At the age of 17, he had helped set up a vibrant Sports Club whose key objective was to keep idle youth busy by bringing them together and create opportunities for them. He is tough and probably one of the most misunderstood sports administrators in Kenya. Andrew Mudibo, the Kenya Table Tennis President also heads 13 other countries across Africa in the sport he picked instead of his first love, football.
We had a candid talk with Mudibo who has since announced his interest to vie for National Olympic Committee of Kenya Secretary General post in the coming poll in May.
KenyanStar: Thank you so much Mr. Mudibo for sparing your time for this interview. Just to start us of, who is Andrew Mudibo in Kenyan sport arena?
Mudibo: In sports Andrew Mudibo has been, let me say an all-rounder. All-rounder because I started off as a player. I used to play football in the late 80s. I played with the likes of Dennis Oyiela and Achieng Achieng. Those were very key players for AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia and even Harambee Stars and at that time I was a force to reckon with in the team we were playing with. I learnt a lot from them. We were good team mates at Undungu football club. It was during that time that I was also a good Table Tennis Player. It is then that I started St. Teresa Table Tennis Club at St. Teresa Catholic Church in Eastleigh.
I started St. Teresa when I was 17 years old. What we did was that, in view of crime related issues that were there in terms of social vices, I decided to come up with activities that would bring the youth together, to give them hope and open the door for them to get jobs and maybe create a good future for themselves.
Kenyanstar: What exactly made you drop football for racket games considering that in Kenya and Eastland specially is known for their love for football.
Mudibo: For me to drop football…There were a lot of things involved. One was that, you’d get injuries and coming from Eastland, people didn’t know how to treat those injuries. In those days, football was being used in a way, to eradicate societal problems. But later on I discovered that maybe football wasn’t my sport. That Table Tennis was my sport. And as you grow, you might need to decide what you want. You try different kinds of activities and my heart settled for Table Tennis. But it doesn’t mean that I have left football out of my heart. The other day when Hussein Mohammed was doing his campaign for football (presidency), I was deeply involved in his candidature and at that time he became popular. And before that, through Media Plus, I was handling Harambee Stars through sponsorship. So issues of football and sports in general have largely been in my blood throughout. And leaving football doesn’t mean that I have left it out completely. No! I am still involved in it in some way or the other. For example, I mentor people like Francis Kimanzi whom I grew up with. He’s learnt a lot from me. A part from that, we are also the pioneers of Mathare Youth Sports Association. So it is a whole lot of experience that I have been able to come through.
Kenyanstar: What’s your take on the future of Table Tennis in Kenya?
Mudibo: Right now I would say the future is very bright. If the structures that we started putting in place continue, then in the next three to four years, Table Tennis will be able to stand out among the leading sports, not only in Kenya but in Africa. Right now we’ve just put in part of the structures that are supposed to be there and everybody, even internationally are taking note of what is happening Kenya. What we are trying to brush off is making sure that… people still believe that everything is done through a president of a federation. It has to be a team work. And team work means you must work with existing structures. That is what we’ve been fighting for because each one has got its own structure and those structures must stand alone. In the late 50s or early 60s, when the Railways was coming to Kenya, Table Tennis was one of the leading sports in this this region. The Goan and White people were playing Table Tennis. You’d have Posta and Telekom playing. Now, as we moved on, the structures were not put in place. For us, those structures must be there and that’s one of the key areas we are working on. When you are developing a sport, many people look at the winning bit but for us it is not about winning. It is about the structures that will support what is happening that is important. If you don’t have those structures then you have a problem. The sport will not grow.
Kenyanstar: Besides being the boss of Table Tennis in the country, you are also the President of Africa Zone V region. That is 14 countries under your watch. How do you juggle your time and what are you doing improve the standard of the sport in this region?
Mudibo: Right now, Zone v is called Eastern region. The Africa Union changed how Africa is divided. Previously we had Egypt in our region but now they are out. It’s true I’ve got a total of 14 countries in my region. What is important is that you cannot carry everything on your shoulders. For you to be able to succeed, you need to delegate. You need to delegate different aspects of it. And you need to trust people who are around you. The people you relate with in various capacities. Those are people you need to trust and work with. And you need to give them that opportunity because if you end up that you want to do everything alone, then chances are you are going to fail because you’ve not built a team that can work.
Kenyanstar : Talking about building a team, what is your take on Kenyan Sports in terms of administration and governance?
Mudibo: We can divide Kenyan sports into two: We can look at the playing bit and administration. I have absolutely no problem with the playing bit because that’s an area that can be corrected. But the major area where all the focus need to go to is the administration. Based on the structures and governance surrounding each federation and offices is that we’ve been operating in a more “jua kali” casual way which has got no set formula. For example, like my case, I was a sports person. Then I came into leadership, but I have not undergone any formal training in terms of being able to be an administrator. Those are the areas that need to be addressed. When, for example, you look at the National Olympic Committee, whatever we are seeing is just part of the problem that is there. It is not just about Rio Games. The issues are quite wide range.
