Kenya v/s Malawi – 2014 World Cup Qualifier starts in Earnest

The qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup to be held in Brazil start in earnest in a week’s time and for Kenya this journey begins with the small step of facing Malawi at home. For a start, the fixture is quite significant given that the Kenya Premier League cleared its first leg of matches for the 2011/12 season a week ago. This ensures that the players have had fairly reasonable time to train as a unit.

Kenyan Football fan

A second feature is the fact that most European Leagues have ended and for those Kenyans who were playing for their respective teams, it is ample time to come back and do national duty for the game. But with the unresolved issues of McDonald Mariga’s refunds and the tiff between Dennis Oliech, EABL and Harambee Stars Management Board, you can rest assured the two will not feature in the upcoming game. Coach Francis Kimanzi will have the unenviable task of naming a team more likely to have new faces & local players as opposed to the over-reliance on the pros.
Third, we have the game taking place at the reopened and refurbished Kasarani ( or by the mouthful name of Moi International Sports Centre-MISC). The facility has ample space for parking, fans and teams alike as well as a great atmosphere for such a game. The venue has also been a good omen to the national team having played games there against big teams and going home victors in front of the home fans. Remember Kenya v/s Nigeria in 1996?
Lastly it will be a long weekend courtesy of a public holiday on 1st June thus providing the perfect excuse for the discerning sports fans in Kenya for a good weekend outing.
Thus said, all Kenyan football fans can show up and support the team to ensure they start on the right footing for the World Cup journey to the Samba country.
Tickets for the game shall be sold online for the first time as Football Kenya Federation tries to beat fake tickets peddlers and ensuring a more centralised and user-friendly mode of acquiring match tickets. You can access the site at www.kapstickets.com and pay via MasterCard, Visa or Airtel Money ( wonder why they never incorporated the more popular M-Pesa…)

Update:
As of Monday 28th May, Dennis Oliech had reported to the Kenyan training camp at Kenya School of Monetary Studies for the Kenya – Malawi game.  Word has it that FKF & EABL had sought to clear the small issue of using his image(s) for the Tusker/Harambee Stars promo. Hope it’s the last we’re hearing of this and look forward to Kenya making the best of the qualifications to the World Cup in Brazil in 2014.

Statistics thus far:
Going into Saturday’s game, Kenya has played 56 games for the World Cup qualifiers; won 18, drawn in 12 and lost 26. A dismal performance indeed! But as they say, every day is a new day and the boys can rise up and rewrite history…time will tell!

Dennis Oliech, FKF & EABL – Get it Together People!

Tusker Sponsorship stirs Harambee Stars’ Nest

While the remuneration saga has been going on for the last few weeks now, Dennis Oliech’s retirement threat seems to have finally caught the football world’s attention.  A brief history of this is that, East Africa Breweries Limited (EABL) through its flagship brand  Tusker confirmed sponsorship of the national football team Harambee Stars in anticipation of the Africa Cup of Nations 2013 qualifiers and the World Cup in 2014 in Brazil….all good so far…

Mariga, Oliech & Mugalia (Image that stirred the Hornet’s Nest) – www.futaa.com

As part of the agreement whose details have yet to be revealed but Harambee Stars Management Board seems to know, EABL were allegedly given rights to use the images of the national players as part of their promotional material to drive their brand communication.
Now that’s where the line becomes blurred.
Oliech came out openly in the use of his image (along with MacDonald Mariga & Ben Mugalia) for the Tusker promotion. FKF and the Harambee Stars Management Board accused him of his lack of loyalty to the national cause and sacrificing self to play for Kenya.

