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!

Kenyan Football Elections – a Sneak Preview of Top Contenders

As we wait for the election date for Kenyan football elections, we have been looking at some of the prospective candidates and their chances at the top office. Gathering info from both online and offline sources, we have the following review;
HUSSEIN MOHAMMED
Hussein Mohammed – courtesy of www.husseinmohammed.com

He’s easily the most visible candidate for the top post and is also ‘well-greased’. Having cut his teeth through a sports business organisation Extreme Sports Limited, he is a darling of the media and is well-connected and networked both in the corporate and political world.
Strengths:
  • His involvement in the world of football is without doubt. The success of the Super 8 tournament has ensured he has a head-start in terms of hands-on experience of organising anything football
  • Corporate connections – securing sponsorship in Kenyan for sports’ is not the easiest of tasks. Being in a game riddled with corruption and under-cutting is also not easy, but he has made it possible though not with direct involvement of the footballing bodies of Football Kenya, KFF or KPL. He also has also regularly made valued contributions to the footballing causes and youth affairs.
  • Age – this is double-edged. While an advantage, endearing him to the youth, it might also be his Achilles heel –which the Independent Election Board statutes had almost knocked him out but was later rescinded. It might also be used by his antagonists to portray him as greenhorn at the top.
  • Smart Use of Media – he is the first candidate to start using social media; check his website here, engaging media outlets every so often and enjoying favourable coverage from the same. This ensures he can harness the same in case of his successful election. An elaborate launch to his campaign ensured the media has had more than enough fodder to feed on and seem to hang onto his every word.
  • Fresh pair of hands- it favours him that the footballing fraternity in Kenya hopes to see a pair of new hands.
Weaknesses:
  • Age – this keeps surfacing every now and then. He has kept answering back his critics and is trying to treat it as a non-issue.
  • Politics – his prior and perceived involvement in Kenya’s political world has had some murmurings saying he is not in the good books of the party sponsoring him to a local civil seat. This has not featured prominently yet but might serve as fodder for the rumour mills dimming his stellar streak.
  • Lack of Football heritage – some former players have been pushing for one of their own to run the top office and him not having made it to any club worth mentioning or representing the country at both club or national team level clearly makes this a drawback.
  • Over-promising – there was one Maina Kariuki in the early 2000s that made such a convincing pitch that it looked like we finally had an able hand to run the game. He was from the corporate world, and it was assumed he had the right credentials; does it sound familiar? His legacy is one of the worst offices to have run KFF in recent history.

SAM SHOLLEI
Sam Shollei – image courtesy of michezoafrika.com
He was among the first to throw in the hat once the elections were announced. He was a former player having done duty with Kenya Breweries in the 1990s and also got capped for national duty. He currently holds forte at a local IT firm and is a fairly successful businessman.
Strengths:
  • Football history – his involvement in the game is surely helping his case. Many in the footballing world feel it is time a former player held the top office. Taking examples from the likes of Kalusha Bwalya and Michel Platini – current Presidents of Football of Zambia Association and UEFA both of whom were former players too, he hopes to emulate these for the Kenyan scene.
  • Corporate world involvement – His running the IT firm has helped him work his resume well. A typical Kenyan former football player (sorry to say!) is not the most admirable or well-versed of business managers. This is working to his advantage.
  • Local Football Club Associations – he has been working his ‘magic’ towards the football clubs who might influence some of the votes at the national elections.
  • Use of media- though a slightly later option, he is also using both online and offline visibility to run his campaign – check his campaign link here. He has not quite endeared himself to the media outlets but comes in 2nd in terms of coverage by print, TV and radio. He made a brief entry into online journalism writing for a local footballing site, check a sample piece here.
  • Age – he is not considered too young or too old and his age has not featured as an issue.
  • Fresh pair of hands – as Mohammed above, he is a new face in the game and analysts give him a safe bet.

Weaknesses:
  • Lack of Football Management Skills – he has not managed relating to football and this is a major disadvantage to his candidature.
  • Banking on Foregone Player Status – given that he is milking on this alone to help him run for office, his career some say was not the most sterling and at times was considered a peripheral player. What will happen once in office?
  • Corporate World & Football Politics – just like Mohammed, though a success story in the corporate world, the football politics represent a different ball game; one where dirtying of hands every so often is required.
  • Aloofness – some critics have had it that he is aloof to lower rung bodies and clubs where he is said to have little time for.

SAM NYAMWEYA
He has been in and out of the footballing world for the last 20 years. In terms of experience,he easily beats all the contenders but his terms have been dogged by claims of corruption and malpractices; from KFF, CECAFA and is currently said to masquerade with the Posta Rangers Club, recently promoted to the Kenya Premier League as their Chief Marketing Officer or something to that effect. He was ‘elected’ into office at KFF after declaring that Football Kenya Limited could not run Kenyan football as a registered company.
Sam Nyamweya – courtesy of kenyafootie.com
Strengths:
  • Experience – he has been in the game for over 20 years. From the Secretary General in the KFF team led by Maina Kariuki to the stint at CECAFA, he has held influential positions.

