African Women’s Volleyball Club Championships – Can Kenyan clubs pull it off?

From 10th-19th of May, Nairobi shall play host to the 2012 African Women’s Volleyball Club championships to be held at the MISC- Kasarani Gym (if renovation works at the centre finally permit…), with 2 other venues on stand-by in case of any changes. These are African Nazarene indoor volleyball court as well as Brookfield Schools’ court.

Once again Kenyan women volleyballers will have the chance to show the continent, why they are the leading proponents in the club game. This would be sweet solace after missing out on Olympic qualifications for the second time after losing out to the Algerians early this year.

Kenya will be represented by 3 clubs including 2-time reigning champions Kenya Prisons, regular finalists and past winners Kenya Pipeline as well as KCB. On paper the Kenyan clubs start as favourites not just because of their regular appearances in the finals but also because of the home court advantage.
They would also love to serve notice as to why they are still among the best in the continent. Each of these clubs have been in residential training and have recruited heavily from high schools and higher learning institutions to ensure continuity and fresh talent.

The only undoing has been lack of a proper professional league in the country unlike some of the North Africans such as Algeria and Egypt. The clubs from these two countries enjoy massive corporate support as well as professionalised services in their recruitment, training and exposure too.
The gap between the North Africans and also the West Africans is slowly closing and it better serve notice to the Kenya Volleyball Federation to raise the standards of the game locally too.
Last week, the Kenyan men’s club representatives Kenya Prisons were bundled out of the Men’s Africa Club championships in the semi-finals. It has been a tough time for the male players who haven’t been able to match their female counterparts both at club and national level.

All in all, join us as we savour the continental game starting next Wednesday at the Kasarani gym. Wonder if any of the Kenyan media houses will choose to screen the games live…what say SuperSport with their SuperSport 9-EA?

Motor-Rallying in Kenya – Motorsport gets Kenyans revving

Motor-rallying in Kenya has been a sport which has had mixed fortunes in the last couple of years. After the bundling out of the Safari Rally from the World Rally Championship circuit from 2003, the country’s rallying enthusiasts ( including ourselves) were in denial. It slowly dawned on the sport that there needs to be a review of sorts, the downward spiral is being arrested.

Roar your Enginesimage courtesy of www.motorsportkenya.com

The national sports bodies for the sport MotorSport Kenya has had much of their work cut out and has managed to liaise with major corporates to ensure the sport remains relevant to the Kenyan rally fan. Indeed much kudos to the federation in the last two years which have seen Rallies taking place beyond the traditional towns and regions. Through the Kenya National Rallying Championship, this year already non-traditional rallies have seen the national circuit visit centres such as Nyeri and the forthcoming Nakuru rally. This is largely in part to KCB’s sponsorship, this year alone standing at KSh. 36 million.
While these efforts are admirable, what remains to be seen as progress in the sport is the reinstatement of the Safari Rally onto the WRC calendar of events. The Rally has been part of the Africa Rally Championship as well as Intercontinental Rally Challenge , the latter from time to time ( its erstwhile Classic version, has been held bi-annual bringing former rally drivers  and enthusiasts back to ‘Africa’s Rallying home’).
A number of conditions have been set out by the FIA which runs the sport internationally. These include;
1. No Night -rallying/Shorter Rally routes – One of the biggest challenges for rallying in Kenya and indeed Africa is the terrain which makes it almost impossible to rally during the day only. It has been tried by having shorter rallies on graded roads with speedy sections in between. Due to this also, Service Centres need be aplenty to help rallying and crew members to work on their cars efficiently.
2. Graded v/s Rough roads – Again the African terrain comes into play this time being the actual infrastructure which makes rallying a joy to watch. Though major works are being carried out on Kenyan roads, there are still many more which make it difficult for WRC teams to bring their expensive machinery here.
3. Tax Rebates – rallying in any country is big money. WRC is even bigger money. With this comes crew, equipment, fuel among many other support services. When the WRC teams left in 2002, part of their concerns were how expensive the Rally had become. Government and relevant authorities need look into this to see how best to entice WRC rally teams back.
4. Title Sponsor – while KCB has continually sponsored the Rally for the last many years, it would be fair to say that the amounts payable can be raised to other world rally levels. Other Kenyan and regional corporations should also look for ways to propping up the main sponsor to ensure success of the event @AccessKenya  @iWayAfrica are but some of the corporates hanging on – the Tobacco ban in sports and advertising did the sport a great disservice
5. Fans & Security – many a times we have seen trouble spots on roads in Kenya even without rallying. The rally machines are not any easier when put on the road. This is a national problem that rallying enthusiasts have to learn and get adopted into sooner rather than than later.

