It’s exactly one year today since AFC Leopards went to the polls and elected a new chairman, Dan Mule granting him four years to lead the club.
Mule, a front runner in the buildup to the election, got elected with 1,160 votes, trouncing his closest rival Maurice Amahwa with 338 votes. Robert Asembo garnered 119 at a distant third, while Mathews Opwora, who had pulled out of the race earlier, got eight. Felix Shitsama was overwhelming elected vice chairman, with 1613 votes, more than double his challenger. Timothy Lilumbi, who was part of Mule’s ‘Hapa Kazi Tu’ Team, survived a scare from Gilbert Selebwa, amassing 920 votes, six more than Selebwa.
Of the 5,294 registered voters, only 2,200 turned up to vote. Dan Mule was elected chairman alongside most of his preferred picks for other positions. His election came at a time when the club had witnessed bare-knuckle leadership struggles that almost saw the club relegated.
In his campaign manifesto, Dan Mule promised to deliver amongst other things; stability in office, titles and a stadium. The chairman had outlined how he intended to work alongside the club’s shirt sponsors, Sportpesa to help secure land where they would construct a stadium. The stadium remains a dream, a wild one.
One year later, not much has changed. Some matters are headed south more than ever before. In just one year of his reign, AFC Leopards has witnessed a huge turnover of coaches with Ivan Minnaert, Ezekiel Akwana, Stewart Hall, Dorian Marin and Robert Matano all making up a tally of five coaches in just a year. A shocking average of a coach every 2 and a half months! It is under Dan Mule’s reign that Leopards had one of the shortest serving coaches -Dorian Marin who never lasted a month.
Despite promising to deliver titles, there has been so sign of any titles, as Leopard’s performance on the pitch has only remained unimpressive, to say the least. This season, their only hope lies in the GOTV Shield Cup. The club is no longer considered a force to reckon in the local league.
Financially, AFC Leopards is still in debt. Although steps have been taken to ensure that salary and remuneration issues are a thing of the past, the club is yet to be stable financially and more often than not, relies on borrowing and donations. Interestingly, at the start of the 2017 Financial Year, the club was short of its annual budget by well over 10 million shillings. You would ask why. The caretaker committee that led the club before the elections, had eaten into the 2017 sponsorship money from Sportpesa. Some of those monies are yet to be accounted for.
Although the club had sought to professionalise all its operations by setting up a fully functional secretariat, there is still a lot to do. However, it’s all jot gloomy. The club, in a long time, managed to set up an office with a Chief Executive Officer, who runs the club affairs on day to day basis. However, reports from within the club have hinted to interference from the clubs National Executive Committee on a couple of issues.
Also keen to note, the club has for an entire year witnessed zero leadership wrangles and court battles, as was the case in previous administrations. In a previous interview with Kenyanstar, the club CEO noted that it was a great milestone for the club to get over the many wrangles that affected and crippled them in previous years.
One year on, there are loud murmurs of discontent in the Den. There seems to be a future that no one is certain of. The biggest fear has always been relegation, and that could happen if Leopards do not up their game. Majority of Dan Mule’s promises to the Leopards are yet to be fulfilled, leave alone initiated.
Is Dan Mule living up to expectations? Is he setting up himself, his administration and the club for another spectacular failure? Well, the jury is still out there...
Cynthia Mumbo, The CEO of Sports Connect Africa, has urged stake holders across the Kenyan sports Industry to set a minimum wage for sports men and women to instigate growth in the industry.
"You cannot have sports if you do not have the sports people, the people who actually play the sport. So for the Industry to grow there has to be sufficient focus on the actual people who have enabled us have the Industry."
"This Industry will not grow if we still have people playing just out of passion and taking nothing back at home, We won't grow If we still have clubs playing in top leagues of various sports in the country who can't pay their players a monthly salary."
"If these sports people cannot earn a living from the sports they play then naturally they will be distracted and they cannot give 100%. Consequently, the sport and the Industry at large suffers"
Cynthia also called on sports administrators to have an open mind to accommodate divergent ideas and accept criticism If the Industry is to grow.
"Our sports administrators at the Federations and even sports clubs must be open to criticism. That is the only way we'll move forward"
Cynthia was speaking in an exclusive Interview for the Kenyanstar of The week Column that will be published next week.
English Premier League football clubs posted record revenues, but still a collective pre-tax loss of £110m (€131m/$141m) in the 2015-16 season, according to the latest figures from accountancy firm Deloitte.
Prokhorov set to sell significant stake in Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has revealed that he is looking to sell a 49-per-cent stake in the NBA basketball team.
LFP to introduce video refereeing for Ligue 1 play-off games
The French Football League (LFP) has announced that video refereeing technology will be utilised for the first time in senior domestic competition for this season's play-off games to determine promotion and relegation between Ligue 1 and Ligue 2.
World Series of Fighting rebrands as Professional Fighters League
The World Series of Fighting (WSOF) mixed martial arts promotion has been rebranded as the Professional Fighters League (PFL) and will begin staging events under its new guise from January 2018.
European Tour expands night golf concept with Hero backing
Indian motorcycle manufacturer Hero MotorCorp has extended its backing of the European Tour's night golf concept by a further three years, with the venture to feature at two new locations in 2017.
SeatGeek sets out primary ticketing ambitions with TopTix acquisition
Mobile-focused ticket platform SeatGeek has made a major move into the primary ticketing marketplace by acquiring Israeli ticketing software company TopTix for $56m (€52.5m).
Esports to receive medal status at Asian Games
The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) has entered into a strategic partnership with the Alisports division of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba that will lead to esports featuring as a medal competition at the 2022 edition of its showpiece multi-sport event, the Asian Games.
Creative Artists Agency and CMC team up to form CAA China
Sports and entertainment giant Creative Artists Agency has joined forces with CMC Capital Partners, a leading Chinese investor in the sports and entertainment sectors, in a move that will lead to the formation of CAA China.
