Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union officials are currently cooling their heels at a prison somewhere, most probably Industrial Area Remand Prison. They agree that they disobeyed court orders because their cause is just and that man was not made for the law but the law was made for man. But the law is an ass (foolish); they have to go to jail. I used to wonder if it is ‘an ass’ or ‘an arse’ until I came to my own conclusion for the sake of it. To the rich it is the animal ass (donkey) to the poor it is the behind (body part).
Back to football. Sofapaka FC and Muhoroni Youth have been relegated for failing to comply with CAF regulations for licensing clubs. Sofapaka have won the league once and FKF Cup on several occasions. Muhoroni Youth won the Top 8 Knock Out Cup last season. We are not talking about light weight football clubs but two community clubs worth their name in the top flight league. But the law is the law, an ass. The two clubs are meant to play in the NSL this season.
It has always been said that institutional clubs are not good for Kenyan football. This is because the sponsoring institution’s core business is not football so the clubs tend to be the first casualty when costs have to be cut. Then because football is just another non-essential department, the club will never develop and bypass the institution because it will be a monster they cannot tame. This makes clubs like Sofapaka and Muhoroni important for the growth of football in Kenya.
The small remedy is that two community clubs in Kariobangi Sharks and Zoo Kericho have been promoted to the top flight. That is a good development, but what is the guarantee they will not end up like Sofapaka and Muhoroni Youth. EllyKalekwa the Sofapaka President insists that he showed he has enough money in his account to run the club. Adagala the Muhoroni Chairman claimed that Muhoroni Sugar Company has assured him of tenders which will enable him to run the club through the season. The truth is the two clubs have struggled to pay players in the last two seasons.
Everyone who has run a business will tell you that once in a while, things get thick. The case of Sofapaka and Muhoroni is not unique. It does not mean that they are the worst run club this side of the Sahara. Football does not pay in this country, it runs on individual passion and some clean money from FIFA, Supersport and corporates that turns dirty before it trickles down. For Kalekwa and Prezda to run the two clubs this far is good example of sacrifice, despite the pain caused to players and coaches.
Should we let the two clubs to go down to NSL where they will not get the KES. 8 million they get annually from KPL/Supersport. This is the only lifeline the clubs have so we can rest assured that they will close up as soon as this season ends. FKF should talk to partners, including FIFA to extend some grants or loans so that the clubs can work out a formula to be sustainable. The law does not think, but it was made for our good. If the law inhibits our growth, then it beats logic to execute it as it is.
A few people at KCB and Vihiga County might gain by the relegation of the two clubs but Kenyan football will lose. Kalekwa and Adagala have come too far to be crushed by a piece of law I believe all clubs in Kenya scored below average. As we wait for the ruling by the John Ohaga led Sports Tribunal, either way it goes, let us count the cost of the outcome. Let football win.
It has taken me time to finally sit down and write this article a week since AFCON 2017 closed in Gabon and players are settling back with their clubs. There was something missing in this year’s African premier soccer show. I am yet to put a finger on it because like it happens in many periodic shows, the problem began long before it manifests.
Let me start from our next door neighbours. Uganda went to Gabon after a 39 year absence from AFCON; they showed up, saw but did not conquer. They gave a good account of themselves though reports coming out of Uganda are that players saw the qualification as an end in itself. Their dream was for better allowances and appearance fee. Immediately the squad was cut down and names forwarded to CAF, The Monitor reported that the players were taking no prisoners from FUFA and the government.
On the other side, eventual winners Cameroon won the title despite their run in with their federation over allowances. It is the coach who recorded their displeasure with the lack of respect shown by the officials but still insisted that his players will give their best. The coach had assembled a second rate squad after seven top players turned down call ups to the national team. They came from behind to beat seven time winners Egypt 2-1 in the finals.
There was nothing outstanding about this year’s AFCON. Even as the MVP Christian Basogog from Cameroon stood out, there was something missing about his play. He terrorized defenders but may be the reason he won the gong was because he played more matches than most of the players. Fabrice Ondoa was outstanding in Cameroon goal just as 44 year old Essam El Haddarydefied age to get Egypt to the final, but still- something was missing. The golden boot went to DRC’s Junior Kabananga who scored three, yes three goals.
DRC players spiced up the show with their goal celebration dance fimbu(whip). Oh yes, this is Africa and we love to dance. Fimbu might be the best thing to happen to AFCON since Roger Milla’s corner flag dance in the 1990 tournament. Africa is about courage, heroism and space to enjoy and have fun. Even Ghana players who are known to flower the show looked like they couldn’t wait for the show to come to a close.