These are but just a few of the conditions that can be addressed to restore this great Rally. But we should not beat ourselves too hard, other popular Rallies have also been knocked out including the Corsica Rally, Cote d’Ivoire, Turkey and other rallies.

In Other News:
While checking on some information about the FIA Board, Surinder Thatthi is listed as a Tanzanian citizen. Could this be the reason the Safari Rally will always find it hard to make it back to the WRC rounds? Just asking…

KCB Safari Rally 2011

Yes, the Safari Rally is racing round town again! Having been edged out of the World Rally Championship circuit, the Rally has been struggling to regain some worthy status. Kenya Motorsports Federation(KMSF) has been working tirelessly to get the Rally going and this year the route has been scaled down moving to environs not too far from Nairobi – at Athi River and Kajiado.

The fan-park which had previously been hosted at Uhuru Park has been moved to Jamhuri Park along Ngong Road.
KMSF’s current Chair has stated that they seek for reinstatement on the WRC by 2013 – a tough call given we’re crossing to the 9th year in the cold and the rallying world has moved leaps and bounds to more technical levels and much of the excitement that Safari Rally offered would be heavily diluted.
79 drivers have registered for this year’s Rally a commendable number and we hope that the organisers are able to attract this number consistently. The current title sponsors have also been faithfully holding onto the property and hope it reaps some major coup once & if the Rally is restored to the WRC.
Follow the Rally on this handle @motorsportkenya and we shall endeavour to give you updates too. Watch out for the cars along your route people in and around Nairobi and give way. See you in Kajiado or Athi River Saturday and Sunday!

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 

Football Figures : Show Me The Money !!!

2010 achieved many milestones but one major highlight was a return of the local football fans to the football grounds. Traditional rivalries in the form of AFC v/s Gor and newfound ones such as Sofapaka v/s Thika United all made us stream back to the stadiums. Of course there were the unforgettable scenes at Nyayo Stadium when fans died as they waited to watch the AFC/Gor game in November.

With the local mainstream media houses also finally appreciating the Kenyan game, and creating a buzz where necessary, the numbers have started to show.
Local media monitoring house, ReelForge , owned in part by Mugo Githongo ( for those who don’t know he’s brother to John Githongo, former Kenyan anti-corruption czar). According to recent findings as released to the Press, Kenya Premier League (KPL) was able to attract media coverage worth KShs. 686 million ( USD 8.575 million) over the period of March – November 2010. These figures are what the media firm termed as equivalent to Advertising Value Equivalent, that is, what KPL editorial coverage would cost if it were advertising space.

Top Teams were as follows;
1. Gor Mahia –        KShs. 200 million
2. AFC Leopards – KShs. 155 million
3. Tusker FC –        KShs. 150 million

The corporate firms which also got a fair share of coverage thanks to their mentions were;
1. KCB                  KShs. 378 million
2. Safaricom           KShs. 166 million
3. Zain                    KShs.  89 million
What is suprising though is that of the major corporate firms mentioned, only KCB has actively sponsored top flight footbal consistently. Safaricom and Orange have been sponsoring youth football and regional tournaments respectively and haven’t made headways into the mainstream game.
How good it would be if these figures were actually translated to tangibles and the clubs able to benefit from the same. It would also serve well for the clubs now to raise the stakes and get professional consultants to pursue corporate sponsorships – be it team, shirt or as maybe prescribed – they have such numbers to show for it.
Kenyan companies also need loosen up their purses and avoid knee-jerk approaches to investing in sports.
Coupled with the 4-year TV rights deal signed by SuperSport worth around KShs. 400 million, Kenyan clubs might finally start living it up. Hopefully this shall trickle down to the players and aid in managing the teams effectively. It would be a great pleasure to see our team move up to the levels of African Champion League participants, Enyimba, Al-Alhy, Zamalek and recent wonderboys TP Mazembe ! Is this the year for Kenyan football to finally come of age?