Weaknesses:
  • Corruption & malpractices – his tenures at the different positions he’s held have almost always led to some scandal of sorts. Loss of prize money while at the CECAFA office for the club championships; 3 bans for the country while at KFF as well as loss of gate revenues for clubs and national team; personal bankruptcy charges and questionable political dealings have been on his name for the longest time.
  • Lack of media goodwill- his prior engagements have meant that he has a questionable past which the media touches on every so often. He has also not bothered to endear himself to the online and social media world.
  • Lack of major achievements – Been there, not-done-it – his record do not strike any major achievements thus the need for a new face which he is clearly not.
  • Lack of vision – enough said.
  • Political circus – his entreaties to politics have seen him try a hand and miserably fail. Many analysts question how he has managed to survive given the high cost of political activities which usually cause many to bury their fortunes.

MOHAMMED HATIMY
Currently heading Football Kenya, he has thrown in his hat hoping for a sympathy vote to continue with the beleaguered tenure. His has been a rough patch with mixed fortunes but teetering on the negative side more than the success.
Mohamed Hatimy – courtesy of www.standardmedia.co.ke
Strengths:
  • Kenya Premier League – it is under his tenure that the KPL secured a major sponsorship with SuperSport which was a landmark and is slowly changing the face of Kenyan football.
  • Highest Ranking – it was also in his tenure that the national team achieved its highest ever FIFA ranking at 68th place across the globe.Again a team effort but of course happening under him.
  • Status Quo – for those out to retain the status quo, this is the man for the job.
Weaknesses:
  • Corruption, malpractices & boardroom coups – just like his former ally Sam Nyamweya, his legacy has been plagued by corruption and court cases, keeping busy to effectively run office (in fact this had knocked him out of the running on the pending court case technicality).
  • Lack of Vision – just as Sam above, he has never quite communicated his vision for the local game, not while taking over through the back-door or even trying to give something in the guise of a vision.
  • Old v/s New – having been in office under a cloud of controversy, he is one of those who are disadvantaged to have served rather (…disgracefully too).
  • Not media savvy – having the yoke of controversy around your neck means the media is never going to be your best friend.  

NICHOLAS MUSONYE
He is strolls across the region slowly becoming a colossus of sorts in CECAFA. Working with struggling football associations, he has somehow managed to convince Government big-shots and companies in Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Sudan to fall into place to ensure the club and national championships are held annually.
Nicholas Musonye – www.michezoafrika.com
Strengths:
  • Proven Track Record – his posting at CECAFA has been a major success for the body with the club and national championships; securing sponsorships year-in year-out and often going out on a limb to lambast national officials not too keen to work their part but quick to put their hands in the cookie jar; his tenure is admirable.
  • Media savvy – having worked in the media previously, he is always calling on them to articulate matters football in the region. He also throws in his two cents on situations in individual countries’ football associations and governments but is careful enough not to rub them the wrong way. True media darling!
  • Well ‘networked’- having contacts in high office of some of the major corporate organizations in the region, he can muster sponsorships even when all else seem to have given up. This can serve him well in enticing more corporates into the game locally. He’s also well-connected at the continental level.
Weaknesses
  • Timing – if he does declare candidature, his will be a late announcement and not having enough time to muster support from the delegates
  • Lack of Vision – back to the first point, with little timing, even the best of visions cannot be communicated that well.
  • One-man show- some critiques have often referred to Nicholas as a bit of a one-man show who is not too open to team participation. That might be a personality issue to some who feel the game is too big for one individual.

These are the main contenders and we have the favourites as Hussein Mohammed and
Sam Shollei and the rank outsider being Nicholas Musonye (in case he throws in his hat). The current scenario almost favours the incumbent for now and maybe that’s what they are hoping to play with. There is also the delegates bit which the candidates have to overcome.
We have also been toying with the idea of Hussein and Shollei deciding to be one or the other’s running mate and they would make a formidable team. Hatimy and Nyamweya have already made entreaties to each other and let’s see what happens before the day. For all with hope for the game in the country, a new office would be the best gift for us and the sport. But we have been this way all too often only for our hopes to be dashed. Independent Election Board, over to you! 

Kenya Football – Independent Election Board…Some Semblance of Order Please!

Kenyan football is currently enjoying mixed fortunes at local and international outings. With the local Premier League slowly building , Kenya’s club representatives Sofapaka hoping to move to next stage of club continental challenge and the national team finally securing a win at home; the time is ripe for a new team to ensure these success stories are sustained.

