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!

Sports Renaissance or Regression?

Good day to you ladies and gents! As we get back to our roots, we welcome you to read and indulge with our articles and posts. To get us going is an article published in the Marketing Africa magazine by Richard Wanjohi – who will be sharing these more often as well as other posts on sports in Kenya. Karibuni and feel free to indulge us in on Twitter @sportkenya and Instagram #SportskenyaTM

Salutations, ladies and gents! Great to have us reading from the same page in the New Year. We would be saying good riddance to a most challenging 2017 but alas the bad luck followed us straight into 2018! Work with me…

Image courtesy of www.spoonflower.com
Image courtesy of www.spoonflower.com

Sponsorship Blues

To the Kenyan sports fans following the last days of 2017, we were treated to the announcement of the ‘hallowed Kenyan’ courts throwing out a petition by one of the biggest sports betting firms in the country. The case had been taken to the courts for interpretation and suspension of the Finance Act 2017. In June 2017, the Finance CS had sought to introduce a 35% levy on revenues obtained from betting, gaming, and lotteries and as well, as firms with competitions running prizes to be won.

There was hue and cry from the many betting firms that have been at the fore in the sports scene both for betting and sponsorship purposes. At the turn of the year, it became apparent that the Government was not going to balk at criticism thrown at it.

Within the first week of 2018, the biggest sports betting firm in the country which had also become sports main sponsors across many disciplines dropped most if not all local sponsorship deals. Second-tier and smaller betting firms have also been mulling over their support of smaller outfits in the sporting world.

The ruse by the Government on the 35% levy may have two elements to it,

  • Revenue generation – most taxes are introduced to rake in monies which maybe in circulation and as a way of Government easing off its budgetary obligations. For an ambitious Government like ours has been it would be a no-brainer given the monies that betting and gaming firms have been making in the last 2-3 years. Conservative estimates put the figures at between KES 30-40 billion per year.
  • Regulation – the betting and gaming industry has been on an abnormal growth trajectory for the same number of years as above. Mobile technology has made it easier for even the common person in the village to bet and win monies at the palm of their hands. As of writing this article, there were over 20 betting and gaming firms. If we add the slot machines and other gaming platforms in most urban areas, this will easily cross the 50s.

To reduce the number of companies (maybe through mergers/partnerships) and introduce barriers of entry, it was important for the GoK to rein in on charlatans or those operating below standards.

The effects of the levy though have been to shake up the industry and potentially ring a death knell on a number of investments in the betting, gaming and lottery space.

Sports critiques have also harped on a Government that ‘gives’ with one hand and ‘takes’ with the other. Only 2 years ago in June 2016, the same Finance CS had introduced a tax holiday for companies investing and sponsoring sports activities – to entice companies both existing and new to invest more in sport.

In the subsequent 18 months, a number of firms did oblige. They set up shop in the country and invested in sports in unprecedented ways, with 2017 seeing the resurgence of sports sponsorships.  Other companies engaged in sport as they pushed their CSR budgets to procure visibility and presence as sports quite easily gives the spotlight. This has come a cropper in the past few weeks and may dwindle further if the sentiments of corporate firms are anything to go by.

What is amusing is the Government’s knee-jerk response to the withdrawal of sponsorship monies – a KES 500 million contribution. It may seem like a sizeable amount but it is a trickling if all the sports bodies and organisations in need of financial support from withdrawal of sponsorship monies.

Quick aside: I have a bone to pick with the national sports bodies and teams, is the challenge of procuring a single sponsor for your sport. We have seen the tragedy of singular partnerships in sport that prove detrimental and cripple the organisations activities’. It started with the sourcing of media partnerships and overall sponsorships for their sporting disciplines.

If there is anything to learn from the activities in January, it is the need for a number of corporate firms engaged in your sport. An example to learn from is the NBA, which has managed to rope in sponsors for most of its activities. Watch the NBA All-Star Game in the third weekend of February and you will know what I am talking about.

