Kenyan Star of The Week - Irfan Karim

Kenyan Cricket is on the rise again, but not at the pace it should be. Reckons Kenyan International Irfan Karim. Karim remains hopeful but asserts that it will take efforts and commitment from all stakeholders for Kenya to regain the form that took her to the semi-Finals of the world cup in 2003. Kenyanstar caught up with the 24 years old Wicket Keeper and son of the great Aasif Karim for the following Interview on our Kenyan Star of the week  column. 

KS: So who is Irfan Karim

Well I'd say i have a strong passion for cricket, I'm a relaxed guy and take things very easy except when I'm training or playing cricket. I am also a Loughborough Univeristy graduate in Sports Science with Management.

KS: When did you discover your love for Cricket? 

 At a very young age and mostly inspired by my farther when i watched him play. I think for you to be a good player you have to start at a very young age.

KS: Do we have enough young players currently playing cricket?   

Yes,…  I have seen a lot of kids making an effort to learn the game. What we don't have are sufficient facilities and not just in cricket but as well in other sports like Football, Rugby and Athletics. Kenya has plenty of talent in all these sports like we have proved severally but what we lack are proper infrastructure and training facilities. If they do not get exposure to these facilities it becomes difficult no matter how talented they are. 

KS: Besides the National team do you play for any local club? 

No at the moment i don't play for any local club.  My current club is Rothley Park CC who play in the Leicestershire Premier League.

KS: This is by choice? 

Yes, it is a personal decision i do not want to play for any local club at the moment. 

KS: What is the greatest match you have ever played in? 

Scoring my first ODI 100. That was in Dubai against Canada. I had always wanted to score ODI 100 in an international match and i managed to do that. That is a memory that will stay with me for a long time. 

KS: Have you ever replicated your performance in the said match? 

Yes two years later i did it against Netherlands in Newzealand and that was more important than the first one because if we lost we were out of the tournament but we managed to win that match and progressed to the second round.  

KS: How do you prepare for a big match or a tournament? 

In the lead up to it, say a month or so I do Intense trainings way before the match but getting closer to the match day the sessions become lighter and finally on the last day before the match i prefer to relax and save my energy for the match.  

KS:  How do you motivate yourself to be consistent and remain at the top level?

I always try to do better. So my most recent result is my yardstick going into the next match. 

KS: In your opinion and in brief how would you describe the current state of Kenyan Cricket? 

If you look at the results we've gone down since 2003, but the most important thing is that we need to get back up and this comes from the Players, the board, the media plays a big role too, and the fans as well

KS:  Is there any aspect of your game that you think requires a little working on?  

Definitely you are always trying to improve. For me it's just about getting better physically by hitting the gym, while batting- scoring more runs, when keeping, It is about saving more runs and just constantly all round improving.  The moment you stop learning that's when you start going down and this affects the team because a team sport needs everyone at their best.    

KS: How does it feel to belong to a sporting dynasty with both your dad and grand dad having represented Kenya in Tennis and Cricket?  Do their achievements heap any pressure on you to perform? 

It's quite rare to have three generations playing sports at the highest level but to be honest it only crosses my mind when I'm asked about it so it doesn't give me pressure at all. I've grown confident in my game over the last few years and yes i feel some pressure before a match to deliver to my potential but this is absolutely natural and has nothing to do with my dad and grand dad. 

KS: What does your dad do? Do you often get together maybe on the fields? 

He is my fan just like i was his fan and he supports me a lot but he spends most of his time running his business; The Safinaz group of Investments that deals in Insurance, Real Estate and a monthly sports magazine. He's been doing this since his International retirement in 2003.

KS: Do you think your generation can achieve beyond what your father's generation achieved?  

Well our main goal at the National team at the moment is to qualify for the 2019 world cup. This is probably more difficult now because ICC has brought it down to 10 teams from the Initial 14 but obviously nothing is impossible. We will just keep working and i believe we have sufficient talent in the team to make it happen. It is just now down to us the players, how hard do we want to work, how disciplined are we, how much extra training hours do we put in.

 KS: You have been quoted previously asserting that Kenyan cricket was on an upward trend, are we moving up at the right pace? 

