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.

Shirt Sponsorship – Kenya Shujaa 7s refuse to ‘Make It Kenya’

By Richard Wanjohi

The final leg of the 2017-18 World Rugby Sevens season in Paris was supposed to be the crowning moment for Kenya’s Sevens team – Shujaa. Kenya was in a tough group consisting of Fiji, New Zealand and Samoa. Starting off with New Zealand Shujaa lost before registering comprehensive wins against Fiji and Samoa, only to miss out on the Main Cup proper on account of points made (when the Fijians beat New Zealand).

Kenya 7s Team Shujaa at Paris 7s - Image courtesy of Andrew Sawatsky
Kenya 7s Team Shujaa at Paris 7s – Image courtesy of Andrew Sawatsky

For us watching the final leg though, something was amiss. Having gone almost the entire season without a shirt sponsor, we had gotten used to the miniscule logo of a local edible oils company at the back of the jerseys.
However just before the penultimate leg at Twickenham in England the team was able to secure the sponsorship – from Brand Kenya Board- with the boys donning the newly done shirts. Meant to have the ‘Make It Kenya’ moniker on the kit’s tops (around the chest), the lads decided to make good use of the medical tape usually provided for tying up the wrists and other injuries on their person.
Various media reports were peddled about non-payment of monies by Brand Kenya, or non-remittance of the same by Kenya Rugby Union to the players, others still on the release of fund to the team by GoK earlier last week. Depending on the sources the grapevine, the heart of the jerseys fiasco will unravel as the team arrives in the country and both Union and players give us their side of the story.
To get down to serious matters, sponsorship is defined as a ‘business relationship between a provider of funds, resources or services and an individual event or organization which offers in return some rights and association that may be used for commercial advantage’ according to one Steve Sleigh.
The World Rugby which manages and organises the World Sevens Series has strict and elaborate rules regarding kit sponsorship and how the shorts and tops ought to be emblazoned. See the details here.
In Kenya Rugby Union’s case, the shirt sponsorship by Brand Kenya Board is worth KES 20 million – with the deal meant to include use of the rugby sevens team players as global brand ambassadors for Brand Kenya for the next 8 months.
Seeing as the sponsorship came at the tail-end of the 2017-18 season, there were balances of monies and allowances owed to the players and team management including the training and conditioning managers.
Reliable sources inform us the team were to be paid the monies in four tranches of KES 4 million each. An additional amount of KES 2.5 million is to be paid directly to the players at KES 100,000 each. The balance of KES 1.5 million maybe taken as the Union’s management fee.
Here’s a sample of tweets titled #MaskingGate7s:

 

So what is the crux of the matter?
1. Given the history of non-payment of salaries and allowances, and also due to the end of the 2017-18 season, the players may have felt aggrieved for not receiving their dues in good time. What would stop the officials from withholding the same?
2. There is also the small matter of unpaid dues to the management and technical team officials. With a shoestring budget, where is the Kenya Rugby Union supposed to source for these monies?
3. Third, Brand Kenya Board as a government body is part of the bureaucracy that sees monies meant to be channeled for the good of the country – in this case sport, are either delayed or swindled by cunning bureaucrats’ within the system. It has happened before with contingents of teams representing Kenya on international assignments.
The important lesson here, is that the players are the ones most affected by the sponsorship (or lack thereof). They straddle and run themselves day in and day out. Putting up sterling performances against fully professional sides by the lads is no mean feat. It is the responsibility of both the Union and corporate sponsors to ensure such fiascos do not occur.
Though Brand Kenya and Union officials have assured the players of payment of the dues, this ought not to have happened in the first place. The damage caused to both delayed payments and concealed shirts by the players is not irreparable. Hard lessons learnt from all parties.
With the upcoming Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco- USA from the 21st of July, Kenya’s Shujaa team is among the nations expected to perform well and shock a few seasoned teams. This is not the time to create off-or-on-field distractions.

Here’s a link to the Kenya Rugby Union’s statement in light of the non-committal and upcoming national teams assignments. Here’s a sneak peek of the statement;

The Kenya Rugby Union wishes to clarify that it has only received Ksh 31m out of a budget of Ksh 124m that was presented to and accepted by the Ministry of Sport after our headline partner pulled out . Following a meeting with the Ministry of Sports on January 10, it presented a budget of Ksh 124m two days later. (January 12). A second meeting with the Ministry took place on January 15 before the K.R.U received a payment of Ksh 31m in early February. This amount has been used to support our national squads in various assignments and we thank the Government for this….