You cannot tell me that right now we’ve got Oliech (Dennis), we’ve got Wanyama (Victor) and his brother, Mariga (McDonald) but we can’t get more payers coming in to that rank. Again it doesn’t mean that money can only be found outside Kenya. Money can be found here, in sports. If the betting firms are making billions from Kenyans in betting then that’s something we need to re look in terms of how we are operating as officials. And whatever is happening at Nock, is a generational change that has come and that change has to happen. For me it is time for a new generation in sports leadership.
Whatever that was there at Nock before are traditional ways of how things were operating whereby if something is wrong you’d sit down and pat your colleague on the back and say, ”you know we are sportsmen. We don’t do one-two-three. Let’s put this thing under the rug.” But the world has changed. Nowadays it’s an issue touching on good governance. It’s an issue touching on transparency. It’s an issue touching on how you develop players to be the best because right now, sports is an industry.
Kenyanstar: Still on good governance, do you think the big Brothers like Rugby, Athletics and even football which until recently were rocked with some internal wrangle – have anything to be emulated by their younger brothers in terms of leadership? Also the age factor has been used severally by those seeking leadership positions to kick out the incumbent simply because they are ‘old’ but we don’t look at the track record or even the integrity of the youthful leader who want to come in?
Mudibo: That’s why I said there is a problem. For example, how do you lead? If people do not trust those around them, then those fights will always continue. And I think that one thing people do not understand is that, we need to look at how to make them to feel comfortable so that they feel that they are still loved and wanted in the society. It is not just a matter of kicking them out and ignoring them. It’s a matter of making them to be comfortable and be part of what is there. You cannot throw out the old generation simply because we are saying the young ones have to come in. We must be able to get that institutional history coming in by working with the old people to be able to improve each and every step that is there. Along the way, they learnt what was wrong and it is now for us to be able to learn from them. How do you correct and reinforce the shortfall that was there. At the end of the day, it must be a team effort between the old and the young.
Kenyanstar: You are viewed by some as this tough guy. Street man if I may say. Some say you are rude. Some say you have a big network and that you are connected to the high and mighty. Does your connection have an influence in your character?
Mudibo: I will leave it to the people who are judging me. There are some who say I am a Saint. There are some who look up to me, like my son. He would look up to me like a good father. But it depends on how people relate with you. When you say some say I am a hard headed person and all that, it depends in what area. It is very easy to paint somebody in a negative way but let’s look at the work that is being done. Is the work being done in the right way or not? Are the actions that have been taken right or wrong? Are you able to fault me on the work that has been done or not? If you can be able to get a fault me in any of the above areas, then I think those faults need to be addressed. We all know that all of us are human. If Jesus was abused and the President can be abused, who said that I cannot be abused? Even you, Elvince, at your place of work, not everybody will love you and that is part of life. That is something by the time you realise that that’s it, then you’ll be able to do a lot with your life. That’s why I am saying, we need to get out of those small excuses and look at the bigger picture. Let’s address issues about Kenyan sports. All of us can never be the same and how I handle the pressure is not the same way how you’ll handle it.
And when you talk about knowing the high and mighty, those high and mighty are our leaders. If you do the right thing, God opens the doors for you. For me, I am a saved Christian and I believe in God. Most of the fights or challenges that are there, God is the one who guides me on how I approach issues and have them resolved. If I was somebody you cannot work with, somebody who is rude and all that, I don’t think I would have made it to the position where I am today, in leadership and even business. I would not be here today.
Kenyanstar: Recently during the National Olympic Committee of Kenya extraordinary meeting, we saw quite an embarrassing scenes. A scuffle between you and Paralympic boss Agnes Oluoch who accused you of ‘micromanaging’ the ongoing Nock elections process. What exactly happened behind the camera lenses? And are you eying any seat at Nock?
Mudibo: The only thing I can say about Agnes is that her attack on me was personal. The attack happened outside the meeting itself. The meeting had ended and in that regard that it is a personal matter. It is like if I leave this interview and walk out to the streets and am attacked, it doesn’t become a sports issue. That remains a personal matter which has got nothing to do with sports. I reported the matter to the Police and I believe she is supposed to appear in court and take a plea. I’ll leave it at that because this is a matter before a court of law and I wouldn’t want to comment on an issue in court.
For now, the first bridge that we need to cross is on the side of the Constitution. If the Constitution is adopted the way it is, then definitely Yes, I will be vying for a seat and I will reveal which position I’ll be going for at the right time.
Kenyanstar: Thank you so much for your time and all the best.
Mudibo : You are welcome.
Mudibo has since announced that he will be vying for NOCK’s Secretary General Post. The interview was conducted the Clarion Hotel.