New CS – New Wine in Old Wineskins?

Coming through in the last days of January were the appointments to the Cabinet that included the new Cabinet Secretary for Sports. With 2018, being a busy sporting year for #TeamKenya, then the new office bearer already does have his hands full.

Starting off with the Winter Olympics in Pyeongyang – South Korea (yes Kenya is represented by the charming and affable Sabrina Wanjiru being only the second Kenyan and a chosen few of Africans to participate in the Games held under wet and chilly conditions on the icy slopes of this city in Korea.

It was embarrassing to see a South Korean company decide to pick Sabrina’s tab for sponsorship to enable her train and participate at the upcoming Winter Games. Where are the myriad Kenyan companies’ and what other proposition would they need to invest and brand such a rare gem?

Back to the CS’s matter, looking forward to his agenda for sport for Kenya in the next years. Beyond the political pronouncements – including the stadia et al – the most urgent matter is the setting up of the National Sports Lottery Fund.

Sports Fund

Drawing from the Sports Act, the Sports Lottery Fund serves as to receive an annual sports programme at least 6 months before commencement of every financial year. This programme shall specify and outline a comprehensive plan of action for development, rehabilitation and maintenance of the projects and programmes of the sports agencies and estimated costs for every activity.

4 years since the enactment of the Sports Act, nothing has happened yet – no officials, no structure and still no monies to boot. As a top sporting nation, we should be serious with this Fund and it would have come in handy with the reduction of sponsorship monies.

The Fund ought to form a centralised system and basis for disbursement of monies meant for sports development – be it the physical infrastructure or the sponsorship of teams especially those on national duty.

Last year saw Kenya miss hosting the CHAN (which ended up in Morocco – and to add insult to injury their national team ended up winning this year’s edition). In total contradiction of the Government’s pledge to sport, the country hosted the World Athletics championships, which the IAAF gave raving commendations (sic).

We can avoid such misadventures if the Ministry and relevant sports bodies had not only made the commitment to host continental and international sports fetes but also look towards investing for the future.

This column has noted severally the need for infrastructure for our sports disciplines and with the devolved functions, it is now imperative for both national and local (read county) governments to make this happen.

 

 

 

Success Stories of Sports Fund

When and if the Sports Lottery Fund becomes operational, it can form the basis of a rebirth of sport in Kenya. We have a number of countries that have benefited from such Funds in building teams to sterling performances and long-term invested in the future.

In South Africa, we have programs such as Sport for All – a trust fund whose monies come from the National Gambling and Lottery Board. This sees a fraction of monies generated from casino gambling as well as national betting and lotteries companies deposited in the trust fund.

The programme has been successfully in initiating youth programs for most of South Africa’s sporting disciplines including cricket, football and rugby to mention but a few.

In the UK, the country has a number of active and well-managed sports trust programs, which include the National Lottery Fund, which disburse over £600 million per year. Others are UK Sport – which manages monies from both the Lottery Fund and affiliate bodies such as NOC among others and UK Youth that ensures youth programmes for not only sports but also educational, arts and sciences in the schools.

The success of these programmes has seen the UK emerge as a major sporting nation in most sporting disciplines and good showing in international sporting events. This was the case in the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games held in London.

To bring us home, sports will remain secondary to our national psyche until there is a deliberate and sustained effort to invest in it. Beyond the national levies imposed on corporate firms and businesses, which have sought to engage in sport, the Government has to take a lead in investing and providing an environment to nurture sports.

Enactment of the Sports Act in 2013 was a step in this direction, but we have to move beyond the written laws and act. National sports bodies that are sponsored well have multiple revenue streams to ensure their sports activities across the year. The reward for this would be the supplementary monies from the Sports Lottery Fund once it starts functioning.

Beyond this, we can keep harping the same tunes year-in, year-out.

