider as they throw in some sun-bathing lotion, safari/khaki trousers and designer sun-glasses;
1. FIFA Goal Project in Kenya – though this has been touted as one of the biggest FIFA projects to get football from lower levels and under-priviledged areas, in Kenya we are well below expectations. Initial work at the Kasarani Sports Centre stalled and though there is commitment from the Government to continue with the project, FKF officials have not put any structures in place to ensure the same doesn’t happen in future.

2. Non-partisanship  – in the past, FIFA honchos have been seen to take sides when any sort of crisis plagues the local game. This has seen the local football scene deteriorate considerably over the past 15 or so years. It doesn’t help that your organisation broods no interference or nonsense from national Governments but that doesn’t mean that the game should be sacrificed for a few ego bruises.

3. Women’s Football – while the Kenyan male counter-part has had a warm-cold representation at international circles, the women’s game seems to be spurred by some form of inspiration and is fast taking root among Kenyan urban poor. Does your office have any developmental agenda for their game? They just might be what Kenyan football needs to spur it to international fame.

Image courtesy of www.picturesdeposit.com

4. Transparency – many analysts have talked and commented about the secrecy that shrouds your books and other financial statements – the jury’s still out there on how transparent the overall body is run. This should not be the case for national federations. We’ve seen too many shady merchants running the game and getting away with it. Don’t fault them, they only take orders from above …

5. Africa’s agenda – beyond the voting rights that African states have enjoyed, and yes we (South Africa) did host a World Cup. What’s your agenda for African football going forward? Your on-and-off tiffs with CAF top-dog Issa Hayatou have been well documented. Well ours is to hoping that in your last few years of the final term, the game of football can be of great pride to the African citizenry in the near future. Continental sports media house SuperSport has taken the initiative to develop local leagues across many African states, maybe you can take a cue from them. The resources that your organisation enjoys are enourmous and a little bite on the cherry won’t hurt will it?

Thus said, we hope that your visit will be worth the while and as we say in Swahili… Karibu Sana!   

2014 World Cup in Brazil…one step at a time…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kenya Football Federation – Officials from the Past to Present

We shall seek to understand the history of football management in Kenya. This sees a chronology of previous office holders and a brief history of the football game in Kenya. (Originally known as Kenya Football Association, it metamorphosised to Kenya Football Federation and is currently split between KFF and Football Kenya Limited  )


{Dislaimer: Some of the information may not be factual as some of the details are not provided and efforts were made to that effect without much success.}

The previous office holders are as follows:
1.Isaac Lugonzo 1963 :- One of the fathers of sport in Kenya who was instrumental in the setting up of clubs with Kenyan natives. He was elected into office as Kenya welcomed her independence but he would oscillate between this and the National Olympics Committee which was becoming more active and involving.

2. John Kasyoka 1964-70 :- Had a rather nondescript term in office but the emergence of top clubs like Gor Mahia and Nakuru FC would be some of the hallmarks of his reign.

3. Martin Shikuku 1970-72 :- Known more for his firebrand in politics, he managed the game for only two years, his term marked Kenya’s entry into the continental scene playing at the Africa Cup of Nations in 1972.
His office was disbanded after claims of corruption were raised.

4. Bill Martins, Williams Ngaah & Dan Owino 1972 -1974 :- B. Martins managed a caretaker committee before passing the buck to William & Dan respectively.

5. Kenneth Matiba – 1974-80 :- Credited with bringing in some form of business acumen into football management then after helping manage Kenya Breweries into a force to reckon with on the local . Under his reign Kenya won the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup in 1975 along with 3 consecutive years 81-83. In his term, saw the rise of Kenyan clubs AFC Leopards, Gor Mahia and Kenya Breweries made an impact in continental club football. Youth development was also a hallmark of his term under German tactician Bernard Zgoll.

6.Clement Gachanja – 1981-84 :- He inherited a wealth of experience from Ken Matiba and didn’t disappoint either. Kenyan clubs continued dominating the regional scene and challenge for continental honours. Under his team’s term, Gor Mahia managed to win the Africa Cup Winners Cup in 1987. The same year Kenya’s Harambee Stars settled for silver in the All-Africa Games held in Nairobi, managed by Reinherdt Fabisch as well as qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations for the 2nd time.