Players’ Endorsements & Players Dues
While some may argue that Dennis Oliech is a professional and should overlook the said endorsement fees, it calls to fore the use of Kenyan sports personalities and lack of proper remuneration and contractual commitments.
Looking at the EABL/Tusker sponsorship, that brand generates millions in sales and even if they might not feel inclined to pay the individual players, it would be presumed to be part of the KShs. 110 million committed. Sponsorship fees made by Kenyan corporate firms are usually committed to the national teams or otherwise but most of these funds never actually trickle down to the players and if they do, its miniscule.
Enter Football Kenya Federation, though in office for only a few months, they have not entirely endeared themselves to the national team players. Already one of the best goalkeepers in Arnold Origi announced his retirement last year after Kenya’s failure to  qualify for Africa Cup of Nations in 2012. MacDonald Mariga also complained about non-committal arrangements in refund of his air-flight tickets for national team engagements. Read in interesting article here on national team players’ welfare.
If you look at the complaints they are coming from the professional players who interact with other players in the European leagues. Thus they would have an idea of what they are claiming to be their rightful dues.
Back to FKF, we know that players have often turned up for national engagements without allowances for months on end. That a few players don’t mind playing for Harambee Stars even if they’re paid a pittance are supposed to be old stories.

To bring this rant to a logical end,

  1. EABL and FKF should ensure they outline the details of the sponsorship agreement, even if they have to disclose such details as who gets what and promotional material usage etc.
  2. Also Kenyan corporate firms, it’s about time you paid up a little more to our Kenyan sports personalities. 
  3. Kenyan and other corporate firms, when making any commitment to sports activities, remember at the final end the players welfare is paramount. Without this, the end consumer that you target will be a disillusioned lot and that’s not what your brand(s) stand for.
  4. Its about time Kenyan football players formed a Players’ Association. And if there is one then it’s not doing its work. Player grievances and issues such as player contracts, players remuneration, injuries, agents’ activities and all others relating to players should be addressed through a common voice. This will ensure you have a strong bond and common purpose to realising the interests of players.

Kenyan Sporting Families: Now you know where the pedigree comes from

Tikolos, Dunfords, Sudis,  Ilakos, among many others are household names in the Kenyan sporting scene . Yes as you may noticed, most of them had plurals because there is more than one member of the family that has made their cut in different sporting discipline or more than one member makes the cut in a particular sport.

Take for example the Tikolos; a few weeks ago we saw the end of an era when the last of the cricket playing brothers from the Tikolo family, Steve retired from the sport after gracing it for more than 15 years having won many hearts in the country and across the seas. His other famous brothers who also one time held the position of Chief Executive at Cricket Kenya Tom and also former player David.
Other famous siblings in cricket include the Sujis (Martin and Tony), Obuyas (Kennedy, Collins and David) Ngoches ( James and Shem) and the Odumbes (Maurice and Edward).

The ObuyasImage from www.kiranonlycricket.blogspot.com

The Ilakos you ask? Well there was a time Kenya played for the African zone of the Davis Cup in tennis. One of the players playing for Kenya was Philip Ilako (nowadays he’s MD of some mid-level bank I guess). The other playing Ilako was James.
Dunfords, who doesn’t know the exploits of these brothers in the pools of the African Swimming Championships, All-Africa Games, Commonwealth and also the Olympics (albeit briefly). Jason is the trailblazer with David spoiling for a place on the podium slowly but surely. Their other less famous brother Robert plays rugby in the UK where’s attending college.

From Left David & Jason Dunford with a lady & gent fan Image courtesy of www.sky it

Rugby has many household names but the current ones taking the lion’s share are Humphrey Kayange and Collins Injera while their younger brother Michael has some uphill task trying to make at least the national team like the two elder ones. Their father is also a former rugby player back in the day.
We have Daniel Rudisha one of the gold medallists in the 4x400m Munich Olympic Games whose son David Lekuta Rudisha did one better breaking the world record and literally scorching the tracks last season in the IAAF circuit to emerge as World Athlete of the Year as well as Kenya’s Sportman of the Year.
The family that is hogging much of the media’s attention now is the Wanyamas. The matriarch one Noah Wanyama started it all playing with AFC Leopards and also the national team Harambee Stars. His sons have followed suit with Sylvester –Sony Sugar, Thomas – Sofapaka FC , with Victor Mugabe making history as Kenya’s first football player in the Scottish League signing with Celtic FC and of course the most famous of the Wanyama’s MacDonald Mariga Wanyama Inter Milan’s FC defensive midfielder. Their sister Mercy Ayitso has also recently obtained a scholarship in the California Baptist University which plays in the NCAA women’s basketball league.
As has happened in other sporting fields, these families have led the way in winning accolades for their clubs, countries and securing honour and a place in history. For all you seeking a firm place in sport and have a sibling or two in one or another game, you have it written and trendsetters to learn from.