The problem might be the straight jacket box that European football puts our players in. It curtails their creativity and expression. Only four out of sixteen coaches were African and none of them got their teams to the semi-finals. As I write this, my finger is pointing to lack Africa in the Africa Cup of Nations. This is the reason one week after the show; there is nothing out of the ordinary to talk about.
Meanwhile the Public Relations office at the CAF office in Cairo is sleeping on the job in regards to publicizing the tournament before it kicks off. I still can decide if I should sprinkle sugar, salt or pepper on this story.
There is good and best, and the difference between the two lies in simple personal decisions and lifestyle choices. Let us look at sex, food and alcohol in relation to sports people and life in general.
I admire Paul Tergat for the same reason I have respect for John Baraza of Sofapaka and Julius Owino awilo Mwaha formerly of Rangers FC. In Africa I will take Maria Mutola, Haile Gabre Sellasie and Kanu Nwankwo. Across the Atlantic I give it to Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs and the athletics duo of Marlen Ottey and Paula Radcliff.
The sportsmen mentioned above ruled (some still do to date) for a long time than their peers. Many athletes- every sports person is an athlete- came in after them, shone and faded out then disappeared from the limelight leaving them at the top of their game.
The other end of the stick has many examples locally and internationally. I don’t have to dwell so much on it, I know you already have examples of sportsmen akin to one-hit-wonders in the world of music.
Success and failure in sports has been subject to scientific research for a long time now. I will not go into the details of genetic, nurture, nutrition and other parameters that have formed the basis for the inference of many sports outcome.
Talent is God given, but not every person with sporting talent pursues it, even those who pursue it not all succeed in it. If we apply the law of natural selection – another word for the law of the jungle then survival in sports will be a matter of fitness. The best of the pool go to the highest level, while the weaklings fall off when the going gets tough.
The assumption that the vigour and grind of sports will produce its best by separating the wheat from the chuff is only half true. In a world of options and varying social environments, and the fact that competitive sports is only for the youthful season of life, success has more than talent in it .
Then again, not everyone with talent makes it in sports and not everyone who makes it to the highest level is exceptionally gifted as well. The social environment and lifestyle choices have direct effect on how and for how long a player performs.
We are what we eat
Food is a basic need to everybody but to athletes, it is more than basic. Peak performance requires the body to burn calories just like a car burns fuel. The calories required are obtained from good food.
This is not about quantity but quality- what you can get from a kilogram of maize meal may be gotten from half that amount of spaghetti.
What we eat is subject to the culture we live in while the quantity is determined by metabolic rate. Sportspeople must be willing to eat ‘out of the box’ sometimes. It is prudent to consult a nutrition expert for advice so as to get maximum returns from our culinary engagements.
Looking at KPL players’ physical size, one is left to wonder if our clubs or national team can stand up to West Africans. Endurance and performance are directly proportional to the quality and quantity of food an athlete eats, hence the seriousness it deserves.
Quality is not subject to price, I believe someone can eat well on minimum cash. Fruits and vegetables and starch are basic and affordable. The problem is the human appetite will lean towards unhealthy foods which happen to be expensive as well.
Sex has become so common that if you apply the laws of demand and supply, then it has lost its value. Success in the sports arena leads to celebrity status which definitely attracts the opposite sex and possibly lots of casual sex opportunities. Physical exercise also leads to high testosterone levels in the blood which also makes sportspeople to have a high sex drive.
Sex is good but like everything else in life, it requires moderation and control. Former Italy football captain Fabio Canavaro once said that sex gives him the energy to perform on the pitch. To others it could be the opposite but they will not admit it.
Sex experts will tell you the stress relieving effects of good sex- note the action word good. The problem is too much of it is not good, especially with many partners.
As much as good sex has its benefits, the resources and time involved in seeking and executing (for the singles) it may affect the time required and energy levels for practice sessions. If sex is a stress reliever, casual and unprotected sex has risks that make it counterproductive.
It is prudent that a player looks at the advantage of delayed gratification in relation to sex. It is good if an athlete understands himself well so as to have a good balance especially the married ones. Sex has brought down kings and many sportsmen as well.
The s-tipple chase
Trust Kenyans to coin creative words- I had never heard of s-tipple chase before the 2012 London Olympics. We are known the world over as the seven laps-jump over barrier- and water champions. Our alcohol consumption is also higher compared to many developing countries. The s-tipple chase description is definitely a home truth.
Alcohol needs moderation, if you can’t control it the only option is to quit. A friend once told me that running with gumboots is not prohibited in the Olympics. Which means you can go to the sprint blocks in gumboots, run and finish the race- but at what cost?
So it is with alcohol, as much as it is not prohibited, it comes with unnecessary baggage. Smoking and chewing miraa (khat) just complicates the equation. The effects of khat, a mild stimulant, may not be evident immediately but the compounded effects are negative; loss of sleep and appetite are bad for an athlete.