Berlusconi finalises AC Milan sale
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's holding company, Fininvest, on Thursday completed the sale of its 99.93-per-cent stake in Serie A football club AC Milan to Luxembourg-based Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux.
Victoria to bid for 2030 Commonwealth Games
The Australian state of Victoria has today (Thursday) launched a bid to stage the 2030 edition of the Commonwealth Games multi-sport event.
Supreme Court opens Paes probe
An investigation has been opened by Brazil's Supreme Court into Eduardo Paes, the former Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, into allegations of financial impropriety in relation to contracts associated with last year's Olympic Games.
Government backing secures Ryder Cup for Rome
Rome's staging of the 2022 Ryder Cup has been secured after the Italian government signed off on a financial guarantee for the golf showpiece, along with Cortina d'Ampezzo's hosting of the 2021 FIS Alpine Ski World Championships.
Pay Tv Giant, SuperSport, on Thursday announced the cancellation of a multi-million shilling deal with the Kenyan Premier League Limited that had given then exclusive broadcast rights of the Kenyan top tier football league. Here are other top Sports Business News from around the world ...
GlideSlope becomes CSM's latest North American acquisition
CSM Sport & Entertainment, a division of marketing services group Chime Communications, has made its latest move in the North American market by acquiring management advisory firm GlideSlope.
Australia, South Africa weigh up options as Sanzaar cuts Super Rugby franchises
The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) and South African Rugby are considering their options after Sanzaar confirmed that the Super Rugby club competition will be cut from 18 to 15 franchises for its 2018 season.
SportAccord returns to GAISF moniker as reforms approved
SportAccord, the umbrella group of more than 90 Olympic and non-Olympic sports federations, has today (Friday) approved constitutional changes that will see it return to its former designation and introduce a new means of electing its president.
Malaysia to make early exit from Formula One
Malaysia's Sepang International Circuit (SIC) will host its final Formula One race this year after an agreement was reached to end its contract early.
South American nations to co-host inaugural Fiba AmeriCup
The International Basketball Federation (Fiba) has announced that Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay will host the new AmeriCup national team tournament, which debuts later this year.
City Football Group marches into South America with double deal
City Football Group (CFG), the parent company of English Premier League football club Manchester City, has confirmed that it has acquired Uruguayan Segunda Division outfit Club Atletico Torque, while it has also announced a partnership with Venezuelan Primera Division team Atletico Venezuela.
Ceferin says Uefa won't bow to blackmail as reforms approved
Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin has pledged that European football's governing body will not bow to "blackmail" from stakeholders over its plans for the sport on the continent, as a major reform package was on Wednesday rubber-stamped.
Amazon lands Thursday Night Football rights
E-commerce and media company Amazon has acquired live streaming rights to the NFL American football league's Thursday Night Football franchise, according to multiple reports.
NFL engages IMG to enhance brand presence in Europe and Asia
The NFL American football league has signed a multi-year deal with the IMG agency as its exclusive licensing representative across select markets in Europe and Asia.
NHL closes door on Pyeongchang 2018 participation
North American ice hockey league the NHL has confirmed it will not participate in the 2018 winter Olympic Games, stating no "meaningful dialogue" has materialised to convince it of the benefits of disrupting its season so its stars can compete in Pyeongchang.
Bilbao, Newcastle to host European rugby showpieces
European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) has announced that the Spanish city of Bilbao will host its showpiece Champions Cup, Challenge Cup and Continental Shield finals in 2018, while Newcastle in England will stage the events in 2019.
McIlroy heads into Masters with Nike extension
Golf's world No.2, Rory McIlroy, has agreed a long-term extension to his partnership with US sportswear giant Nike.
Some years back when I was active in the Private Sector mobilization under KEPSA I remember us holding many high level meetings with the then Ministry of Youth and Sports. One of the issues we discussed endlessly was about establishing a sports lottery to fund sports initiatives in Kenya. When the likes of Sport Pesa and Pambazuka National Lottery came up I thought the government had finally realised this goal. I was later to learn that these were initiatives by private sector and nothing to do with the government. The private sector had achieved what the government had discussed for ages and made a success out of it.
According to Business Daily: "Eight of the 25 licensed betting companies had paid a total of Sh4.7 billion in the financial years 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 respectively." The recently proposed 50% tax on the revenues of these firms is retrogressive and will kill a nascent industry with a great promise. These firms are already heavy on CSR. Sportpesa for example has invested over KShs 800 Million in supporting various sports in the country. Why come with these punitive measures? While betting and gaming have negative impact on society, extremist tax policies are not the best approach.
Government can as well take the billions it is currently collecting from the sector and use them to promote sports and educate consumers on the risks of gaming. Parliament must not allow this proposal to pass. If the government so wishes it can invest in its own sports lottery instead of using this backdoor mode. Furthermore, such dramatic and disastrous policy moves will discourage investment in this country with adverse impact on employment and economic growth.
Who will invest in a country where government can just wake up and decide that 50% of your revenues belong to it? This is almost criminalizing the industry.
The Sports industry has a very huge capacity of creating employment for millions of our youths wallowing in lack and poverty. The government should look at the bigger picture and not be obsessed with how much they can collect from the industry. Imagine the lotteries sponsoring football leagues in all 47 counties for example. This will be good for talent development and for growth of the sport. Kenya will be producing many international players and giving hope to the youth.
THE 50% TAX ON BETTING IS PUNITIVE AND RETROGRESSIVE. IT SHOULD BE RESCINDED IMMEDIATELY.
Opinion by: ~ Ephraim Njenga
Kenyanstar.co.ke has been nominated alongside five other blogs under the best sports blog category for this year's Bloggers Association of Kenya Awards (BAKEAwards). Kenyanstar and 107 other websites were nominated in different categories of the awards out of over 10,000 entries for this years' awards event.
Newly-elected Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Ahmad has given his backing to a mooted Moroccan bid for the 2026 Fifa World Cup, stating the country is a "stronghold" of the world game. This among others makes our headlines for sports business news over the past one week.