In the absence of Government support, K.R.U is considering pulling all its representative squads out of international assignments. In light of the fiasco in Paris this past weekend, the K.R.U will take action to make sure that this does not happen again.

KRU to host 2nd National Development Conference

Kenya Rugby Union will hold its second National Development Conference from today 1st -2nd of July at the Strathmore University.

Kenya Rugby Union logo courtesy of Wikipedia

 

The Union has seen a fairly successful outing in the 2015/16 season. It will be seeking to have a forum where the game’s stakeholders get to commune and share best practice to improve and grow the game.
The 2-day event will also seek to identify the successes, challenges and opportunities available for all in the country. The agenda will include workshops, plenary sessions and breakouts with the agenda outlined in brief as follows;

  • Opening Remarks by KRU Chair Richard Omwela
  • Keynote Address – John Sibi Okumu
  • Strategic Plan Overview
  • Towards High Performance – An Analysis of KRU – Steph Nel
  • Rugby World Cup 2023 – Steph Nel, Oscar Mango and Simiyu Wangila
  • Difference between Grassroots and Elite Rugby – Felix Ochieng and Richard Nyakwakwa
  • Sponsorship and its Effect on the Brand and Team – Peter Nduati
  • Tournament Management – Godwin Karuga
  • How Rugby can Leverage on PR – Paul Barasa
  • Club Governance – CMD

For a game who’s glory had seemed lost 18 months ago, this is a welcome trait and learning for other sports associations. It will inform some of the major plans for the next few months and years as the game seeks a wider appeal and entrenching professionalism. For you without a plan for the weekend, make a point of visiting the location and interact with rugby honchos and game enthusiasts.

Commonwealth Games – Glasgow : Kenya’s Gold, Bleed and Ugly

2014 and it is exactly 60 years since a Kenyan sports personality made it to any international sporting event! And this event was the Commonwealth Games in 1954 ( had previously been known as British Empire Games).

Glasgow 2014 – image courtesy of glasgow.com

With such rich heritage and a storied past, the 2014 edition ought to have been a done deal for Kenyan sport but alas! It is another skewed performance from a contingent of 169 athletes and officials. A misnomer of the Commonwealth Games is that fierce competitors, Ethiopia and other North African countries do not participate.
But even without these countries, Glasgow exposed the scope of Kenya’s famed athletes. Out of the 13 disciplines, only 3 managed to get to the podium.

Stand-Outs: 

  1. Julius Yego – Javelin Gold standard – first ever field event Gold
    medal in major c’ships. Even without proper training facilities and technical support he keeps getting better;
Julius Yego – Golden Throw – www.getty.com

2. Eunice Sum – 800m – she’s the reigning world champ and she turned up for the another sterling performance;3. Caleb Ndiku – 5000m – coming of age, he was named 2010 SOYA
most promising athlete and showed why. Exit Ezekiel Kemboi too we have another performer…

Disappointments:

David Rudisha – 800m Silver – World/Olympic
champ & WR holder, we expected nothing short of Gold, even with a poor season so far;

Jason Dunford – Swimming – he finally admitted
frustrations/lack of Kenya’s Swimming Federation support ( and no officials are sacked..???);

Kenya 7s team – after finishing 2nd
in the table standings in the preliminaries, they met their match in New Zealand who ended our first rugby Commonwealth medal chances

Special Mentions:

  1. Conrad Nkanata – US-based sprinter – finished 3rd
    in his 200m heat, with proper training he can be a future sprinter;
  2. Benson Gicharu – Boxer – even with time running
    out for his amateur boxing career, he is still punching it out at major sports
    events

Kenya Sports (Mis)management:

The charade of Kenyan officials in managing the team
continued. First it was delayed allowances due to athletes. Second was the kit
issue with missing or delayed kit to Team Kenya.  Third was late accreditation which meant
missed attendance by cyclist, David Kinjah among others. Fourth and it’s truly
out of personal frustration was lack of technical/financial support as well as
favouritism in team selection. These last were raised not just by
non-traditional disciplines but also swimmers such as Jason Dunford who may
have had his swansong representing the country in any sport.