We still need to play and win more matches because the more you win the more matches you play and that comes with growth in confidence. So i think we are making progress but it is slow progress and this is again for all stake holders because the board has to support the players and the players needs to return any investment that the board makes. It is more like a Business relationship. 

KS: Talking of Business do you think there is enough corp orate involvement in Kenyan Cricket? 

We need more sponsors to support the sport.  The kind of facilities needed for success in sports is massive and without corporate participation it is very difficult so i appeal to corporate organizations to support not just cricket but sports in the country. 

KS: Who are some of the top Kenyan players you have played with? 

That would be Steve Tikolo and Maurice Odumbe. Both of them are all rounders and they have done very well representing the country and i think we need to look at them as role models. 

KS: Do you follow any other sport as a fan besides cricket? 

 I enjoy watching football, more specifically the UEFA Champions league.  I don't support any specific team, i just enjoy the game. 

KS: Do you think our local sports can hit levels of the UEFA Champions League? 

In terms of talent definitely yes but then there are other things like the facilities, the coaches and even the correct mindset which remain a challenge to us. 

KS: What would be your parting shot to Kenyan Cricket Fans and other readers of kenyanstar? 

I just want to encourage the Cricket Board to support the young kids more because they are our future and to the kids i would like to encourage them to enjoy sports, not just cricket and also to study and work hard as they follow their dreams in whichever career. 

 

Richard Omwela retained his chairmanship during Kenya Rugby Union elections  held late on Wednesday pipping Sasha Mutai by just two votes.

Shujaa will start their Hong Kong Sevens campaign with a Pool B clash against Canada at 3.18pm East African Time  on Friday 7 April 2017.

They will then complete their pool matches on Saturday 8 April, starting with a fixture against series leaders South Africa at 8.56am and France at 12.34pm respectively.

The Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens is the seventh round of the 2016/17 HSBC Sevens World Series. Shujaa currently sit 12th on the log with 40 points.

Janet "Shebesh" Okello leads the overall try scoring charts. The Northern Suburbs speedster has scored a series leading 26 tries.

The most eagerly waited match by Kenya as a country;  if Stars could pull a surprise in Lagos then Stars would be near their dream of playing in their first ever World Cup and that would have been France 98.

Kenyan driver Carl Tundo has proved to be a real contender in the race for the African Rally Championship title after he finished third in the Kenya Safari Rally over the weekend in Nairobi.

The Safari rally is the third round on the 2017 ARC calendar. Tundo, who survived a roll in the last stage of the race, came third in his Lancer Evo10.

Tapio Laukannen became the first Finnish to win the 65th edition of the Kenya Safari Rally. He showed earlier intent for victory posting the fastest time on day one.

Another Kenyan Jassi Chatthe, driving a Mitsubishi Lancer, who won the ARC title in 2015, finished sixth over the weekend, to go second with eight points, ten points behind Tundo.

The rest of the registered ARC drivers have not scored any points after three rounds. Ian Duncan and Ammar Slatch settled for second overall, 22 seconds behind the leader.

A total of 44 drivers started the Safari Rally that returns to ARC calendar after a hiatus two years. Safari Rally is one of the most competitive races on the African calendar.

Defending champion Don Smith from Kenya pulled out of the race at the 11th hour in protest claiming unfairness in the starting order. The final start list order released on Thursday had placed the 2016 champion as car number 33 yet the provisional start order had placed him at car number 2.

It means the rally revved off on Friday morning without the African defending champion. Yet, article 45.3 of the rules and regulations, gives the ARC contenders priority on a start order of a continental race.

Valery Bukera of Burundi and last year’s Mountain Gorilla victor was the best-placed foreign driver in 11th place out of the 30 finishers, while South Africa’s Geoff Bell was the best-placed two-wheel-driver in 14th place, driving a Datsun 260Z.

The fifth round of the ARC goes to South Africa for the Sasol Rally next month.

ARC Driver Standing

1. Carl Tundo (Ken): 18 points

2. Jassi Chatthe (Ken): 8 points

Safari Rally results

1. Tapio Laukkanen: 01:54:12

2. Ian Duncan: 01:54:34

3. Carl Tundo: 01:56:18

4. Onkar Rai: 01:57:01

5. Karan Patel: 02:01:13

The figure of Ksh. 600,000 released by Gor Mahia today, as the total gate collections for the Gor Mahia vs Zoo Kericho match in Kisumu are ‘stupid figures’,  Gor Mahia Organizing Secretary Judith Anyango has told Kenyanstar in a long ranging Interview.

Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech has been ruled out up for to a month with calf injury suffered in loss at West Brom, the scan has revealed.

The International World Games Association (IWGA) has announced that seven International Federations (IFs) have made bids for membership that meet its criteria, with their applications set to be discussed at the SportAccord Convention next month.

The International Basketball Federation (Fiba), International Triathlon Union (ITU), International Wushu Federation (IWUF), International Cycling Union (UCI), Union Internationale Motonautique (International Powerboating Union), International Modern Pentathlon Union (UIPM) and United World Wrestling (UWW) have all applied to become IWGA members.

The federations have been invited to give a final presentation to the IWGA Annual General Meeting at SportAccord Convention on April 3 in Aarhus, Denmark.

The IWGA currently has 37 member federations. For IFs to become a member of the IWGA, membership of SportAccord is a prerequisite. Another requirement is that the sports, or disciplines of sports, proposed by the federations for inclusion in the World Games are not currently on the programme of the Olympic Games.

Wroclaw, Poland will stage the 2017 World Games from July 20-30, following on from the 2013 edition in Cali, Colombia. Birmingham, Alabama will be the first US destination to host the World Games since the inaugural event took place in Santa Clara in 1981 after it was formally awarded rights to the 2021 Games in April 2015.

The World Games - under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) - showcases more than 25 sports, such as squash, karate, sumo and dance sport.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has signalled its opposition to the proposed reforms of the world game outlined by the International Cricket Council (ICC) stating they will “adversely affect” the very nature of the world governing body.

The ICC is set to make a final decision on a new financial and governance structure at a meeting in April after agreeing “in principle” last month to reverse a move to put the boards of India, Australia and England in a dominant position of the game’s administration.

The BCCI, along with Sri Lanka Cricket, voted against the proposal to perform a u-turn on the 2014 decision after failing to defer the vote during February’s ICC board meeting in Dubai. Under the proposed restructuring, a new revenue distribution model would seek to counter the imbalance favouring the so-called big three, with India the most influential voice in the world game.

In a communication of its preliminary observations on the proposed ICC constitution, reported by the ESPNCricinfo website, the BCCI said the changes were “vague” and “unclear”. The status of the reforms package was thrown into question last week by the resignation of Shashank Manohar, who has been driving efforts to limit the influence of the ‘big three’, as chairman of the ICC.

“The proposed ICC constitution seeks to convert the ICC from a members' organisation to a supra-national regulator,” BCCI chief executive Rahul Johri wrote in an email sent to ICC chief operating officer Iain Higgins. “This is a fundamental change in the nature of the ICC that adversely affects the autonomy of its members.

“Further, several of the proposed changes are vague and unclear in their purport and intended operation. Given that one of the stated objectives behind the proposed changes is to bring in clarity and transparency, it is imperative that there is complete clarity on all the proposed changes so that members can properly understand the same before formulating their position thereon.”

Johri also reserved heavy criticism for the new financial model proposed by the ICC, stating it is “arbitrary” and not “agreeable”. Under the current ‘big three’ model, full members receive a contribution cost for participating in ICC events based on their perceived value in the sport. The new model is set to remove these contribution costs and instead introduce a set figure allocated to each of the 10 full members, along with two second-tier associate members - Ireland and Afghanistan.

Johri said, according to ESPNCricinfo: “The ICC is seeking to change the existing financial model without having any scientific formula or technical analysis behind the proposed changes. It is a fundamental attribute of any resource allocation system to first collect information and then allocate resources based on the information, priorities and a defined methodology following appropriate principles. The move to propose changes to the existing financial model without carrying out the aforesaid exercise is an arbitrary one.”

He added: “Any discussion on the proposed new financial model has to be based on clearly articulated and acceptable principles which recognise the relative contribution of BCCI to the revenues of the ICC. For the above reasons, we are not agreeable to the proposed new financial model.”

France’s national railway company, SNCF, and professional and financial services group Deloitte have signed up as official supporters of France’s bid to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023.