 

Sports Law Pioneer @SnoLegal talks to SportsKenya

Sometime last year, we at SportsKenya were part of a team that engaged in a campaign to get one of the pioneering ladies in Sports Law in Kenya for her studies in Spain. The campaign adopted both online and offline strategies which ran in tandem.

Sarah Ochwada @SnoLegal – Strike a Pose

We have the priviledge of bringing you Sarah Ochwada – also known as SnoLegal ( on Twitter @SnoLegal). She also does this blog here. We caught up with her on her exploits in Spain and this is what she had to say;

Q1) Hola SnoLegal! For the sake of our readers, kindly remind us what course
you are doing, the institution and duration.
 

Hola! I am studying International Sports Law at
ISDE which is the acronym for… Wait for it… Instituto Superior de Derecho y
Economia
…that’s Spanish by the way. Although my course is entirely in
English. I am learning Spanish, though…but I digress…I shall be having theory
lessons until June and then have my internship in Switzerland from July to
December. It is a 1-year intensive course.

Q2) From your interaction thus far with sports experts from the rest of the
world, what would you say their take is of the Kenyan & African sports
scene at large?

Wow! What a question!  Some foreigners
actually know a whole lot about African sports, and I’m not just talking about
my lecturers but my classmates as well. For instance one of the Spanish guys in
my class, Luis ( hello there if you’re reading this) was talking to me about
East African runners and he named them, knew the statistics from Kenya an
Ethiopia dating back years! 
Another one of my classmates from Australia, Tiran
(Oy mate!) knew about the Tikolo brothers from the Kenyan cricket team and just
some crazy statistics about Kenyan cricketers… I mean it’s really impressive
how much people outside Africa know about sports in Africa and the athletes.
I also recall having a conversation with one of my lecturers about Kenyan rugby
and another about the transfer of Kenyan players to European leagues… I guess
there is a lot of interest in sports on our continent because of the
talent on the continent which is exposed to the world stage through
international competitions. And I think this interest will persist in years to
come.

Q3)What is your take on Sports Management in Kenya and
the need for Sports Laws?

In the last year or so that I spent in Kenya before
coming to Madrid there was a positive change in terms of sports people and
federations. Other stakeholders are also making an effort to improve their
sports and consequently livelihoods of those involved. 
Management I think is the largest area that needs to be considered since you not only manage events but
teams and individuals within the sports realm. And there are so many aspects to
management too; finances, public relations, you name it.
What is lacking is
tailor-made management for each discipline, each athlete, each federation. A
blanket system may not work particularly for Kenya because of the numerous and
varying needs of the.different players involved.Understanding each unique set of needs
independently will be of great importance. 
As far as Sports Law is
concerned, the need is even greater. General practitioners of law may not fully
comprehend or appreciate the different facets of sports – from governance to contracts
and any problem that may arise from there. 
We are moving into a time where
talent pays, and sport is no longer a hobby but a livelihood. And with all
livelihoods those in the sports fraternity require experts who will understand
deeply their issues and offer sound advice & guidance to avoid disputes or
mitigate harm down the line.

Q4 a) With the new Sports Bill in place, there are quite a number of
legal hurdles that sports associations and bodies have to go through. Which 3
stick out for you?

Minor correction… Sports Act, not Bill. Once a
Bill is passed by parliament it becomes an Act. (SK:..oops our bad, Ms learned friend…)

  • Registration of Sports entities with the Sports
    Registrar. There surely will be a lot of confusion and misinformation when it
    comes to this point… Wait and see. But in a nutshell, all sports entities
    registered under the Societies Act will have to transition and be registered
    under the office of the Sports Registrar. (SK:…Note that football clubs crying foul about being targeted? )
  • Disputes regarding registration and non registration.
    These will probably be the first few cases to be dealt with by the new Sports
    Tribunal. But I bet even the understanding of how to bring matters to this
    tribunal will be a major issue, not just for federations and sports persons but
    for their legal representatives too.
  • The Sports Fund… How
    will it be run? How will federations receive money from this fund? This will be
    cause for some contention I believe.