Conventional wisdom has taught me that discipline in life is what separates good from best. In social matters go for moderation, to talent add skills. Talent in itself is not a guarantee of success; lifestyle must be planned around talent to harness it. Our athletes must exercise discipline, wisdom and moderation if they are to play and win for long.
The dust that Michael “Engineer” Olunga’s move has raised after word leaked that he has left his Swedish base for a Chinese club is more of a distraction from important issues. No one is furnishing the public with important details yet all we hear of is support and condemnation of the 22 year old and his agent.
Olunga’s move is not an isolated case. Football is a poor man’s game and so money will always be a big factor. At the top level you can count the number of players from middle class families. In a country like Brazil, only Kaka is known to come from a middle class family. The attitude around football somehow repels children of privilege. Their parents will take them to weekend kick around but the passion dies off eventually then rugby, cricket and lawn tennis takes over.
So, Olunga like many players has been enjoying kicking the ball praying for a financial breakthrough. So the approximately Ksh. 400 million signing fees is a very good place to begin with. I also hope the Chinese will pay him a good salary. After that Olunga can work hard on the pitch hoping to catch the eyes of bigger clubs in Europe.
The problem with Africans is worshipping the European leagues. Looking at the Chinese league against Norway, Swedish and Belgian leagues where most Kenyan players have plied their trade, one can deduce many things. But first is a caveat; put on middle class lenses. One area to train your lenses is the recent Sevens Rugby Kenya team strike. If it was football, another set of players would have been happy to replace their striking colleagues not knowing that better pay has a trickle-down effect. Football officials know this and they exploit it well.
These fringe European leagues do not pay well enough relative to living standards in their country. A player can afford a good life but top level football has timeline of about a decade bar injuries. Take off about five years spent on the grassless pitches of Kenya and a player has to maximize returns as fast as he can. The safety valve is always the possibility of a move to the bigger leagues. So far, Victor Wanyama is the only player to break through this barrier leaving many Kenyan players to retire and settle in the Scandinavian countries. Even the magnificent Arnold Origi has not been able to leave Norway. Denis Oliech went to France via Qatar. So what is the guarantee that Olunga will move even to second level leagues like Portugal and Netherlands?
The big money in Chinese football makes up for the lower standards of football. Again the presence of players the caliber of former Chelsea players in Obi Mikel, Oscar and Ramireswith coaches like Andre vila Boas among others in China is good for Olunga. It is still as fringe as the third and fourth rate European Leagues but with better pay. What Olunga’s agent should do is to market the lad in the third tier European Leagues like Scotland, Turkey and Ukraine aggressively. He can ride the dragon for now but his handlers must make sure he is not swallowed.
As we say in the streets; the ball bounces. It is not static.
The recent SportPesa Premier League Awards revealed the long held belief that it will take defenders another leg and head to win a major award beyond Defender of the Year. Gor Mahia prodigy Eric ‘Marcelo’ Ouma and Western Stima midfielder Kenneth Muguna were competing in two categories. New Player of the Year(Rookie of the Year) and Player of the Year (MVP) while Muguna was also nominated for Midfielder of the Year which he bagged, Ouma failed to capture Defender of the Year which went to old wine, Jokins Atudo of Posta Rangers.
I grew up as a Gor Mahia fan and it is Gor Mahia’s loss to APR FC of Rwanda in 2010 that made me stop the foreign football and EPL ‘madness’. I remember the pullout from Daily Nation with all the Class of 1987 players who won Nelson Mandela Cup was pinned up on the wall of my room for many months. Abbas Khamis Magongo, the man from Mwanza is my best Gor Mahia player ever. That is not what I want to talk about. I want to jump into the forthcoming Gor Mahia elections.
The biggest sponsorship deal in sports in Kenya was signed today. Kenya Rugby Union will receive a total of 607 million shillings over the next five years from betting company Sportpesa Limited. KRU Chairman Richard Omwela is reported by RagaHouse Media to have said the deal has been long and coming.
Football is the world’s most popular sport with a following that is second to none. It’s following cuts across every social and economic divide. It has the power to enforce a ceasefire in a civil war. The warring factions in Ivory Coast’s civil war would stop fighting when their national team was playing at home. That’s the immense power of what the Brazilians’ baptized the beautiful game, because it was too good a game for them.
We all know at least one of the many black spots in our roads. My most scary black spot is the Nithi River Bridge on the Nairobi Meru road. These are spots where drivers are advised to be very cautious, because a small misstep and chances of survival are slim. This is what happens to Harambee Stars in group stage qualifiers for African Cup of Nations and the World Cup.