SNCF will advise the French Rugby Federation (FFR) on transport and sustainable mobility options, and support the implementation of a ticketing strategy for the World Cup.

The company will also provide logistical support to the FFR during different stages of the application process while promoting the bid both nationally and internationally.

Deloitte’s French division will work with the FFR on drafting budgets and financing plans for the event.

FFR president Bernard Laporte said: “(We are) very pleased to be able to count on the expertise of these two companies with world-renowned know-how to help us in our application. This support again illustrates the strong mobilisation of the economic world behind #France2023.”

France faces competition from Ireland and South Africa in its bid to stage the 2023 World Cup. The World Rugby Council will select the winning bid on November 15.

Former Manchester United striker Ole Gunner Solskjaer is confident that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will want to play in the Champions League at Old Trafford next season. 

Jose Mourinho snapped up the veteran forward on a free transfer last summer and the Swede has been a talismanic presence at Manchester United this season, scoring 26 goals in all competitions.

Ibrahimovic is yet to extend his contract, which expires in the summer, but according to Swedish daily Expressen, the forward will sign on the dotted line soon to prolong his stay at Old Trafford for one more season.

And Solskjaer believes the Swede will want to experience Champions League football with Manchester United, if they qualify for next season, as he feels there is no better club than the Red Devils to represent on the biggest stage of European football. 

The former Manchester United striker told Expressen: “We hope that we can qualify for the Champions League next season.  

“Then I expect Ibrahimovic will want to play on the biggest stage for the best club.

“There is no better place to play Champions League football than at Manchester United.

"They are the biggest and the best club.”

Despite winning countless league titles and domestic cups in various countries, Ibrahimovic is yet to win the Champions League in his career.

Arsenal right-back Hector Bellerin has described potential interest in him from Barcelona as "special".

The 22-year-old penned a new six-year deal with the Gunners last November but has been strongly linked with a move away from the Emirates this summer, with a number of top clubs across Europe thought to be interested.

Bellerin began his career as part of the Barcelona youth setup before leaving for Arsenal in 2011, and in recent days the La Liga giants have been linked with a £35m bid this summer as they continue to look for a long-term replacement for Dani Alves.

"It's nice there are a lot of big clubs that are interested in me, but if one of those is Barcelona that's special," Bellerin told Sport.

"I don't forget I grew up in that home and I will never forget my stay at Barcelona... I left Barcelona because I felt the club was not confident in me, I didn't feel valued, I was disenchanted."

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has described speculation of Bellerin's potential exit as 'very difficult to take seriously'.

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France’s national railway company, SNCF, and professional and financial services group Deloitte have signed up as official supporters of France’s bid to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023.

SNCF will advise the French Rugby Federation (FFR) on transport and sustainable mobility options, and support the implementation of a ticketing strategy for the World Cup.

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FFR president Bernard Laporte said: “(We are) very pleased to be able to count on the expertise of these two companies with world-renowned know-how to help us in our application. This support again illustrates the strong mobilisation of the economic world behind #France2023.”

France faces competition from Ireland and South Africa in its bid to stage the 2023 World Cup. The World Rugby Council will select the winning bid on November 15.

The protracted saga of Arsene Wenger’s contract situation is nearing its conclusion – and it’s not the one Arsenal fans were hoping for.

Although the offer of a new two-year deal has been on the table of some time, there had been speculation that Wenger would call time on his Emirates career after over two decades at the club.

However, despite another high-profile Champions League exit and another title challenge falling away before it could really begin, the Frenchman has seemingly become more resolute in his belief that he can steer the Gunners out of the trouble they now find themselves in.

Multiple sources on Sunday night and Monday morning have reported that Wenger will tell the Arsenal board that he wants to stay at the club beyond this season – for either one or two more years – in a decision that will not be a particularly popular one if and when it is confirmed.

In fact, the Guardian report suggests that Wenger and the board are looking for the best way of telling the fanbase that there will be no change in manager, which in itself would suggest just how toxic the atmosphere around the club has become. Confirming a deal so soon after a poor 3-1 defeat to West Brom – their fourth in five league matches – that has seen them slip to sixth in the table and putting their top four chances in real danger.