Collins Injera & Humphrey Kayange perform a celebratory dance after a try

As a country, we also have to learn to honour our sporting heroes something we have not always done all too well. Their place to some of us sporting enthusiasts is forever etched in our minds and firmly in the history of our country.

Kenya v/s Uganda 0-0 :12th man doesn’t get his money’s worth

It was to be a clash of monumental proportions, a decisive tie for Kenya but the show never happened. Well for those of us who braved the scorching sun to make our way into the stadium, lots of disappointment and unmet expectations.
The Ugandans had promised to come in their bus loads and they did. By last count there were twenty 49-seater buses with more minibuses (some parked in town due to heavy traffic on Uhuru Highway) and numerous personal vehicles. Oh by the way it was Independence Day today and maybe that’s why they should up in their numbers.
They said that it was the 12th man who would make victory ours. That we did and the droves of fans had streamed in from 10 a.m. As we made our way into the stadium, some not interesting sights of Kenyans ‘cutting queues’ and security hired for the day (G4S…Ponyoka na $$$) and regular police kept allowing impatient & irritating guys who almost faced the wrath of fans who filed along well.
Onto the game and our boys looked a bit rusty and the Ugandans looked more technically able. They kept our defence on the back seat for the first 15min with good use of the flanks. We took time to get the game back and Mariga started lording it over the midfield but most of the other players around him kept waiting for him to make his move.
The best chance of the 1st half was the dead ball situation which Mariga cut down through the wall but straight into the hands of the able goalkeeper who plays for SuperSport in South Africa.  Much of the action in the first half was not all that to write home about.
2nd half and the game Kenyans had gone to watch almost came to pass. With Mariga now making some nice exchanges with the rest of the players in the mould of  Edgar Ochieng, Victor Mugabe and Dennis Oliech.The worst bit was the fact that we didn’t quite utilize those chances. Another deadball situation and Mariga’s kick hit the post again.
Mid-way into the 2nd half and the Ugandas were back to their flanks and the right one looked like their favourite side. They saw more of the ball and they seemed content to cross them past our goal mouth. By the 80th minute, it looked like ours was a lost cause.
Man of the Match : Without a doubt, MacDonald Mariga – we qualify him as our captain, not because he is playing Inter or Europe but he has the calmness and ability to make the other players dig themselves in.
Plusses:
  •  Fans did come in their numbers without a doubt and the stadium was almost filled to capacity.
  • Ticketing was almost on point – no need of walking to the gates & monies collection points
  • Ban of bottled substances – we know what is usually in the bottles is not the stuff meant to be in those bottles. They also serve as missiles when fans when they get discontented with play on the field.
  • Fair security – Fair because their presence kept the crowd in check
  • Weather – beyond our control but yes it was nice to have the sun shining on our brows
Drawbacks:
  • The fans who were to be the 12th man at times kept mum only coming back when the Ugandans cheered along their team. We don’t seem to have a song or chant that unites the fans and no those political songs are so 2007. We should hire the rugby crowd next time.
  • Shall we see reciprocity of sorts from our Kenyan politicians and businessmen? The Ugandans travelled in true sports fans passion and their presence strengthened their team. Mike ‘Sonko’ , Mr. PM anyone?
  • Ticketing – while they insisted on not selling tickets at the venue, no arrangements were made for the visiting team fans. Even the VIP ones were totally sold out and the spaces filled out – disappointing if you paid that slight amount for money.
  • Lack of merchandise – The flags and wraps were good but since we don’t usually know the national colours worn at any particular time, we can’t stock up on the team shirts.
  • Security – Meant to help maintain law and order, they also were the part of the loopholes of people coming in without tickets. We counted over 10 people who ‘sneaked in’ even after we alerted them.
  • Parking- If the stadium is to maintain its international status; the Stadia Management Board must find some better space of parking for fans. International standards demand that only team vehicles, ambulances and fire engines and security vehicles should be anywhere close to the ground. Seeing the loads of buses too close to the stadium was a major concern. Thank God the score was as it was, Lord have mercy had Uganda won the game.
  • Technical expertise – the technical bench at times looked like they were waiting for reactions from the fans. Still on the same, please get a new captain, the current one didn’t seem to rally the players up even when the game was getting out of reach.
  • TV/Media Rights – the circus is truly NOT out of town when it comes to Football Kenya Limited and on Saturday they ensured that no media house screened the game thanks to the greed in selling the media rights. Our own media houses are not without blame for imagining that they can wait till the last minute to make a compromise bid. We hope both parties learned and moreso the Football Kenya who’s term is really living on borrowed time. 