Golden Girls – 3000m s’chase Kenyan trio

We have said this before and shall repeat it for the
umpteenth time. Kenya’s sport management needs to change RADICALLY! Why have more than 10 disciplines and only 2-3
have any chance of winning medals? Can more investment be made on a few of
these or if all disciplines are represented, get proper exposure to have
winning chance(s).

  •    Kitting
    – what business goes on with kit which has been acquired for national duty? Why
    should some official conveniently forget to order this in time? Other times
    they issue it to non-participants or stock it in local shops. Sponsors should
    also review such misdemeanor and cancel contracts for misallocated kits.
  •    Allowances
    – we saw the embarrassment of African teams in World Cup. It did not even take
    a month before our own officials replicated that same template. Why should
    individual be charged with responsibility of managing team finances? In future
    all participants should supply account details and monies sent direct to them
    like regular pay.
  •    Size of
    squad
    – how many officials are really needed to attend international events
    even when their disciplines have no chance of winning a bronze medal?
    Participation should be on how successful a sport is at regional, continental
    or international duty.
  •    Technical/Financial
    details
    – for most disciplines Kenya has lost a semblance of international
    standards. From boxing, swimming to even some athletics events, the edge of
    advances in technical knowledge is lacking. Spotlight is on sports federations’
    internal wrangles and lack of international best practice to compete at such
    levels.
As usual we shall be treated to excuses and made to forget what has become perennial under-achieving by our national team(s). As a nation,we need to demand accountability from those in charge of our sports bodies. The Government must also stop playing deaf and be more forceful in getting officials to straighten their act. 
It is no wonder that most athletes prefer running in Grand Prix events, others opting to quit even before their prime as a frustrated lot. See what is happening to the football fraternity? 

Kenya 7s – Time for Reflection

The final leg of the 2013/14 IRB Rugby 7s series came to an end this last weekend in England. Kenya having qualified once again after finishing among the top 5 last season was expected to continue with the same pace.
However changes in management after the ‘lack of agreement’ with former 7s coach Mike Friday meant the top brass at KRU sought solace elsewhere. Rumours had circulated that the honchos were after South Africa’s Paul Treu and true to word he did sign dotted line. He also came with a couple of demands of inclusion of hand-picked personnel from his native country, which sponsors and officials alike obliged to.
Due to delays in finalising this agreement, the team started the series dismally and team selection also left a lot to be desired. This would hurt the team in the later stages too. Here are some other sticking points;

  1. Change of pace – The Kenyan team has been known to be a pacy team, taking advantage of the wings to run their plays. Change of tactics saw them adopt a slower game which took time to adopt.
  2. Conditioning – Mike Friday and his assistant though spending less time with the team than envisioned in the 2012/13 season had developed a serious conditioning regime. This saw them add mass and pace to their game. 
  3.  Rookies vs Experience – after making the gamble with new members of the team, Paul Treu had to go back to the more experienced hands. It took time for him to find the right mix of players and combinations.
  4. Pre-season games -while KRU has been trying to get better exposure for the team, a lot more needs to be done for pre-season preparations. Safari 7s is not enough to use for testing the players. A minimum of 3 such tournaments can be explored. Luckily this year is a Commonwealth Games year thus this will suffice for now.
  5. Competitive forces – while a few seasons ago, certain countries were more of pushovers, the level of competition has risen even for non-traditional rugby nations such as USA, Canada and even the Asian reps. Such oversights cost the team valuable points mid-season.
  6. Relegation – this form of dropping poor performers and gifting good ones has worked well to level the playing field. It is going to be interesting 2-3 seasons on when great rugby nations find themselves sharing spoils with more recent additions. 
  7. Investment – while KRU has tried leveraging this sport to potential sponsors, more needs to be done to secure constant churn of players. From the current Chair’s own words his objective is to ensure the players are professionals ‘eating, sleeping and playing rugby’. A more competitive national 7s circuit in the coming years will see the team enjoy constant new talent. It must also work to invest in local coaching expertise to reduce over-reliance on foreign technical hands. The locals will have much less demands and hopefully play for the flag more than anything else.

Till the Commonwealth Games in September 2014, let’s give them a hearty welcome for a brave performance in the last 2 legs hoping they take from there come the 2014/15 series!