Have Sports/Members Clubs & grounds in Kenya lost their meaning?

A casual dip around Nairobi recently has revealed a worrying trend with regards to sports clubs and grounds. The tradition has been that for any major company – be it a public listed one, parastatal (Government-owned) or even big companies having their operations located here – most have a sports club or what some love subscribing as members’ club (with more exclusivity and restrictive in enrolling).
var a2a_config = a2a_config || {};
a2a_config.linkurl = “www.sportskenya.blogspot.com”;

Given the urban developments currently plaguing our urban centres, the life of most of these clubs is slowly coming to an not-so-natural death. Where do we start? A few strides to the Kenya Railways Sports Club indicates this as one of the worst hit with developments around  it slowly being given to private developers.In recent months, the club has lost the tennis courts and is also missing the field which is playing host to some ‘hireling’ whose having some fun-fair for God-knows-till-when.

Sometime ago, they had even drawn some ambitious plans of developing a property – Golf City . Sweet dreams indeed ….

The club’s pool also looks so depleted and is also in its final throes of closure. The only part which looks untouched is the golf park but with the road works around the Upper Hill and along Uhuru Highway encroaching, it’s just a matter of time.

Cross over to Thika Road which is going into overdrive with 6-lane roads and all the hullabaloo of ‘modernity’ three clubs here are most likely to see their grounds chipped away. KCB Sports Club ( popularly known as The Den), Barclays Sports Club (which had almost been sold entirely by the Barclays Bank of Kenya) and Stima Club (housing Kenya Power and Lighting Co’s sports club) all at Ruaraka are the main clubs affected.

Crickets ground along Forest Road has also seen quite a chip thanks to the road works being done on Thika Road. I have not even mentioned the grounds in other urban centres and the clubs which have long become vandalised and lost to neglect.

While it is good for the Government to construct and upgrade our roads, it seems sports grounds and clubs have long become viable places for taking up land and using it for other works. Very few estates in Nairobi City have grounds for children and budding talent to start nurturing their sports dreams. Some of the worst affected are the Eastlands sections – Umoja, Buruburu, Doonholm which have become ‘concrete jungles’. Upmarket estates are quickly trying to emulate the other sides too and losing their leafy suburbs and the open spaces such as the grounds shall soon become all too good to miss.

Are we sure we hope to be a sporting nation with such developments going on? When was the last time we invested in a new sporting venue without seeking international aid? Shall we continue begging even as we shoot (or is it build?) ourselves? Or maybe we are hoping to build indoor arenas ? Maybe we haven’t gotten that memo yet…

It breaks the spirit seeing no one is investing in physical structures to aid sport and the little that we have is either in neglect or grabbed by some greedy private developers.

More Money More Problems ?

Last week, Athletics Kenya held the National Championships which though had a low profile, were fairly successful. The organisation seems to enjoy some measure of success enough to attract corporate sponsorship-the latest being the National Bank of Kenya’s Sh. 16 m deal-for the junior, youth and kids athletics programme.

According to media reports, this sports organisation had a surplus of Sh.22 m last financial year despite being the busiest association. I believe in terms of financial muscle, they command the most for local sports organisation.
But despite this, there seems to be some under-currents with the officials wrangles simmering quietly. This was brought about by the candidature and subsequent election of David Okeyo-the current Secretary General and now Vice-Chair National Olympics Committee of Kenya-NOCK. The latter is a powerful sports body in the country drawing affiliation to the International Olympics Committee which is almost any sports official’s dream to manage.
The current chair runs the organisation roving like a colossus and not entertaining any dissent. Okeyo’s election didn’t go down well with him and has since been on a silent licking of the wounds and he tries to outdo his junior.
My concern is that these internal wars will eventually spill onto the scene when the country least expects it. We have the World Athletics Championships in August. The country has amost certainly lost the bid to host the Junior contintental championships which the association ought to have secured given the good rapport enjoyed with the Government officials.
I have said before for us to secure the interests of our sportsmen and women, we need to run these organisations more professionally and allow more transparency to occur. That way we save more than a fair share of funds committed and the country’s image is secured in the same vein. Well let’s see how far this goes….