Goodell dismisses late Oakland attempt to retain Raiders
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has rejected a last-ditch attempt by Oakland to prevent the Raiders American football franchise from moving to Las Vegas.
CAF president throws his weight behind Moroccan bid for 2026 World Cup
Newly-elected Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Ahmad has given his backing to a mooted Moroccan bid for the 2026 Fifa World Cup, stating the country is a "stronghold" of the world game.
Matchroom unites basketball and netball for new all-star events
Sports promotional company Matchroom Sport has joined forces with England Netball and the British Basketball League (BBL) to launch new all-star events that will be held over one weekend at The O2 arena in London.
Oakland Raiders given green light for Vegas move
The Oakland Raiders' relocation to Las Vegas has been approved by NFL American football franchise owners.
Western Force hits out at reports of Super Rugby demise
Super Rugby franchise Western Force on Monday hit out at multiple reports suggesting it will be the Australian team cut as a result of a reduction in size of the southern hemisphere rugby union tournament.
Fifa completes internal investigation into corruption allegations
Fifa, football's global governing body, has completed a 22-month investigation into suspected bribery and corruption within the game.
Fifa proposes new playoff tournament, slot allocation revealed
Fifa has outlined plans for a new six-team playoff tournament to be held as a qualification event ahead of the 2026 World Cup, as football's global governing body detailed the proposed slot allocation for the expanded version of its showcase national team competition.
ITF unveils Transition Tour as part of major reform of entry level tennis
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) on Thursday unveiled a major restructuring of the sport at its entry level that will lead to the creation of a new global Transition Tour in 2019.
EPFL brokers data deal for European leagues
The Association of European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) has teamed up with data providers Perform Group, Sportradar and Genius Sports for a new agreement that will encompass eight leagues across the continent.
RLIF to launch Nines World Cup
The Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) has announced plans to introduce a nine-a-side World Cup tournament in 2019, while Sydney will host the Emerging Nations World Championship.
African pay-television broadcaster Kwesé TV has acquired exclusive rights to the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s 2017 Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, an event more commonly known as March Madness.
Here is a host of other selected sports business news that came through this week;
US set to be 'focus' of F1 expansion plans
Sean Bratches, Formula One's managing director of commercial operations, has confirmed that the operators of the motor-racing world championship are set to focus on the US as a key expansion market.
Toronto to consider Commonwealth Games bid
The Toronto City Council will look into the possibility of bidding to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games following a notice of motion by Councillor James Pasternak.
The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) is looking for a replacement host after the South African city of Durban was forced to withdraw its bid earlier this month due to financial difficulties and a lack of progress since it was awarded hosting rights in September 2015.
Eurosport Sweden lands Allsvenskan rights
International sports broadcaster Eurosport has acquired rights in Sweden to the Allsvenskan, the top tier of club football in the country.
British Superbike Championship teams up with Vauxhall, BMW
British automotive manufacturer Vauxhall Motors has been named as the official commercial vehicle of the 2017 British Superbike Championship (BSB), while the German car-maker BMW is set to provide the official course, safety and medical car fleet for the next three years.
Sport1 strikes deal for Virtuellen Bundesliga rights
German sports broadcaster Sport1 has acquired rights to the Virtuellen Bundesliga (VBL), the official esports competition of the German Football League (DFL).
Everton agrees deal for stadium site
English Premier League football club Everton has agreed heads of terms to acquire a site at Bramley Moore Dock, where it intends to build a new state-of-the-art stadium.
TV3 nets England football rights
Irish commercial broadcaster TV3 has acquired rights for England’s national team football qualifiers ahead of the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia.
ASO takes Tour de France to China with new events
Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) has formalised its plans to take the Tour de France brand into China by unveiling two events that are set to take place following this year's edition of the cycling showpiece.
Dakar Rally to return to Peru
Peru will host the opening stage of next year’s edition of the Dakar Rally endurance motorsport event, it has been announced. The country’s capital, Lima, will kick off the 2018 Dakar Rally before the event travels through the Andes towards Bolivia. Competitors will then approach the Bolivian capital of La Paz for a rest day before the event concludes in Córdoba, Argentina.
The event, which will comprise 14 stages in total, will run from January 6-20.
Title sponsor signs up for IAAF World Relays
The Bahamas Telecommunications Company has been named as the title sponsor of the International Association of Athletics Federations’ upcoming World Relays event in the Caribbean country.
Fox Sports picks up rights to inaugural Big3
The Fox Sports division of US network Fox has acquired rights for Big3, a new three-on-three, half-court basketball league that will launch on June 25.
Uefa president raises prospect of luxury tax to curb club spending
Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin has said European football's governing body is again looking at the prospect of introducing a 'luxury tax' system in the game as it seeks further means to restrict the financial dominance of the continent's top clubs.
Ireland plays down Brexit fears for Rugby World Cup bid
The chairman of Ireland’s bid to stage the 2023 Rugby World Cup has insisted that Britain’s impending exit from the European Union will not have a detrimental impact on the country’s efforts to stage the national team tournament.
DFL to launch Bundesliga International sales and marketing unit
The German Football League (DFL), organising body of the top two divisions of the domestic game, has revealed plans to replace its existing DFL Sports Enterprises entity with a new body entitled Bundesliga International.
Seiko partners with World Para Athletics Championships
Japanese watch manufacturer Seiko has agreed a deal to sponsor this year’s World Para Athletics Championships, which will take place in London.
Formula E chief hails rise in manufacturer partners
Alejandro Agag, founder and chief executive of Formula E, has said the electric car-racing series has far surpassed its expectations by securing nine manufacturers for the 2018-19 season, having initially set a target of three competing companies by its fifth campaign.
Glasgow awarded European Short Course Swimming Championships
The Ligue Européenne de Natation (LEN), the governing body of aquatics in Europe, has awarded the Scottish city of Glasgow hosting rights for the 2019 European Short Course Swimming Championships.