Kenya Rugby Ruckus ala Philip Jalang’o-style

“This man, Jalang’o, this man!” were some of the words that inspired this blog-post. This was in a conversation with some of the less knowledgeable rugby fans who I regularly meet on the beat and wanted to offer some of the points to clear the air on which have not been addressed since this commotion blew out in May 2013.

Philip Jalang’ocourtesy of www.nation.co.ke

First things first…as the post goes up, Philip Jalang’o stands suspended from his position as a Director at KRU. However he has gone to court to contest this suspension and is seeking to be reinstated stating that his suspension is null and void.

Now back to the rant. For those who don’t know much about he was once the Chairman of Kenya Harlequins club – one of the top rugby clubs in the country – where though the team performed relatively well in its outings, was losing out in other club management issues. This includes the transfer of ownership of the club-house bar which had been granted to Shareware and also leaving the club’s book in the red with heavy debts. His fellow club officials promptly found him not good enough for the top office and opted not to re-elect him at Quins.

Luckily for him, he managed to wiggle his way into the national board at KRU and has been quite abrasive and at times rash in his decisions. And though the Union has other officials who ought to speak out on the game’s developments at a national and international level, Jalang’o has been quite visible eclipsed only by the Chairman one Mwangi Muthee.

Last year after the end of the 7s circuit, he quickly sacked then coach Mitch Ocholla who had only done a year into his coaching contract. It’s true the performance of the team had deteriorated and there was not much to write about. However the working conditions had not been as favourable as the coach would have wanted, but that’s not for us here to rant about.

Mike Friday who was then relatively unknown by many a Kenyan rugby enthusiast but who had made his name as former England player and England Rugby Union 7s head coach; was announced as the new coach for the Kenyan team. This decision apparently was almost single-handedly decided upon by Philip Jalang’o. Within the same breadth came the sweetener to the deal which was that the shirt sponsorship deal with Gilbert’s would be dropped and English sports apparel makers, Samurai Sports would be the new shirt providers. No clear details were given on how this sourced, whether there was a tendering process and quotations made available. It is also said that Jalang’o had business interest with the local operations of Samurai Sports who made the deal possible.

As if to exonerate his recruitment, Kenya started well in the new season of the International Rugby Board 7s series and amassing points to stay lodge in the top 6 going into the break at the first half of the 2012-13 season. However the team was struck with the blow of playing without its mercurial winger, Collins Injera for the crucial ties in the second-half of the season. Injera had been dropped on the charge ‘of indiscipline and failing to play for his club, Mwamba RFC’. Though the Board at KRU ended up backing this decision up, word has it, Jalang’o had engineered this move.

Kenya 7s players in Samurai Sports attire

The big one came when early last month Philip Jalang’o sent a release to the Press indicating the firing of Mike Friday a day after the Kenyan team had finished fifth overall in the IRB 7s series amassing 99 points, 1 short of its target for the season. This led to a quick rebuttal by Chair, Mwangi Muthee who indicated that Mike Friday was still in charge and would have his performance reviewed on return to Nairobi with the team. This instead led to his ‘firing’ by the KRU Board.It is said, personal differences between the two ( Friday and Jalang’o) led to this acrimonious falling out.

With the next major tournament in the Kenyan rugby calendar being the Bamburi Rugby Super Series (BRSS), Jalang’o was still out to prove who’s the man running the show. This year’s BRSS featured franchises which had new (and rather awkward Swahili names like Nyumbu, Papa ), killing a 10-year heritage of the previous names such as Buffaloes, Cheetahs, Rhinos and Sharks. The selection was also skewed with top clubs making one of the franchises. Nyumbu, a Kenyan franchise made up players from Quins, Nondies and Impala was expected to be the clear favourite and was enjoying the same form going into the semi-finals. However with the ties scheduled for Kampala, Uganda, Jalang’o is reported to have met some of the players and asked them to boycott playing the game. This led to a weakened side showing up at Kyadondo ( pronounced Chadondo) and losing to the Ugandan team, Ruwenzori.

This was along the lines of misinforming participating franchises that the ‘BRSS semi-finals were the preserve of pool winners’ yet the contract clearly spelt out that ‘one semi would be held in Kampala in the event of a Ugandan team reaching the semis with the other being held in Nairobi’.

He has also been rumoured to have interfered with the selection of the national 15-a-side team which is due in South Africa later this month. Add the fact that Kenya Airways will be the shirt sponsors (for a song) instead of negotiating an extension of the deal from the Kenya 7s deal.