Additional Information:
The AK had last year published their annual report complete with a financial report for public consumption- for the year ended 31st December 2007. This year they have scanty information on a badly developed and maintained website ( must have cost less than 150$- to develop and host).
According to media reports, they have sponsorships of Kshs.4.5m from New KCC for the national trials, sh. 4.6m from KCB for the national cross-country championships, sh. 7.5m from StanChart for the Nairobi Marathon and now the 16m from National Bank. There must be some unmentioned monies from sponsors like Nike and the IAAF grants.

Safari Rally : Low Key Start


Logo courtesy of Motorsport Kenya.

For an event which attracted thousands of fans, the sport is slowly drifting into international rallying obscurity. The event was flagged off and the rest of the city was almost unmoved.
What’s even worse the cars will cover only about 700 kms ( approx 437 miles) and mainly feature runs in ‘people’s farms as a local driver put it in the Press today.The rally had also almost sunk due to the low interest by sponsors though the buzz came on thanks to KCB who are the title sponsors. The weather has also played its worst and a dusty rally with patches of rains dotting parts of the route.
The magic of the Safari Rally just seems gone. Even some of us were not so impressed by the spectator stage which has been a highlight for the last 4 years. Organisers had better come up with a better thing ( like 2 cars racing on the track) to make it more exciting.
They can also add a skills section just to showcase what some of the drivers can do (I remember Richard Burns doing some spins on the Argentine finishing ramp and it was worth watching)…
We also need to fully provide for the rally and let by-gones be by-gones, WRC has forgotten about us and the faster we forget them the better. We might as well have a section for our crazy matatu drivers and weekend speed-racing wannabes from well-to-do neighbourhoods. That makes more sense to us !

Safari Rally: No more European Safarians ?


This is a serious cold shoulder if ever there was one. Since reducing the Safari Rally into an African affair ( usually enjoys Africa Rallying Championship-ARC endorsement), this time emerging and regular visiting teams from European rallying teams have given it a wide berth.
Though the Intercontinental Rally Challenge(IRC) has put the rally as one its rounds, no major teams has confirmed participation, 1 week into the rally. The IRC acts a launch pad for aspiring rally drivers for the World Rally Championship the ultimate for rally drivers. It may also be said to be a test for rallies wishing to be included in the WRC circuit which crosses over different countries, across different continents testing man and machine.
For me the ultimate test still remains the Safari Rally and no matter what excuses the officials may use. It’s a sad affair of things and some may say TIA !
I’ll make time to reminisce of the days of yonder when the likes of Bjorn Waldegaard , Massimo ‘Miki’ Biasion, Carlos Sainz, Richard Burns, Lars Erick Torph, Shekhar Mehta, John Ngunjiri, Peter Shiyukah and Hannu Mikkola graced our race roads.
I’ll make time for the spectator stage at Uhuru Park which has become a favourite for many a rally fan and may venture to the dusty roads of the Rift Valley later in the weekend.
KCB keep the fire alive. We won’t lose the fight for the Rally back where it belongs….

Athletics: X-country’s supposed to come home

For the longest time we have sung about the cross-country and how we have honed Kenyan athletics champions. From John Ngugi and the late Moses Kipkemboi to marathoner Paul Tergat along with ladies such as Susan Sirma and Tecla Loroupe, the cross-country has served a good breeding ground for our athletes.
The elusive one though has been the individual titles more so the senior men’s title in the last 15 years. Kenenisa Bekele , Kenya’s nemesis is not part of the team in the championships at Amman,Jordan but his younger brother Tariku Bekele moves up the rungs as he hopes to continue the Ethiopian reign whose only interruption was the Eritrean Tadesse in the low hot temperatures of Mombasa which almost killed senior Bekele.
We’ll be praying for more than the team titles and the lads have nothing to hold them as the Government and corporate world has sufficiently put in place the incentives for the winners ( kudos KCB for the appreciation! )
I’ll hold out for the races from my humble portable radio as I listen to satellite radio to keep me posted on the going ons in Amman. More fun for a busy weekend !