Tokyo 2020 golf venue reverses female membership stance
Kasumigaseki Country Club, the venue due to host golf events during the 2020 summer Olympic Games in the Japanese capital of Tokyo, has announced that it has voted to admit women members after being urged to do so last month by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
BWF assigns key hosting rights, revamps event structure
The Badminton World Federation (BWF) has awarded hosting rights for its 2018 and 2019 World Championships to Nanjing and Basel, respectively, while it has also unveiled a major overhaul to its event structure.
Matatu culture is part of living in Nairobi City and the transport means used by all. Soccer fans use their own cars, buses and matatus for traveling to away matches.
On a dry and chilly morning I find myself at Camp Toyoyo deep inside Jericho Estate in Nairobi Eastlands area. Nowadays the area can be called near East, as Nairobi has expanded eastwards making Kayole and Njiru the Far East of Nairobi. KPL All Stars, a select side of KPL players preparing for a trip to Spain are playing a friendly match against KPL side Posta Rangers. I am here to meet Sammy “Pamzo” Omollo, the Rangers coach. To the rest of us he is Pamzo, but to those who know him well, he is “maviatu” which translates to shoes in relation to the hard tackling defender he was in his playing days.
On 10th December 1994, Kenya Breweries FC now Tusker FC lost the final of African Cup Winners Cup 5-2 on aggregate to DRC then Zaire side Daring Club (DC)MotemaPembe in Kasarani. The Brewers had held the DRC side 2-2 away in Kinsasha. Everyone thought they would kill the match at home and follow in footsteps of GorMahia in 1987 and win the continental trophy but ended up losing 3-0 at home. Sammy Omollo was in that Brewers defense. The side had great names like Henry Motego, Patrick Nachok, Shem Nyaberi and Vincent Kwarula.
Omollosigned for Kenya Breweries in 1990 but spent two seasons between 1992 and `1993 atGorMahia sandwiched between stints at Kenya Breweries. He later moved to Indian side East Bengal FC in 1996 for two seasons then moved to Mohun Bagan A.C. for three seasons.He featured in Asian Champions League and won trophies with the two sides. He was the best foreign player in Calcutta now Kolkota during his time in India. Beyond the tackles, Pamzo was a leader on and off the pitch. He later signed as Assistant Coach of East Bengal and won the league in 2015.
Here I was with a man I heard about on the radio while growing up. I am seated behind him on a seat between the benches of the sides playing. He is leaning on the shed about a metre to my left. He turns his head to look behind him. I suspect he wants to sit down so I offer my sit. He turns down my offer in a polite way that can disarm a ruffian. A gentle giant Sammy is, standing at about six feet four inches, his aggressive play on the field in his days is the opposite of who he is off the field.
The match is on and Sammy shouts instructions to his charges. The boys are not giving the select side an easy time. We can here the rough swiping sound when players’ boots come into contact. Rangers score in the first half and the players go to rest.Rangers bring new players for the second half. After some time, Pamzo shifts from a four man defense to a three man defense and All Stars equalize the match ends in a draw. I spend some time chatting with All Stars Assistant Coach John Kamau then catch up with Pamzo and we walk to his car.
We find a bunch of Zetech College players who waylay him at the parking. This is when I see another side of Pamzo. One player grabs his football boots to hold him hostage and a playful exchange ensues. In between a friendly match and possible trials for a few players is discussed. He is given his shoes back and we leave. He tells me how he loved his time as Zetech College coach. The boys seem to miss him too.
We talk as we drive in his car to Buruburu. “Rangers’ is focused on winning KPL this year. People say that we are a defensive side but we are simply a good side off the ball.”Pamzo says about critics to his 11 match unbeaten run that came to a stop on May 20th to Ulinzi FC. “We create a lot of chances even when we win by a solitary goal; we just need to work on our finishing.”
Pamzo is happy with his side that has a mixture of young and old players. JokinsAtudo, Dennis Mukhaisi, Moses Otieno, Jerry Santo, HashimMukhwana, Luke Ochieng’and Joseph Mbugi are some of the experienced players at Rangers. Surprisingly this lot was with Pamzo at Tusker in 2011 when he won KPL with the Ruaraka based brewers. “All we need to do is stop four clubs, Gor, Sofapaka, Ulinzi and Tusker and we have the title.” That is Pamzo’s summary of the sides that stand between them and the title. “This involves beating the four sides in the second leg then we collect as many points as we can from the other matches.”
Pamzo is not a fan of artificial turf but says we have to adapt and use them for lack of a better option. “We grew up playing on grass pitches though the pitches we have now are bumpy and the artificial turf is level.” He is still worried about the ankle and knee injuries that come with playing on synthetic turf.
On current players, Pamzo says you have to handle them with care. A coach must always come between players and their phones. His take is players should avoid negative news from social media and friends before matches. Another thing is a coach cannot give players a dress down- they will break and leave. “In our days we were tough, you break up with your girlfriend and you get onto the pitch and play like her departure was a blessing.” That does not happen now, and many times he has to call a player a side and comfort him to get the best out of a player.
Playing semiprofessional football is very challenging. Our players have to go for training then leave to go for other jobs so as to earn a living. “Rangers as a club is fortunate as every player is an employee of Posta. When someone is not playing he reports to the office for other duties.” The technical bench members have contracts which bring stability. Former defender Pascal Ochieng’ has retired from playing and he is currently the team manager.
According to Pamzo, the best league in Africa is South African Premier Soccer League, but the tough leagues are in Nigeria, Ghana and Egypt. He would love to take Rangers to the continental next season after winning the regional CECAFA Kagame Cup. “I played continental football in Africa and Asia and I would like my players to experience that too.”