When the Cabinet Secretary for Finance was reading the budget in parliament, social spaces were full of IEBC related drama. Very few people spared a thought for the more important once a year ritual of reading national budget. The budget is usually a projected estimate of how the government plans to spend funds raised from taxes, grants and loans for the coming financial year ending next year in June.
Kenyans are still pointing out their areas of dislike in Okumbi ever since FKF President Nick Mwenda appointed the former coach of Kariobangi Sharks FC as Harambee Stars coach. A few weeks ago I was discussing football with my dad and he did not have kind words for Okumbi and the man who appointed him. I stood my ground that despite all the dust the appointment raised, Okumbi is a good coach.
Recently I had a chat with Michael ‘Tank’ Otieno, rugby coach and former Kenya international. I did not ask him his age but from inference he is on the other side of half a century mark. I had to pass by his house on a Friday morning because he had told me he will be indoors. I found a disappointed man; there was a power blackout and he had blocked off his day to watch some rugby tournament in the comfort of his house. That is the passion and dedication that is still evident in a calm discipline one gets in rugby.
Until a few years ago, Rugby Unions around the world were known as Rugby Football Unions, including our very own Kenya Rugby Union. I believe they got an awakening that as much as rugby has its roots in English football; they had grown to become a different entity in every way except that rugby players are still allowed to kick the ball sometimes.
Several groups on Facebook that are aligned to Kenyan football can crack your ribs if you have the time to go through the jungle of posts and comments. Reports leaked before Gor Mahia’s midweek match against Thika United last week that Rwandan import Jaques Tuyisenge would miss the match due to injury.
Kenyans, as former Safaricom CEO Michael Joseph once said are a peculiar people. This peculiarity has also been captured by management guru Sunny Bindra in his tweets and weekly column. In football, this peculiarity comes out as a negation in a game that is facing various challenges on and off the pitch.
On a day that fans stormed the pitch after Guinea Bissau scored a controversial goal against the run of play, so many thing s happened on that pitch that I believe Okumbi should take note. First things first, Kenya lost fairly so the idea of poor officiating we can rule out for now.
On Wednesday 23rd March 2016, I watched the match between Guinea Bissau and Kenya which forced me to write this piece before the return match this Sunday in Nairobi. A lot can be deduced from the match, so I will do my best to outline each point with the gist and gest it deserves.
I interviewed John Baraza for Kenyanstar in 2012. Since then, I have watched him with admiration as he played for Sofapaka. His peers hanged their boots a few years ago, only Charles Okwemba is still creating good runs for Posta Rangers. However, you could see that Baraza’s big heart kept going but his feet had slowed down. Even though everyone knew it was a matter of time before his boots took the road to becoming family antiques, but Baraza kept going.
Before Harambee Stars faced Zambia in an AFCON qualifier a few weeks ago, Bobby Williamson lamented the lack of creative midfielders in Kenya. Kenya went ahead and lost the match and our midfield manned by England based Victor Wanyama and Collins “Gatuso” Okoth failed to shine and Kenya paid for it. In this match, Victor Wanyama was supposed to play central midfield, a position he is not accustomed to. He kept falling back to defensive mode full time which made him a loose cog in the team.
After Kenya went down 2-1 to Zambia recently, there was hue and cry on the social media walls and timelines. Before the match I went onto my facebook page and put up a post that might have looked like a wet blanket but I was proved right. I did not expect Kenya to win though I knew Zambia could lose the match. In short, our win was dependent on Zambia making mistakes.
Ushuru FC 0-1 Leopards
The match was tilted towards Ushuru, with AFC Leopards’ still trying to find their footing after a mass exodus of players. Ushuru were calm and collected on the ball and looked the better side but failed to convert their good football into goals. Ken Kenyatta coached boys boxed AFC Leopards out of the midfield but Michael Katende , their lone striker upfront did not convert the efforts.
It has taken me time to put my thoughts together after watching Kenya draw with an average Ethiopia national team to bow out CHAN (Championship of African Nations) a tournament reserved for local based players. One word kept ringing in my mind average.
From Saturday the 11th July to the 2nd August this year, the East and Central Africa region football bigwigs will be in Tanzania. The country was chosen as the hosts of this years CECAFA Club Cup popularly known as Kagame Cup. Despite Kenya being one of nations who wanted to host the showpiece, the media buzz has been of a low key and no one has come out boldly to question the decision.
I recently had a spat with colleagues from mainstream media houses regarding poor coverage of Kenyan football in the print media. I will mention that things are better on the TV side of things. Two main media houses tried to push independent Sports Weekly magazines which wound up before they could fly. This is often cited as the reason why the local print media will prioritize foreign football leagues to KPL.