Now these are but a few of the allegations that directly relate to his mandate as a rugby club and national official. Other claims include ‘greasing the pens’ of scribes to get favourable coverage for the game and also to ‘kill’ any negative stories that might relate to him or decisions made. It is a foregone conclusion that the election and subsequent re-election of Chairman Mwangi Muthee is not something that some like him have ever been inclined to and have sought to make him look indecisive and incompetent as often as possible.

With the current Board looking to exercise it’s objectives and with the game still looking as lucrative as sporting events could attract, it will remain to be seen if the elements such as Philip Jalang’o who’s motives are not always in the interest of the game, can be banished to sports management Siberia. It would also be imperative for KRU to repair this PR damage and get back into the good books of the sports fans. Sponsors and media companies who are your bread and butter are watching keenly. The fans too are concerned and this will start showing, if these issues aren’t resolved soonest.

As for Philip Jalang’o and his ilk, I shall be waiting for the Court to throw out your case and save the game the disrepute that you have brought to rugby. Save yourself the lawyer costs and give way for more competent personnel to run the game. Rugby has been a gentleman’s game and for heaven’s sake can we keep it as such!

 Disclaimer: This is a guest post from an aggrieved rugby-fan who
needed to vent his disapproval of the ongoing sideshows between Kenya
Rugby Union and one Philip Jalang’o – suspended Director, National Squads &
Elite Performance Committee. Lack of honest coverage and besmirching of
Kenya’s rugby game led to its genesis. We at SportsKenya believe it is the right of everyone to air their views and tell their side of the story. We also offer those mentioned a chance to either comment or send us their own views at sportskenya@gmail.com. For the good of Sports!  
 

Sports Secretary Dr. Hassan A. Wario – An Oath for Kenyan Sports

Daktari you must be now have learnt how to manoeuvre traffic in and around the KenCom house which houses your Ministry carved back into the Culture, Sports and Youth Affairs. We also remember your own words about the capacities of Culture and Arts being your forte but Sports not such a knowledgeable affair to you ( the ‘corrupt’ and those for the status quo must have smiled and winked at each other…).

First order of the day is to read and re-read the new Sports Act which was passed (thanks in part to your predecessor) earlier this year. Carry copies in you car,since now you’re chauffeured into office, get it on your i-Pad or whatever gadget tickles your fancy. Get the technocrats in your Ministry to break down those technical terms and on a regular basis, consult widely with sports stakeholders not just officials in their respective sports organisations. This will serve you in good stead in the coming 4-5 years depending on when the mandate of this government ends.

Secondly, do ensure that as the Act prescribes ALL sports bodies – federations, associations or unions – carry the intended elections. We have a couple which have already been in abidance with that rule ( though majority were merely rubber-stamping the status quo). Keep these bodies in check by requiring regular reports and budgets review and where applicable ensure those not towing or keeping with the mandate of their bodies, chase them and sacrifice on the high altar of the rule of law. There needs to be a few heads rolling every now and then….you’re a well-travelled man and you know what they do in China if you’re declared corrupt in People’s Republic.

Third, in your works in Culture and national museums, you must have learnt a thing or two about archiving and record keeping. Do dig those archives for reports from the 1987 All-Africa Games and subsequent All Africa Games, 1990s World Cross Country championships, Olympic Games reports from 1956-1972 &1984-2012 among others. Those will make you have a clear view of what happened to Kenyan sport and why we have either lost or gained in some sports disciplines.

Fourth, read sports policy documents from sporting countries like Australia, Brazil, China, USofA and even our colonial masters the UK. These countries have enshrined sports as mainstream activities and their governments ‘have put their money where their mouths are’. The world over, unless the Government actively engages its populace in sport and make deliberate efforts to do so, Kenya shall suffer from the lethargy it has continued to suffer from in the last 20 years or so. Chairman Mao Tse Tung declared table tennis a national sport and you can see today what that sport has done for the country and its satellite states.

Fifth, you must also revisit the Jubilee manifesto to guide you on your appointing authority mandate & previous Government policies e.g. the reward system and recognition as national heroes.A major point is the investment in infrastructure in sports in at least 5 counties and building stadia and sports academies. It’s a  shame that the country has not undertaken any major sports infrastructure development for most sports disciplines. It is sad that open spaces have either become grabbers’ paradise or grazing fields for urban animal keepers or just suffering from neglect. A quick audit of all these facilities in the country will show those that can be secured by the state and those that the country governments can start working immediately. Together with the Local Government Ministry do ensure that urban planners factor open playing spaces and no not just the usual golfing fields but football, running tracks and other such facilities.