“If I am not sweating over football, I spend my time in cricket.” That happens to be Omollo’s first love. He grew up in Pangani area where he played cricket in the neighborhood. Steve Tikolo and the Sujis are his childhood friends and once in a while he goes to cheer Nairobi provincial side Swamibapa. “I was a good bowler but I was good on the bat as well.” Sammy is definitely an intelligent man- for those who know.
That’s Sammy PamzoOmollo, married and a father of two. I have hanged out with his son Denzel who I learn is now 13 years old. The fruit may not fall far off from the tree. Time will tell.
I have no apologies to make for standing in Stanley Okumbi's corner even when experienced scribes like Clay Muganda are coming puffing and punching at the soft spoken tactician. There are many problems with Kenyan football and I can confidently say that Stanley Okumbi is not one of them. If he is then he falls deep down the list of things holding our football back. The only problem is that someone called Nick Mwenda, who is also the FKF President believes in him.
I was in Camp Toyoyo when KPL All Stars were playing a friendly match against Posta Rangers just before their trip to Spain. I looked at the squad Okumbi and his assistants Musa Otieno and John Kamau were taking through warm up paces and sighed silently. Like a woman who is looking for an excuse for her anger. I told a journalist I was with that the squad despite being young in age lacks pedigree. Our best football players in that age group, are not playing football. They are selling newspapers, second hand clothes and washing cars.
As I watched the match from Posta Rangers bench, I sat next to this energetic young Rangers' fan. Then a lady came by to sell us bananas and immediately called him by name. His excitement distracted coach Sammy Omollo from the match a little. The lady goes ahead to tell us how the boy's prowess in football made him the darling of Baba Dogo secondary School. Sammy Omollo who has heard the boy brag about his talent many times now believed him. The irony is, the lad hangs around Rangers FC because he found a market for his clothes among Rangers' players.
On further enquiry I get a story that began at Baba Dogo Primary in Ruaraka. Orphaned just as he sat for his final primary school exams he stayed out of school for a year. His estate football kick around led to a stint at Kakamega High School. He left Kakamega for reasons he couldn't reveal for another school that I cannot remember before landing back at Baba Dogo Secondary. His reason for coming back to Nairobi was his younger siblings who had no one to take care of them. The meager handouts he got from football kept them going. After school, it was a tough choice between providing for his siblings or the lackluster Kenyan football scene. His siblings won.
AFC Leoprads' striker Vincent Oburu who travelled to Spain with the team confessed that he started playing football seriously after high school. In the same team is Kariobangi Sharks midfielder and skipper Patila Omoto. He was one of the most promising talents before joining AFC Leopards' from Kariobangi Sharks in 2013.
The passionate Nick Mwenda once described Omoto as “the greatest midfielder of his time”. He even tipped the youngster as one of the few players who will take us to the World Cup. I don't know if he meant Russia or Qatar. Omoto has featured for national sides U20 Junior team, and made his senior team debut in December 2012 in Kampala. He replaced former Gor Mahia forward Rama Salim in Harambee Stars’ 1-0 win over Malawi in the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup quarter-final match.
Omoto left Ingwe the following year for Mombasa based side Bandari FC in search of regular playing time. He did not break into the first team regulars at the club and found his way back to Sharks where he helped the side gain promotion to KPL. Omoto is a good talent but is he the best of his generation? If he is the best as Mwenda claimed then his development has not been consistent. The wish that he will take us to the World Cup may pass as just another dream. The Rangers fan, Vincent Oburu and Patila Omoto represent the problem with our football.
John Makheti is a father to two football mad sons. John found himself coaching the U10 football team at International Christian Church by default because of his sons. He is an alumni of Kakamega Boys so football is not strange to him. I religiously followed his social media updates sometimes back when he took the boys to a tournament in Arusha. His passion for the game and deep voice when he talks makes me stop to chat to the diminutive business man. I pose my observation that our best football talent is everywhere but in football. I asked for what I heard next.
John is a cousin to Vihiga United player Silicho Soita. Soita is a law graduate from Strathmore University who like Vincent Oburu never played serious football in high school. John tagged him along to his football escapades where he managed to land some trial sessions in KPL clubs and a few Nationwide sides. Soita was told in one of the KPL clubs that his promising talent aside, he reported late for the one week trials so he will not be signed. In the other he was told by the coach he will be signed but he has to part with Ksh. 30,000 of his Ksh. 50,000 salary every month. I believe the law graduate in him could not agree to those terms.
He then resigned to casual kick a rounds just for staying in shape. Such sessions took him to Camp Toyoyo one day where he played against George Sunguti. The former Ingwe and national team player saw a gem of talent in Soita and recommended him to Manoah of Vihiga United. He did not disappoint and now clubs are falling over each other to sign him.
John was emphatic about the problems with Kenyan football. We have good football players playing football the problem is the system. Cartels and lack of good scouts are two things he mentioned must be checked. I am happy he pointed out people who know too much about very little in football yet they are the gate keepers. In the midst of all this their greed supersedes their desire for the growth of players and the game in general.
I can write a lot about problems in Kenyan football without mentioning Okumbi. . The trip to Spain has exposed the gap between Kenya and world in football. At least Okumbi has given us Ovela Ochieng' and Omoto who he is trying to push through our skewed system. Our players lack the skills and character to play football at highest level. The main reason is they start playing serious football very late. The few who try to expose our children to football early like John Makheti do so without proper empowerment and no assistance from FKF.
Malcolm Gladwel in his bestselling book "Outliers" talks about the ten thousand hours rule. He says that before that big break or someone becoming an expert or good at something, above basic talent he must spend at least ten thousand contact hours on it. This applies across the board, not only in sports. We must create our system in such a way that by the age of eighteen our players are nearing the ten thousand hours mark of serious contact with the ball. We can never cheat the grind. It doesn't matter who is hired as national team coach, the virtue is more in the talent. KPL All Stars went down in the two matches they played against second string sides of Cordoba and Sevilla Athletic. They conceded five goals and scored none. Despite these results, let Okumbi be, a man can only do as much with the best that the system can offer.