But that being said, I look forward to the debates that will rise from
these issues because they will help our sports mature. Bring it on!

Q4 b) Which 3 legal issues do you feel have been
left out of the Sports Bill?

Oh my gosh! Now that I have had the opportunity to
learn about things… One thing which struck me is, so these federations will be
registered afresh, does that mean that they remain as societies or will we have
to give them some sort of new name to distinguish them from other legal
entities.
The other legal issues I have pondered about, I
would rather not reveal at this moment because it is better to see how things
unfold and whether we can find creative legal solutions for them as time goes
by… But trust me, there is so much we can do. Baby steps for now.

Snolegal at EPL club West Ham’s Bolery Ground – Upton Park Londonimage courtesy of SnoLegal

Q5) What has been your biggest eye-opener since you started the sports law
course?
That you can practice Sports Law in any corner of
the world but your practice may influence other lawyers in a completely
different part of the planet. For example, I have a blog devoted to Sports &Entertainment issues in Kenya. I wrote articles based on what I thought would
help Kenyans in these fields improve themselves. Lo and behold, I started getting emails and
messages from Sports Lawyers and professors as far as UK, Argentina, Spain,
Italy, Greece inquiring about a topic I had written or including some of my
articles in their research. I guess I never thought that what I.was doing for
my countrymen would have a great impact on other nations. That’s totally awesome
and incredibly humbling!
Q6) What is your favourite sport and why?

Right now it’s Archery. I started as a means of giving myself a hobby that I can take well into my old age. I have come to find
it very relaxing. And who knows, maybe in 10 years I can represent Kenya as an
Olympic archer! (SK:...make that 2 to 6 years at most, #just saying…)

Q7) After you’re done with the course, what next?
I come back home and continue with my practice, but
of course there are certain specific targets that I hope to meet maybe in the
first 3 years;

  1. Transitioning our national sports federations, such as trying to get their
    constitutions up to date and in line with the Sports Act, Kenyan constitution
    and their (respective) International Federations;
  2. (Host) at least 2 free workshops a year on sports law basics and management
    beginning with national sports federations administrators and then moving on to
    athletes;
  3. Getting either the LSK (Law Society of Kenya) to have Sports Law as part of the continuous
    education for Advocates, or at least incorporate some aspects of Sports law
    into the already existing ones;
  4. Teach. Initially I never wanted to do this but I have received offers from 2 universities in Nairobi to create a curriculum to teach undergraduates Sports
    Law as an elective module; and
  5. Continue with Sports law commentaries, TV, Radio and Newspaper. I did a
    little of this before I left but it will be great to pick it up again.

Muchas gracias and all the best in your studies, estudiante graduado de la hembra 🙂 🙂 🙂 

Olympics 2012 – Kenya busy missing Gold, what gives?

This weekend marked the start of the athletics programme in the ongoing London 2012 Olympic Games. From initial forecasts and given Kenya’s pedigree in the middle and long distance, it was finally a chance for Kenyans to cheer on #TeamKenya.
But things went awry from that first day when Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba took her Gold in the 10,000m for the 3rd consecutive Olympics after winning in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008 ( remember she missed the World Athletics championships in Daegu at the World Athletics c’ships in 2011). Two of the Kenyan athletes did land the Silver and Bronze medals.
Second day and things went from bad to worse when the form book was suddenly changed with Great Britain’s Mo Farah won the 10,000m followed by US’s Galen Rupp while Ethiopia’s emerging talent in Bekele’s younger brother, Tariku was placed third.
Sunday and while we expected double gold, it was only a single one courtesy of Ezekiel Kemboi in the 3000m steeplechase ( and Bronze too from Mutai). The women marathon trio could only manage a Silver after running a tactical race but still wearing out before the final 5km.