Sixth, there are some associations with some semblance of order, consult with those and ensure they have direct access to your office. They will need your office’s guidance and support to secure regional and international competitions and the State should never again have to suffer the reputation that we did in 1996 of bidding for a continental competition only for the country to back out in the last minute ( Africa Cup of Nations, which was eventually hosted and won by South Africa).

Dr. Hassan A. Wario – Image courtesy of www.nation.co.ke

Seventh, curriculum in schools and higher institutions of learning should start emphasising on sports and the business around it. As we write this, only 2 universities in Kenya are offering course in sports management and physical activities. Even with such a rich heritage of sports achievers and sports leaders, surely we can start working on relevant curriculum for those willing to engage in sport not just on the field and pitch but also in the boardrooms and offices. We can have collaborations and short term course from reputable institutions such University of Michigan, Ohio State University, University of East London, Cardiff University to name just a few.

These 7 points we have sought to talk about will be more than enough for your 5-year term and achieving 7–80% of these will be major boon for Kenyan sport on the global scene. You undertook that oath, we keep the faith!

SIDENOTE:
Kindly consider opening Twitter accounts for your Ministry and one of own. Kenyans on Twitter famously known as #KOT who have a thing for sport will engage with you but be ready for baptism by fire…

Can Kenya Rugby 7s sustain the tempo, Mr. Friday?

The 2012-13 HSBC-sponsored IRB Sevens series has started with oomph for the Kenyan team. Last season, the team finished 12th ( last for the initial 12 -core teams) and risked being dropped from the ‘core teams’ status ( core teams are guaranteed of participation to all tournaments within a given season). Starting this season, IRB has introduced a new set of rules which shall see teams promoted and relegated depending on their final ranking at the end of the season. The series also saw expansion of the initial core teams from 12 to 15.
Back to the Kenyan game, in the off-season, Britain’s former rugby player and coach, Mike Friday was hired to bring back some technical expertise and polish the Kenyan game known for its pace and brashness. After missing out on the Safari Sevens shield it seemed like it was 2011-12 season all over again but the last 2 rounds of the series have proved otherwise. So far the team lies joint 2nd overall (with Fiji) with a total amass of 32 points.


South Africa beckons 

The three Kenya 7s Rugby shirts by Samurai Sportswear
Image courtesy of Samurai Sports

The last event of the series this calendar year in South Africa shall represent a new set of challenge for Mike Friday’s charges. First the absence of top try scorer Collins Injera along with experienced hands Biko Adema and Oscar Ouma is bound to be felt. Sydney Ashioya is also out with a hamstring injury. A temporary reprieve is the availability of Humphrey Kayange ( Injera’s older brother) who shall be featuring for the national team colours for the first time this season. Call-ups to replace the former include; Billy Odhiambo, Fabian Olando and Oscar Ayondi.

Second, the team has already been seen to be a strong contender for the top 6 finishers and other teams have taken notice. This being the 3rd round you can expect a couple of tactical changes from those teams that have previously looked like walkovers. Though the pool looks favourable with Argentina and Wales being the main threats to clip Kenya’s qualification to the Main Cup proper, the battle shall be from the Quarter and Semi-Finals respectively. The Kenyan team has been coming off too close in the finishing and decisive tackles. The conversion kicks have been off the mark especially in the Dubai series. The try-scoring

Third, the South African round is only the third in a 10-tournament series. Can the Kenyan team go the whole hog and sustain these sterling performances? It’s been a good thing going but a dip in form might happen anywhere between the Christmas break ( January 2013) and the second one in April 2013. If the boys and technical team keep it together, we’ve got a good thing going. In any case, if Kenya can gun for a top 6 finish in any of the tournament’s that translates to 12 points in the bag.
Points Awarded:
Top 6 finishers in each tournament are awarded points as follows;

  • Cup Winners (1st) -22 points, 
  • Cup Losers (2nd) -19 points, 
  • Cup 3rd-place playoff winner (3rd) -17 points, 
  • Cup 3rd-place playoff/loser (4th) – 15 points, 
  • Plate Winner (5th) – 13 points, 
  • Plate Runner-Ups (6th) – 12 points

Fourth, there was some change in the kit from Gilbey’s to the Samurai shirts starting with the Dubai series. This though not a major concern ought to be addressed and finalised by Kenya Rugby Union officials. Shirt sponsorship should ensure that the team has unique identity and also serve to motivate them to improve their performance. There is also the added incentive of monetary amounts if well negotiated. Such details ought to be out in the public domain and not behind boardroom doors.