You have heard that whoever wins the midfield battle in football wins the match. This is why coaches are tweaking their midfield play and players so as to have an edge over an opponent. There was even a shift from the rugged defensive midfielder of yore to a deep lying playmaker all in the name of beating the opponent in the midfield. The great generation at Barcelona led by Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta developed with the tiki-taka idea of making every a midfielder. They ruled Spain and the world cup.
It is easy to point out that the mojo or deficiency is in the midfield, but what exactly makes the difference at the centre circle? Apart from defensive and holding play, the other midfielders are supposed to be passers and play makers. Naturally a player will be good at two of them where one is a primary and the other a secondary strength. I am yet to see a player who is very good in the three.
Patrick Viera the kingpin of Arsenal’s invisibles was a good holding midfielder with defensive sub-skills. Physical play was a very important part of his game. He once said that he knew that the first contact in the tackle is very important. This is the moment when he imposed himself to win games. According to him, being strong in the first tackle says, ‘I’m here and I’m going to try and make it difficult for you’. Intimidation is part of the game.
I have watched many matches and I have come to the conclusion that the team that boxes the opponent out of 50-50 balls has an upper hand in the match. This is because it is as much a mental battle as it is a physical one. A battle must be won in the mind before it is won physically. The team that can beat opponents to these half chances has a higher chance of scoring and winning a match.
If you have ever played football you will realize that the worst thing you can do is to go into a tackle half-heartedly. There is a high chance of injury in such a scenario. When you commit fully to go into a challenge, nine times out of 10 you’ll come away with the ball. FC Barcelona lacked Sergio Busquets in Turin when they faced Juventus in the first leg of Champions League semi-final last season. Javier Mascherano a defensive midfielder turned centre half was played in front of defense and Barca lost the match 3-0. Busquets who is good at winning tackles was available in the second leg and the match ended in a goalless draw.
Brazil’s and Real Madrid’s destroyer in chief Casemiro said that his manager Zidane has never advised him to control his tackling even when he has a yellow card. If you are wondering where in the midfield Real Madrid won matches to win the Champions League for a second season running then you have it in Casemiro and overlapping left back and fellow Brazillian Marcelo. It is the power of taking chances on and winning 50-50 balls. Zidane as a former midfielder knows that so well and has the guts to risk his player being sent off as long as he can win a match.
FC Barcelona revolutionized football with possession play. The mindset was that if you can keep the opponent off the ball for long then you can stamp your authority. It worked because of the kind of players who Pep Guardiola acknowledged were a special lot. The new crop is not good at it hence when Busquets is not available, the gap is felt. At the finals of Confederation Cup between Germany and Chile, Germany won with a solitary goal yet they only managed a paltry 34% possession. If you look properly, the magic lies in the mental battle for 50-50 balls. Whoever wins the half chance wins the match.
Inside Nairobi Club along Ngong Road is an old, small but well maintained house. The main door faces the Hospital Road and Ngong Road Junction while the rear door opens to the oval shaped cricket grounds. Beyond the outer wooded shutter of the main door is a glass door with a red round logo of Kongoni Cricket Club. This is the logo that attracted me to this club house with the intention of digging into how it ended up on the grounds.
On stepping inside your eyes will catch the simple yet elegant furnishing. The bar is to your left while two cabinets holding cricket memorabilia dating back to 1860 are kept in two cabinets majestically positioned to the left and right walls. There are wooded barrels in two corners that give the house the old English farm house ambiance. On several walls are photos of club officials and visiting teams like 1959 visit of Rhodesian Strugglers’ Cricket Club.
The carpet is simple and grey in colour buttressing the mixture of simple old and new elegant furniture in the bar area. Upstairs is the pavilion that gives one a good view of cricket out in the oval ground, offices and board room. On this day the bar is playing bongo flava tunes in low tone which blends well with the noise from resting players cheering their counterparts in the three club round robin matches going on. I am here to meet current club captain Mr. David Waters, and a former player for Nairobi Gymkhana.
Nairobi Club was established in 1901 while Kenya Kongoni Cricket Club (KKCC) was established in 1927 by H.B. Emley. This is their 90th year of existence and their home has always been Nairobi Club. In 1981 they dropped Kenya from the name and remained Kongoni Cricket Club. The Sports Pavilion cum Club House was built in 1950 by KKCC, but handed over to Nairobi Club as a soft loan and they have been repaying it slowly until about ten years ago when they completed paying for it. From 1932 Kenya Kongoni controlled cricket in Kenya until 1953 when Kenya Cricket Association was formed
Kongoni leased back the house from Nairobi Club and they have an agreement which was signed in July 1966 that gave Kongoni exclusive rights over the cricket grounds. They also use the facility for keeping trophies and memorabilia, a library, meetings and training sessions. This translates to about three days a week. They hold events like dinners but Nairobi Club runs a bar and maintains the facility on a daily basis. Meanwhile, Kongoni sources for services from Nairobi Club and their visiting players and coaches are accommodated at the club. This has led to a symbiotic relationship that serves both parties well.
David Waters is on the grounds playing cricket. I will have to wait until the next rotation when his team will be resting. I take up a seat on one of the elegant couches on one side of the room facing a TV screen showing highlights of Spanish La Liga matches once in a while shifting to another one showing cricket with some young men glued to it to my right. I later learn that these are young boys from the slums who come in every Saturday to learn cricket.
I hear cheers from the grounds and prepare for my interview with David Waters. I see a man who looks busy going into sixties, a stark difference from the younger man he appeared to be while on the grounds. He assures me he will be back shortly. I look at him rush through a door marked Home that I learn is a changing room after noting that I am facing another door marked Away. The men who were resting are talking loudly as they get onto the pitch as a waiter sets up tea and snacks on the verandah to my left.