What has been happening in London has been disappointing but not too shocking for those with a keener eye for matters athletics.
The team selection was first questioned especially for the 5,000m and 10,000m -men and women- when Athletics Kenya decided to take the trials for these races to Prefontaine – Oregon (USA). While our athltes were busy shuttling flights abroad, foreign athletes including Team GB’s Mo Farah, Paula Radcliffe and US’ Galen Rupp were pitching camp in the Rift Valley high altitude training facilities in Iten.

Next was the controversy in the marathon teams selection. It was decided that the selection would be done after the London marathon which coincidentally ought to have been the ideal case of knowing the route. But alas the closeness of the race seemed to have cost Kenya the title due to fatigue, burn-out or a combination of other factors. The men’s team had to leave out one of the earlier selected athletes {The men’s marathon is the last event of the Games and though #TeamKenya fans would love to see Kenyan athletes come through…the jury’s still out there}

Then just a few weeks to the Games, Ezekiel Kemboi was moving between the courts and the cop stations to answer to alleged charges of rape. Though he did manage to get off to go to London, there is that small matter that he will have to answer to once back to Kenya. Though AK & NOC-K officials may not want to admit it, this must have been of concern within the camp. Kemboi is one of the biggest attractions on the Kenyan track, thanks to his antics on winning any of his major races. The accusations and media glare was almost reminiscent of what cost Kenya a world-class marathoner in the late Samuel Wanjiru.

Going into the 4th and 5th days in the athletics programme where Kenya’s only medal hopes, the performance in Beijing 2008 now seems like a bar too high to achieve. Or shall the Rudishas, Jelimos, Kiprops, Cheruiyots do otherwise? Pray you do!

ION
Since Kenya seems to have struck the endorsement deal with Nike, wonder why none of our athletes seem to feature in their campaigns for London 2012 or preceding the Games. We have seen others like Visa International, P&G to name but a few. Maybe it’s time that deal is revisited. And anyway, we’re never told how much its worth. A little disclosure from NOC-K and AK maybe?

Olympics 2012 – No Fairy Tale yet…

Day 6 and Kenya’s expected fairy tale is yet to be written. No surprises there so far. Well if our preparations and support given to the team is anything to go by, Kenyans should keep their medal expectations modest. A wise man once said, man cannot live on water alone…we paraphrase that to say…Kenyans cannot live on hope alone.
While it is good to be maintain positive vibes, it is also logical not to expect miracles when you have poor planning and execution. That our only representatives in Boxing, Benson Gicharu Njangiru and lady weightlifter Mercy Obiero were eliminated in the first round of their respective disciplines is no surprise.
The fingers point directly at the Amateur Boxing Association which runs Boxing in Kenya. They have been squabbling for the longest time costing the game its famed fortunes of the 1970s and 1980s. The officials have no semblance of major boxing fights locally both amateur and professional. The training facilities bequeathed to the Kenyan boxer were pathetic to say the least. Luckily London organizers did manage to give the boxer a trial at the Bristol camp.
Kenya Weightlifting Federation, well the sport has never been a major attraction save for the efforts of its chair one Pius Ochieng who represented the country both at Olympics (1984 & 1988) and Commonwealth level. It is funny that there are gyms in all major towns, but instead of engaging in professional level training and sport, most of the participants do it as a recreational thing ( others its for the good looks to attract members of the opposite sex…). Mercy’s participation was courtesy of a wildcard by the International Weightlifting Federation after our other lifters got eliminated in the qualifying rounds for Africa. We admire the bravery that both Benson Gicharu and Mercy Obiero exhibited in their participation.


The one thing that’s common in all this is the lack of preparedness by the respective sports bodies. Squabbles, mismanagement and poor planning is the name of the game. That the Sports Ministry has no been able to rein in on the bodies is not anything new. The National Olympic Committee -Kenya is left with no recourse than to take half-baked athletes to Games for them to be humiliated in the name of representing the country.
It’s time we looked hard into what ails our sports federations and address those concerns. Anything else Kenya will remain a nondescript performer in major competitions across the world.