Now that we have made life difficult for ourselves in qualifying for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, the rest of group games we MUST WIN (almost impossible) given we have an away game in Angola and another in Uganda- Kampala. Back to square one!

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 !

Harambee Stars Woes, are we surprised?

It baffles the way Kenyan football fans are quick to put blame on one or the other for the team’s poor performance in recent times. Are we surprised by that? Not from our brief here.
It is always going to be tricky affair translating good league fixture games to national team performances. That FKL has always been joking when it comes to the national team is something that needs to end. How can a team train for 4 days and then leave on the actual day to play a fixture which is more than 6 hours away? And you expected to win?
You must also have read The Daily Nation’s- Macharia Gaitho’s story about our team draping in all sorts of colours thus no consistency there too!

Harambee Stars A.Makacha  in a Weird colour – (Courtesy of www.kenyafootball.com

Not even the presence of famed duo of MacDonald Mariga and Dennis Oliech could save the blushes the team suffered. What is amusing is that the technical bench found it fair to play Oliech as the captain for the day ( though Robert Mambo remains the captain) even though he hadn’t trained with the team. If players decided to have a go-slow on the pitch and thus lose the game, well they did just that and now complicate their qualification chances in a group featuring Angola, Uganda and Guinea-Bissau (who were labelled the under-dogs). The next fixture has Kenya facing Uganda in a month’s time (Oct 8th at Kasarani)…should be an interesting fixture…
But if we are to make a difference in the qualifications, the rot starts from the top and needs to be pruned soonest possible. No need to blame the Twahirs, Oliechs, or other excuses that we’ve sought. Or else we shall remain non-starters on the continental-stage!

Dennis Oliech’s Auxerre makes Champions League matches worth the watch for Kenyans

Thanks to 2-1 aggregate against Zenit St. Petersburg , Kenyan football fans will now have two players ( and teams) to root for during the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League games this season. Auxerre confirmed their qualification to the UEFA Champs League group stages which kick off on Tuesday September 14th,2010. After last year’s debut by MacDonald Mariga who’s Inter Milan went all the way to winning the treasured Cup, shall we have a second bite at the cherry? Far-fetched but worth the watch.
The draw for the group is on later today and we shall see who plays who with the pots drawing as follows;



Pots for UEFA Champions League draw:
Pot One: Inter Milan, Barcelona, Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal, Bayern Munich, AC Milan, Lyon.
Pot Two: Werder Bremen, Real Madrid, Roma, Shakhtar Donetsk, Benfica, Valencia, Marseille, Panathinaikos.
Pot Three: Tottenham, Rangers, Ajax, Schalke, Basle, Braga, FC Copenhagen, Spartak Moscow.
Pot Four: Hapoel Tel Aviv, FC Twente, Rubin Kazan, Auxerre, CFR Cluj, Partizan Belgrade, MSK Zilina, Bursaspor.
(Source ; www.bbc.co.uk) 
Related News:
Macdonald Mariga is hoping to use his current placing at Inter Milan to land European football scouts to the local scene. After the country’s past dismal performance and with the current resurgence in the local league, there is bound to be some talent budding which needs to land our young players to the lucrative leagues.  With this it is hoped that we can challenge for continental honours and also be able to make a point if not qualify for the 2014 World Cup – I don’t see why not !