He comes back and insists we sit at a vantage point where he can watch the match as we talk. Throughout the interview, I had to give him time to clap and shout at the teams through the big window. He tells me that they have 110 members. Their main source of funds is from members’ subscriptions, donations and annual fundraising day. Currently Braeburn Schools sponsors their two teams in the Nairobi Provincial Cricket Association League. They came sixth last year and fifth the previous season which is not good for their long history in the sport. The season is yet to kick off so they are preparing for it.
Kongoni and Nairobi Club have different rules regarding membership and use of facilities. Nairobi Club members can use facilities at the Kongoni Club House but Kongoni members do not enjoy privileges at the Nairobi Club. This is their 90th year and recently they renovated the house to a tune of Ksh. 20 million. They are planning a makeover of the cricket grounds as well. He represents Kongoni on the Nairobi Club Sports Committee as well. The relationship serves them well and my talk with Mr. Ochieng’ from the club confirms that Nairobi Club is happy with the arrangement too.
He tells me as much as most cricket clubs have bases in clubs just like Kongoni, Swamibapa and Stray Lions who came first and second last season are the two exceptions. So having a home with facilities is not a prerequisite for success but good for sustainability of a club because it attracts members who may not be active players. Having a home at Nairobi Club has enabled Kongonis to stay afloat even during tough times. Waters came to Nairobi in 1980 and began his career at Nairobi Gymkhana before shifting to Kongonis.
When he came to Nairobi, Nondies RFC was based at Parklands Sports Club but they were kicked out. The rugby matches were near town and much fun, they have since moved to the ASK Show Ground off Ngong’ Road. With good agreements with mutual benefits, private members clubs can host a number of sports clubs. Currently, he says the hockey grounds at Nairobi Club have not been used in a long time.
He then moves to his East Africa Cricket and Educational Foundation. The foundation partners with Kongoni to run cricket clubs in 18 primary schools in Nairobi slums. They have coaches who are employed by the foundation who go around in these schools. Every Saturday they bring some of children to Nairobi Club for practice too. These children he believes are the future of Kongoni and Kenya’s cricket.
I then push the question that brought me. “Can football clubs and especially Gor and AFC Leopards learn from Kongoni and establish home bases on grounds they don’t necessarily own?” He shifts his face to the grounds for a few seconds then talks to me without look me in the face before turning midway to conclude his statement. “Football has a huge following; Kongoni is a small armature club with only 110 members and Kenya only has about 700 cricket players. They should not be learning from cricket. I think the problem is in the leaders they elect.”
Kongoni has maintained a tradition of annual visits to Ol- Pajeta in Laikipia, Mombasa, Nakuru, Tanzania and England. This July will mark their 86th tour of England that was interrupted for five years by Second World War. They are also planning to tour India next year.
Kongoni Cricket Club is a lesson in simplicity, stability and good leadership.
The most conspicuous item in 2013 manifesto for Jubilee Coalition was five stadiums and one was to be built in Garisa. What a gem of an idea. Many people especially the young bought sunglasses in anticipation for a very bright future. The irony is now they have to look for spectacles with magnifying lenses when looking at the performance of the Jubilee Government through sports window.
Sports was the flower in the manifesto of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto unfortunately it remained so when they got into government. I can guess that sports is also the flower at cabinet meetings and Cabinet Secretary for Sports Hassan Wario as the flower boy designate. It is meant to spruce up our social and economic space but it ends up sprucing the imagination of our politicians.
The 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil is a fiasco sports enthusiasts in Kenya want to block from their memory. If Coke is the global mascot of CocaCola, then sports is to Kenya what Coke is to CocaCola. To date, no one knows the formula of ingredients used to make Coke because CocaCola has selfishly protected their prized product over time. Our athletes uniforms were stolen, allowances disappeared; tickets for coaches were missing while joy riders had access to Olympic Village and not some coaches. This is what we get even for an event that happens once in four years. Meanwhile the prosecution of NOCK officials is turning into a circus.
Confederation of African Football (CAF) officials are coming back in August to tell us that CHAN 2018, the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) version for players based in Africa will be moved to Morocco. CAF will not allow the world to watch their matches being played in substandard stadiums out of Nairobi. The two facilities being fronted are Machakos’ Kenyatta Stadium and Meru’sKinoru Stadium. It is a shame when Government officials and FKF President confidently walk CAF officials into these two facilities. Let it go, it is never that serious.
Recently word leaked that Harambee Stars players get Ksh. 500 per day ($5) as allowance. The public was shocked that the national team players can be paid such an amount of money and still expected to win. The team went to Sierra-Leon for an AFCON qualifier and lost. The excuse by FKF is that is the amount stipulated by Ministry of Sports for all sportsmen across the board. They later organized a sponsorship through betting firm Sportpesa to pad up the amount.
If I dint have to rush to look for ways of earning some money for the elusive maize flour, I would have delved into other sports as well. In Kenya, we never give sports a second thought because the first thought we give it at a glance is enough. This is the reason I silently pity many young passionate Kenyans who believe they can make it in sports; kindly have a plan B.
We have never realized the benefit of sports. Political leaders like Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero organize Governors Cup in the belief that they are promoting sports and the youth. Meanwhile the County Government owned City Stadium and Woodley Stadium are as dilapidated as Mogadishu Stadium before the Chinese renovated it.
If we are not ready to give sports the attention it deserves, let us not use it to spruce up our selfish ambitions. Sportsmen and women have suffered enough; rubbing salt into their injuries is not fair.
I am the son of a poor man. I know poverty in its architecture and manifestations because I am involved in fighting it. Right from my own family to the two communities I call home down at The Peninsula and up at the edge of Kakamega Forest in Kaimosi. I have seen the indignity of poverty. You can now guess why my heart is at home in Sofapaka FC.
Recently Gor Mahia official Judith Nyangi announced on social media that Nairobi Governor candidate Mike Sonko had agreed to sponsor Gor Mahia Youth Team; I saw poverty. She then gleefully announced that Mike Sonko will send fans to watch the Sportpesa Super Cup final between Gor and AFC Leopards in Dar-es-salaam in Tanzania; more poverty. The other thing about poverty is that it is comforting whenever one finds herself in more activity without productivity.