In Other News:
Our athletics coach of the Kenya Athletics team one Mr. Julius Kirwa made a very ambitious forecast of 12 Gold medals. It’s good to prepare your charges mentally and get them to perform to their optimal, but it will remain that, a target, a dream. If Kenya does indeed win 12 Gold medals, we shall streak and run naked in Nairobi aka Flashmob-style when the team arrives back!

2012 Olympics : London We’re Coming…

After last week’s miss by the Kenyan volleyball women’s national team, it is more than clear that we have finalised the list of sports disciplines that will be represented at the Olympics in London in July-August later this year. Next week we start a coverage of what should be the biggest sporting event of the year. Keep it here for the first and last of Kenya’s rich Olympic history over the last 56 years.

London 2012 Olympics – Are we Ready?

This year’s main sporting event the Olympics is starting to get much coverage and it is bound to get busier as we approach the July -August date. Kenya’s National Olympic Committee was reported as starting some semblance of arrangements to prepare respective disciplines for the Games.
But this is far from the reality and the first month of 2012 is gone. Save for the women’s volleyball team which was pitching camp at Kasarani and Nyayo stadium ( depending on which facility the SSMB would allow them to use), most of the other sporting disciplines are yet to start any formal camp.
Realistically the disciplines we might be represented in are Athletics, Swimming, Volleyball, Rowing and Boxing with the latter two engaged in leadership squabbles. Those which might bring in any form of medals are 2-3 but if the right preparations and technical expertise is employed 4 of these should reap some medals.
For the longest time, Kenyan teams preparing for international events have been under-training and the respective sports management bodies engaged in leadership squabbles, often involving financial help given to those in the team and also to secure freebies to such events.
The Government though pledging and putting in the necessary financial assistance and attractive bonuses, has not sought more transparency and accountability from the respective sports bodies.
It is tragic that the innocent sports people are the ones who suffer for the ‘sins’ of their superiors. While teams like Britain have been having their athletes holding their camp in the Kenyan Rift Valley, we have yet to get the camp of our national athletes even those who might not make it. Our sources tell us the Kenyan swimmers led by Jason Dunford, are hard at training and should pull a suprise amidst the traditional powers in the pool.
Boxing and Rowing we’re still gathering information though not much is forthcoming from the respective national officials.

The Government of Kenya’s busy working on other ‘national issues’ though promises have been made to avail at least half of the around KSh. 400 million required to send the team to London. other bodies such as Brand Kenya are tagging along to seek to sell the country as a worthy national brand not just with the traditional forms of tourism – game watching, beaches but also sports tourism.
GoK also formed a National Steering Committee to look into preparations of the London team and source for the reminder of the funds. This is an arduous task by any means. We also have the yet-to-be launched National Lottery…

146 days and counting…

Government of Kenya Pay-out – Great but more needs to be done…

Yesterday the Government of Kenya (GoK if you like) hosted sporting contingents that represented the country in the various sporting events ( All-Africa Games held in Maputo-Mozambique; World Athletics Championships held in Daegu- South Korea as well as Youth Commonwealth Games at the Isle of Man).
On card was the (un)official handing back of flags handed to the team captains by the Head of State. The more significant part was the handing out of bonuses which had been promised to medal winners of these events.
This has been a laudable feat by the GoK since they initiated this a few years ago. Mr. Pres, though went on to make ‘pronouncements’ where we shall put them (GoK) into task;

  • 47 stadiums – this one is quite ambitious and laughable to say the least. While we seek to develop sports development at the lower levels, this is one area we have not been successful. Look at the existing infrastructure and it paints a sorry state. We do not have proper steps to develop and maintain grounds, sporting clubs and related facilities. We have also not done a good job to providing incentive to private entrepreneurs to encourage investment in the same. We have not safeguarded what would be some major sporting grounds such as has been seen in Nakuru’s Afraha stadium, Nyeri’s Ruringu stadium, to name but a few.