Fifth, there has been the remuneration and bonuses awarded by the team sponsors’ Kenya Airways and also for finishing in the top 4. These monies should be paid as and when available to continually motivate the boys in the team. Donning national colours is a great honour but in this time and age, that honour has a price too. Being a semi-professional team aspiring to become fully professional in the next half-decade, substantive contracts with clear remuneration packages should be in every player’s pocket.

Sixth rugby sevens will be premiering in the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. Kenya is one of the likely qualifiers from Africa and should ensure it sends the best team to the Games. Though its early days for that, the building blocks start now since over half the team might not be in the running for a place by then. This goes back to the Kenya Rugby Union officials. Ensure wider reach of the game, rigorous recruitment by the clubs, regular technical and development skills to the retiring players and practising coaches, additional investment through sponsorships and grants from relevant corporate bodies and sports bodies among others.

Finally, the same gusto that has been invested in the 7s game should be translated to the 15s game which is still tottering in Kenya. Remember rugby aficionados believe that a country’s worth is known by its 15-a-side strength and depth. Are we working on this?

To Mr.Friday and the Kenyan team, Ngikufisela Inhlanhla in Port Elizabeth !

Kenya Rugby 7s – The Good, the Bad & the UGALI…

This weekend marked the final outing for the Kenyan Rugby 7s team in the 2011/12 IRB 7s circuit series. This season marked one of the worst outings the team has had in recent years. And though many would have loved for the team to make better showing this was not to be:

Willy Ambaka – Kenya Rugby not yet there…

The Good
First though, we commend the technical team managing the national team for ensuring that a wide array of players got exposed to the game this season. The team avoided last year’s dilemma of rotating among a small pool of players and extended this to younger and upcoming ones.
Secondly, the corporate sponsors have practiced patience with the team which is a boon for Kenyan sport. Many a times when a team is on transition, corporate support becomes hard to come by but for this they have managed to keep up the monies – though we don’t know for how long they will be patient with dismal performances…
Managing a transitional team is NOT the easiest thing and Mitch Ocholla & Charles Cardovillis have managed amidst a tough outing from the rest of the teams. The middle-tier level teams such as Canada, Portugal, Scotland, Wales and United States have all styled up and stepped up their game.

The Bad
The now-old Kenya Rugby Union office bearers elected last year came in with a lot of gusto much to the chagrin of rugby enthusiasts and managers of the game. Though there was need to infuse some new hands to play various roles in ensuring the 7s game progressed well, the ‘rough’ treatment accorded to the then technical bench led by Ben Ayimba was not good. The experiences they had were needed to ensure the team didn’t start from scratch. They would have also come in handy with the team selection for the national team and a proper analysis done on each player after each tournament.
The fact that the officials came in trumpeting the fact that they would like to professionalize the 7s team, little has been done beyond the word-of-mouth. It would have served the Union officials better if they explained that they’re working towards such a framework in a gradual process.

The Ugali
Though this was a tad bit exaggerated by the media, the issue of players’ allowances and pay did come out. We don’t know how far the Union has managed to work around this but it demotivates the players to find that their dues are not coming as it ought to.

The technical team at times seemed to be groping in the dark and out of depth in the team selection. It was never supposed to be like this for a team playing in its 9th year of the IRB 7s World Series.

Going forward though, KRU officials need to come to terms with the fact that there is need to infuse more professional and tactical abilities in the game at national and international level. There is also need to conduct continuous clinics around the country and within the residential camps to offer fresh talent and renew the abilities of existing players.
As for going professional, it is a medium to longer term effort which will need more resources not just in finances but also infrastructure; from playing fields, to feeder clubs from the national 7s circuit.
If Kenya hopes to restore its place in the top 10 of the IRB Sevens World Series, KRU officials the honeymoon was surely over a long time ago. Gird thy loins & work the magic NOW!