Own Goal ? – Image courtesy of thevillagesblog

The body entrusted with running the ‘quagmire’ that is Kenyan football elections the Independent Election Board (IEB), has been placing undue pressure on the footballing fraternity and Kenyans too. With clauses which had raised eyebrows ( the most contentious one being on age), the most recent drawback is lack of a date confirming the elections. This is even after release of KShs.24 million for the process to go on. 
Some argue that the IEB officials are hoping to hold the elections after FIFA’s own scheduled for 1st of June at Zurich, Switzerland. This is pitting current chair Joseph Blatter against a rather feisty Mohammed bin Hammam.
Whatever outcome this has it will definitely going to influence the local game. If Blatter serves his last term, he would love to leave a worthy legacy especially in developing markets ( countries if it were). bin Hammam on the other side if elected is likely to galvanise an Asian, Eastern Europe, American and of course African vote which would ensure a second or third term.
As for the Kenyan case, the IEB should announce a date to give all interested ample time to prepare and work their campaigns for the betterment of the game. Up until then, we shall hold them to account for any failure or hitches that may arise from the prolonged process.

Africa Cup of Nations 2012 Qualification – Decisive Clash for Kenya

After the usual circus that is Kenyan national football, this weekend we welcome our neighbours Uganda who are riding high on their chances after beating Angola in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualification ties. With the fixture looking all more important for Kenya it is being rumoured that none other than the Head of State Pres Yoweri Kaguta Museveni is expected to grace the match – to show allegiance and support to his side.

With the countries currently enjoying a hot-cold relationship with the rather peculiar controversy of ‘some rock’ on Lake Victoria and the renditions of Kenyan Muslim human rights over the Kampala bombings in July 2010, the temperatures are rising by the day. Also controversial is the fact that Kenya has changed tacticians once again bringing back Mr. Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee who though we respect his work might just end up as his predecessor Twahir Muhiddin.
Group J has Angola and Guinea-Bissau as the other teams. Let’s see what the game holds for us;

Strengths:
– Home ground – Being played before the home fans who have been streaming back to the stadiums to watch the local teams, there is bound to be overwhelming support for the Harambee Stars. What is lacking is the right ‘hype’ to fill the stadium and promote the fixture. By asking the top Government offficials, Mr Titus Kasuve is not enough.
– Professionals – Having the Oliechs and Marigas on the team who have been enjoying playing time on their respective European leagues is also a boon to the team. This though needs to translate to goals with at least 3 looking to ‘charge’ the team and fans to cloud 9.

Weaknesses:
– Nyayo National Stadium capacity – while it will be played at this ground, the capacity of the ground is limited to a little over 30,000 and any more than that is a crisis in waiting. We know what happens when the crowd is larger and passions up there. We can’t afford to be banned hosting future games on the grounds not now not ever!
– Team spirit- Losing to the minnows of the group dropped the team morale to a new low and there were media reports of team disunity. We also question the coach’s choice of Dennis Oliech ( all respects to him as a player). You need a more unifying factor in the team.
– Uganda’s flying start – Beating Angola who hosted the last Cup of Nations and were in the 2006 World Cup is no mean feat. The Ugandans have less than 5 players playing in the European leagues so they have something else inspiring their play.
– Consistency on the technical bench – if we have to win future games, there has to be some consistency on who sits on the technical bench. (We’re made to understand they appointed an assistant coach who’s currently in Europe studying, pray the head coach doesn’t get red-carded anytime soon….). If the FKL officials or whoever is in charge wants to do the country a favour, get the right people for the job or at least give them ample time to prove themselves. Create the right working environment and please get some contracts done and no playing with allowances or other financial obligations. You have more than enough funds from FIFA to bankroll this.

Our Uganda brothers are really excited about this fixture as you can see here and yes let’s keep it on the pitch (as written by Daily Monitor’s Mark Ssali) Come 9th October and let’s see the boys put on a good show and get 2012 preparations back on the road. Haraaambeee !

Kenyan Football – Midweek Fixtures excite Nairobi crowds

Seeing as it is, the European and major leagues across the world may have come to an end or mid-season break but not yet for our Kenyan game. The Kenya Premier League games have become quite the talk of town and this the case with the mid-week fixtures.

Today sees one of the what is traditionally Kenya’s  biggest games with traditional arch-rivals AFC Leopards pitted against Gor Mahia fondly referred to by its fans as ‘K’Ogelo‘! The publicity these games have created is bound to give this game added flavour. What is more interesting is the fact that none of the teams is in the top 3 but Gor’s two places down at 5th place and the point difference is one point with ‘Ingwe‘ placed 10th in the standings.
You can be sure we shall be in the stadium bringing you the behind-the-scenes action and whatever else might be of interest to our readers. The game starts at 7p.m under the floodlights ( but with a bad pitch given the rains and army marching in readiness for June 1st national day, why can’t they keep their boots at Uhuru Park for Pete’s sake???)
BE THERE !
You can read a history of this Kenyan football rivalry from here or this