Mariga’s Inter Milan Score Treble but….

Over the weekend for most Kenyans it was the perfect curtain-raiser for the upcoming 2010 World Cup. Kenya’s own Macdonald Mariga didn’t play in the Final but that was not a hindrance as by virtue of his team being in the final, we rooted for the team to make history under one Jose Mourinho.
History indeed was made and Inter became among the elite European teams of winning the treble ( the League Championship, League Cup and Champions League) – other teams being Ajax Amsterdam, Celtic , among others and most recently Barcelona last season.
While we congratulate Mourinho for winning these titles, there is the small thing of his unconfirmed move to Real Madrid. As he was quoted saying that any manager worth his salt must have coached in the 3 most competitive leagues, and that Real’s always a boon; we cannot guarantee Mariga’s fate in playing for regular games for Inter let alone his being part of next season’s team.

Hoping Mourinho’s continues with his tradition of moving along with some of the players who help him mould a team, Mariga might be excess of his requirements given the La Liga’s team penchant for spending excessively to attract the best talent. Again seeing as some of the game’s scouts might be tempted to indulge in the transfer market after the World Cup hoping to get some raw talent  from there ( though most post-World Cup signings prove to be highly over-rated, we all know of the Davor Sukers, Denilsons and others of this game).
There is also the bait that Manchester City might be seeking what they missed out in the mid-season’s signings in January. 
All in all, we pray our home-boy gets the chance to prove his own on the pitch whichever team he plays for, we shall be seeing our boys conquer Europe in the 2010/2011 Champions League.

Note:
Dennis Oliech’s the other Kenya expected to play in next season’s Champions’ League after Auxerre finished third and thus is to play in the League proper. We sure hope to see more Kenyans moving into the lucrative fields after getting transfers from the local league as we improve on our game here. Who’s most likely to join Mariga and Oliech? Keep it here as we keep you posted on the off-season, summer signings.

UEFA Champions League 2010/2011 : Double Treat for Kenyan fans

Thanks to the exploits of their respective teams Inter Milan (Italy) and Auxerre (France), Kenyan football fans shall be treated and enjoy more UEFA Champions League 2010/2011 than has ever been. Seeing our very own is bound to change quite a number of dynamics especially TV rights  and viewership.
This year the only local TV station screening the matches was K24 (which a little birdie tells me partners with KBC, but is trying to cut its own niche). In 2008/9 NTV, Nation Media Group’s Kenyan TV station had that priviledge but has left it audience asking what happened to its sports offering.
To our two brothers, it is kudos and wish Mariga’s Inter all the best against German’s champions Bayern Munich on Saturday 22nd May. It would be a nice crowning moment for all football fans across the country this season, before we start the 2010 World Cup in June.

Mariga makes cameo appearance as Inter shield Barcelona from UEFA Champions League Final

For what was billed as the battle between the ‘Special One’ on the pitch (Lionel Messi) and the ‘Special One’ off the pitch & on the touchline ( Jose Mourinho), the latter endured to end the misery of losing at the semi-final stages (previously with Chelsea) and take I Nerazzurri into the Final of UEFA Champions League ( this year being played on May 22nd a Saturday due to the 2010 World Cup).
The Kenyan football fan had a unique opportunity to see one of their own playing at a UEFA Champs game and though it was a cameo appearance, it was enough to turn our patriotic selves into rapturous cheer…well forgive the Catalans and the beautiful game ( Arsenal – English club cited to play a similar game suffered at their hands – so fair game !)

Images courtesy of Inter Milan’s website

Now isn’t Mourinho just the hero for sneaking in and taking our classy midfielder and most likely turning him into a world-class act. We said so in a previous post here. The Nerazzurri gave Real Madrid players, Guti & Ronaldo something to smile about and save them the nightmare of seeing their arch-rivals play at their home pitch in the Final.
Read some real jewels from the post-match press conference by Jose Mourinho here.
Can’t wait for the 22nd of May as we hope to see our own take on German Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich and seemingly start as favourites to win the trophy.