UPDATES:

Friday 25th May and Kenya Rugby Union is reported to have disbanded the Kenya 7s team, both playing unit and the technical team. If these reports are true, then this IS NOT the way forward that we had recommended.
Also the intended hire of a foreign coach for the technical bench might not bode well for the game. We question why over 10 years of experience in the 7s game would not produce a localised solution to the management team.

A foreign coach, means more money, more time to understand the local scene and also less responsibility on his part in case the team doesn’t perform at par. We all know what has happened to the cricket game, let’s not repeat this in rugby PLEASE! 

SportsKenya’s Qs & As – Bamburi Rugby Super Series – Herbert Mwachiro

This week we feature the (Bamburi) Rugby Super Series which
enters its 3rd weekend of action at various locations in the Kenyan
cities of Nairobi and Nakuru while in Uganda it shall be at Kampala. We had a
chat with Herbert Mwachiro – Regional Tournament Director who gave us a brief
preview of the biggest franchise-based rugby tournament in Eastern Africa. Here’s
the rest of it;  

Herbert Mwachiro 


SportsKenya: (Bamburi) Rugby Super Series 2012
is marking the 10th anniversary this year. Give us a review of what the journey
has been since its inception
Herbert Mwachiro: 10 years of Super Series has seen it grow from a 4-
team Kenyan event to an 8- team East African tourney mainly competed between Kenya
and Uganda whilst Tanzania have participated twice.
SK: What would you say has been Kenya Rugby
Union’s involvement?
HM: They
are the owners of the tournament so their support is very much evident
SK: Successes and challenges in the last
decade
HM: Competitive
rugby, expansion into Uganda and development of universities, Western Kenya and
Coast franchises. This tournament has developed players that have benefitted
the national teams in both Kenya and Uganda.

SK: The game of rugby has grown in leaps
and bounds but there has been concern over the 15-a-side game. Do you think the
Bamburi Rugby Super Series would address such concerns?
HM:  Definitely as competition becomes stiffer and players
and officials forced to raise their game.
Super Series 2012  

SK: What do you think ails the 15-a-side
game and what are the remedies?
HM: There
is need for more supportive technical structures in the form of qualified
coaches at the grassroots level that will see players develop skills at an
earlier age

SK: Kenya Rugby Union events including
the Bamburi Rugby Super Series seem to attract quite some good corporate sponsorship,
what would you attribute this to?
HM: Rugby
is the fastest growing sport in Kenya and globally and the game has a lot of
goodwill at present especially with Kenya being Africa champions.

SK: In addition to sponsorships, KRU
events have attracted quite some interest from media houses including the SuperSport
live screening of the Bamburi Super Series, Elgon Cup and even Safari Sevens.
Your thoughts on this?
HM: This
is positive for the game and will definitely receive more corporate support giving
the sport much-needed finances in the long run and television exposure for
players seeking to professional careers.

SK: Still in rugby, what are your
thoughts about the 7s game?
HM: We
(Kenya) have done well to compete at that level given the gap in resources with
the more established teams.  We need to
consolidate those gains.  Reaching the
2009 Rugby Sevens World Cup was a big feat and honour that should not be
forgotten. Those players gave it their all to reach there.

SK: Kenya Rugby Union has been a fairly
successful sports organization. What would other sports associations and
related organizations learn from KRU?
HM: (The
need for) dedicated and committed officials who have true love of the sport.

SK: Sports organizations in Kenya have
not learnt how to use or leverage their sports with the media, e.g. the ongoing
Volleyball club championships .What would you advise them?
HM: It
is important that they incorporate into their organisations’ individuals with
rich sports marketing experience in Kenya and they are there; tough (getting
them since they’re) extremely few!

SK: Comment on the following;
Proposed Sports Bill
HM: This
needs to happen like yesterday and with proper input from sports stakeholders
Rugby 7s at the Olympics
HM: Fantastic!
Safari 7 s in the IRB Sevens World
circuit
HM: IRB
tournaments are usually played at sea level but the IRB should be lobbied to
make one exception in the near future.

SK: What is the future of the Bamburi Rugby Super Series, especially since next year marks a decade since the launch of the
tournament in East Africa?
HM:  This is the 10th Edition and the
future is bright.

SK: The future of rugby both 7s and 15s
in Kenya?
HM: We
are no longer treated as underdogs and should therefore invest more in our
players and facilities and structures. The only way is up.