So Mr. President, please check again, this might be paying lip-service to sport.

  • Bidding and Hosting International events – in the last 20 years we have managed to host some good international events. But if you look carefully, EXCEPT for the All-Africa Games in 1987, the rest have been more or less single discipline events; the most recent Africa Athletics Championships last year in August. Most of these have also been for less than a week going if we look at time spent within our borders. That informs our lack of facilities for hosting fairly large teams of participants. Sample this, if we bid for the next Commonwealth Games, where would you host the contingents of over 40 countries? Can our infrastructure withstand added pressures of the visitors ( traffic especially)?

We need to stop making populist statements just for the sake and carefully look into seeing to it we develop sports centres which can support modest numbers of visiting and local sporting enthusiasts…learn a thing or two from Munich’s Olympic Stadium.

  • Sports Lottery – this is another of the proposed developments which is included in the work-in-progress, yet-to-be-tabled Sports Bill. Another noble idea that seeks to raise funds for competing teams to major sports events such as the Olympic Games. We have a big one in 2012 in London ( which also coincides with the Queen of England’s Diamond Jubilee…see the significance?). Given Kenyans’ love for lottery and such like activities, this is a process that needs to be done with proper audits and openness to avoid the fraud that plagues such processes. It would become another major flop if any undue influence and inconsistencies are detected.

Mr. President, this is the part where you ought to admonish the Minister for Youth & Sports asking him where the ‘hell’ the Sports Bill is. Your term in office is slowly edging to its sunset & what better way for the youth and sporting talent to remember you than a Bill recognising their worth and contribution as well as formalising sports development in the country?

  • Sports Fund – though it might seem unrelated, I would wish to add this to your plate for consideration. Why? Well we have seen many a sporting talent blossom in their short-stints or even in their fairly modest careers only to fall into hard times once they are in retirement. Some have fallen off to the need of rehabilitation from drugs and alcohol abuse. Well such a Fund would be set aside to lump an athlete’s part-winnings and bonuses almost like the retirement funds and one can access these in their later lives. It will go a long way in inculcating a culture of saving in our current generation which is out to spend every single cent in sight.

Mr. President, once again, consult with your worthy economic advisors and the retired both current and soon-to-be would be in awe of you for remembering their fate.

Over to you, GoK!

David Rudisha ‘rudishas’ the 800m world record home

What a weekend it has been for Kenyan athletics! Not that we are never in the spotlight but this time, breaking this or that record. David Rudisha – son of another famous Rudisha (Daniel) who in his day was a 400m specialist and Olympic bronze medallist in 1968 – made sure that the record to the men’s 800m ‘comes back home’. The previous world record holder though Kenyan-born, changed citizenship to become a Dane before going on to conquer the world in the distance ( ….wonder if he qualifies for dual citizenships under the new constitution dispensation…). He posted a time of 1.41:09 shaving of 0.02 secs.

His performance in the last two years has been phenomenal and it was only time before this young Kenyan athlete to cement his place in the 2-lap event. He also drew inspiration from the ladies in the names of Pamela Jelimo and Janeth Jepkosgei. They have led Kenya’s onslaught in the distance in the last 3 years.  Let’s see how he maintains his hold over the distance as the Commonwealth in India and later Olympic Games in 2012 shall be.

(Fact: Even with all the pedigree in athletics, it is the first time that a Kenyan athlete claims the record…). For now though, let’s raise our glasses to this true Kenyan hero!

UPDATE:
In less than 6 days, a record that took more than 13 years has been bettered by you guessed it, the one and only David Rudisha…1.41:01!  It is amazing to break a record but to better oneself within such a short time, we are lost for words. Another running sensation from this beloved country of Kenya. Makes us feel so full of pride, what with all the weekend ‘renewal of vows’ for the nation!