7. Joab Omino 1984-1991; 1993-1996:- Under his term, the ‘beautiful game‘ in Kenya started stuttering and encountering management problems. He’s known for the infamous term, “…coaches come in their dozens” after sacking arguably then Kenya’s most successful tactician R.Fabisch for criticising their style of handling the national team. The government of the day also started interfering with the game and disbanded Omino’s team indefinitely.
His second stint though was modestly successful after winning the bid to host Africa Cup of Nations in 1996 only for the Government to rescind on the claim of ‘lack of funds’.  Dismal performances from Kenyan clubs except for Kenya Breweries (now renamed Tusker FC) who came close in 1994 losing to DRC’s Motemo Pembe. Kenya also managed to have among its first professional footballers in the likes of Peter Dawo (who came from Gor Mahia to sign for Egypt’s Arab Contractors & Al Seeb in Oman); Mike Okoth ( Boshar in Oman then KV Oostende and Racing Genk in Belgium).

8. Adams Matthew Karauri 1991-92:– With Kenya qualifying in 1990 and 1992 consecutively, the Government put into place a caretaker committee headed by Mr. Karauri but that was all to write home about. The national team performed dismally in both occasions never getting past the first round (scoring only one goal courtesy of a Mickey Weche penalty in 1992 and soaking in 8 goals in total). The technical bench of the national team changed hands over 3 times in that period.

9. Peter Kenneth 1996-2000:- Taking the reigns in what would be one of the toughest times in Kenyan football after CAF banned the national team for 2 years for Kenya’s failure to host the Africa Cup of Nations in 1996, he managed to avoid controversy that had riddled the game. This though was built on quicksand as would eventually manifest itself in Kenya’s non-qualification. Here the clubs would decline both at the local and regional level with nothing much to show for honours

9. Maina Kariuki 2001-2004:- He had one of the most promising campaigns of a present-day official but his term in office marked the genesis of the current problems in the local game both at national or international level. Consolation though is qualification to the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations. This exposed Kenya’s talent to European scouts and the likes of Dennis Oliech secured signatures in Europe.
The Kenya Premier League was registered as private company under his tenure.

(Normalisation Committee under Kipchoge Keino between June – December 2004)

10. Alfred Sambu 2004- 2007:- He came in after football enthusiasts settled on his candidature in a view of having experienced hands in football management managing the national office. But right from the word go, his team was plagued by court cases, disagreements and boardroom wars. They were unceremoniously bundled out of office as the country braced for the controversial political elections.
The country was also banned indefinitely due to these battles but often these orders were rescinded.

11. Mohammed Hatimy 2007-2011:- Initially attempted throwing Sambu out of office but didn’t manage. He was suspended for 3 months in 2005 by FIFA operatives only to go back into their good books rather fast. After orchestrating a boardroom coup, this man and his minions have run the game with duress at every corner. From the splitting KFF and opening up shop at FKL ( Football Kenya Limited), to running under FIFA’s wings, this period has seen the country totter along rudderless.
Their only consolation is the blossoming Kenya Premier League which has seen the fans slowly stream back into the national stadiums and local clubs enjoy followership and lucrative corporate sponsorship. But let this not blind them as their success at all.
Most recently the country was bundled out of 2012 AFCON qualifiers and also had two of its best stadiums banned for non-compliance on security and crowd management issues.

Shall we find redemption after tomorrow’s elections? Pray Kenyan Football that we will!

SOURCES: Foul Play – The Crisis of Football Management in Kenya, Kenya Football Federation, Wikipedia and KenyaPage, KenyaFootball

Kenya Football Elections – Are We Finally There Yet ?

This weekend the main highlight for any discerning Kenyan sports fan is the long-awaited Kenya Football elections. The last few weeks has seen a flurry of activities from all charged with giving Kenyan football a new face or is it phase in the journey to glory?

Any hope for Kenyan Football?Image www.roadto2010.com 

Candidates have made last-minute efforts to appeal to clubs and branch delegates who will make their votes count in this decisive process. Of course not smooth-sailing and controversy seems to follow the process every step of the way. There are many contenders but from many pundits the main ones are of course blue-eyed ‘boy’ Hussein Mohammed and never-say-die Sam Nyamweya. The latter brings in youth, corporate networks and largesse along with some general consensus of a new hand in managing the game. Nyamweya on the other hand has been in and out of football management after coming in with Maina Kariuki back in the 1990s. His reins have been tainted by corruption charges which miraculously disappear as soon as they happen.
Well, it is not this space for us to weigh the backgrounds of these and other contenders for the top office and overall management of the game in Kenya. However, we believe IT IS TIME those charged with making the game rise to where it ought to be GIVE KENYA WHAT WE DESERVE!
Of course, FIFA’s hand and other vested interests in the corporate world will be hanging over tomorrow’s proceedings and it shall not be entirely surprising if we don’t get a final word on this. Pessimists, maybe…more like realists! And miracles do happen you know…