Judith Nyangi cannot be the smartest lady in the Gor fraternity. What she lacks in smarts and looks she compensates well with confidence, a bit of arrogance and a good grassroots network and mobilization skills. This is why she marvels in her achievement and sitting next to Mike Sonko. Gor Mahia is still on a journey because it is people like Nyangi who will help some fans see what Gor lacks. This might spur some curious onlookers to jump in and improve the club.
Gor is not a poor club; it is just ridden in poverty mentality. If Gor was a poor club, it could be struggling like Sofapaka and Muhoroni Youth. From the top leadership to the fan, people are either happy or ignorantly satisfied with the state of affairs. It reminds me of a comment by a local music producer. Kenyan musicians are happy self-negotiating for 100% of a Ksh. 100,000 deal than let someone work out a 30% of Ksh. 20 million deal. Gor and AFC Leopards’ officials are in the former category.
Poverty has the habit of looking at the here and now. Waiting for a week and seeking expert opinion is a waste of time. Negotiating in such a position is negotiating from a position of weakness. Only one outcome is expected, a loss. The height of irony is walking out of such a deal bragging. The road to financial freedom even for individuals is long and treacherous, but luck happens to a prepared mind. You cannot score a goal from the stands.
Poverty is in the mind. For Gor and AFC Leopards’ to get out of this mindset, they have to fight this poverty mentality. There is no way a handout by a politician can be announced like it is the best deal for a club that has potential for multi-million deals. There is question of sustainability and political fallout of parties involved. Mike Sonko is better off dealing with fans based branches than directly with the club. At the moment, incumbent Governor Evans Kidero is footing the coach’s rent which is a potential source of conflict with his opponent Mike Sonko.
A few weeks ago I wrote that politics is at the heart of our clubs’ problems but it can provide solutions if handled well. Handling it well requires minds that have been emancipated from poverty. This is why I am calling on the smart souls at AFC Leopards’ and Gor Mahia, to step up and lead. Next time fans are electing club officials, remember that everything rises and falls on leadership. If you see excellence anywhere, rest assured that someone somewhere endured the pain and frustrations.
In the run up to 2016 Gor Mahia elections, someone shared with me that Luo politicians were afraid to fund candidates opposed to the incumbent AmbroseRachier. Their main fear was to go against the Luo political kingpin and Gor Mahia patron, RailaOdinga who was behind Rachier. This meant that an economically endowed Rachier was up against candidates with lean financial muscle, he won.
On 29th June 2013, AFC Leopards’ went to the polls at Kasarani. Businessman Alan Kasavuli was elected Chairman and Nairobi politician George Aladwa won the Secretary General seat. The election was peaceful but the intrigues that preceded it were typical of elections in the two clubs with biggest following, Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards.
The results were expected because Aladwa was emerging as the leading Luhya politician in Nairobi and Leopards’ is typically a Luhya club. He had lost the Makadara parliamentary elections in March of that year so here is a man of limited education looking for soft landing. In February was the Mayor of Nairobi and by June was a citizen. I often bumped into Aladwa with a host of hangers on in the streets of Nairobi. Kasavuli beat financial expert Dr. Walter Onyino.
After the elections I saw Aladwa in the streets with an Ingwe fan I knew. I approached him and proposed to him that I had a wonderful idea I wanted to share with him. He quickly noted that I knew one of his aides and asked him to organize a meeting later for us to discuss it in detail; I am still following up to meet Aladwa to date. That is not the reason for writing this; my take is that Kenyan politics is behind the underdevelopment of Kenyan clubs, unfortunately the solution lies with our politicians.
I can share what I wanted to share with Aladwa now that he is back swimming in his waters of Makadara parliamentary elections. I first met Georgie, as Aladwa is known, in Makongeni area back in my days as a political activist and noted his mobilization skills. To rise from a school dropout, to a tout and end up as Mayor is no mean feat. I knew if I sold to him the idea that he can rise to the Luhya kingpin position through Ingwe, he will buy into the idea. He only needed to let Kasavuli the businessman run the day to day matters of the club then he does what he does best, mobilize Luhyas into club structures.
I knew his heart was elsewhere, he was just cooling his heels in Ingwe to remain in the limelight. This was going to be a win-win situation. He just needed to set up Ingwe branches in every constituency and determine the officials. Once that was set, he would return to Nairobi and sit pretty knowing that he had point men from Nairobi down to the villages in Western Kenya. These branches then had to submit annual subscription to Ingwe which would lead to the club having a steady stream of cash. Aladwa would then walk out at the right time with a network across the Luhya nation, which never happened.
Today, Leopards are in the same position with Gor Mahia. That place where a Tanzanian TFF official was heard saying about Gor during the 2015 Kagame Cup in Daresalaam; these are just noisemakers without money. The problem never seems to go even with a change of guard. Currently Daniel Mule is the chairman of Ingwe while Lawyer Ambrose Rachier is at K’ogallo elected in June and December last year respectively.
Romours have it that Ambrose Rachier paid for the ODM ticket for Gem parliamentary seat but lost it to Raila’s cousin Jakoyo Midiwo. So Raila always has a political debt he owes Rachier which Gor Mahia unknowingly picks the tab. Rachier is the A to Z at Gor Mahia, the other officials are flower girls (and page boys). When the club is stuck and money is required, Rachier foots the bill only to pocket the gate collections without consulting anyone. No one will know how much was raised because no one knows the amount of money he chipped into the club the last time cash was needed. That is how he justifies his position at the club and fans, including progressive Luos have bought into it. Meanwhile the club is run from his Mayfair Court offices at Ralph Bunche Road even when the decoy office was open at Nyayo Stadium.
Until Sportpesa came along, both clubs were struggling financially. The money Sportpesa pays seems to have taken the officials back to comfort zone.To date, both clubs do not have operational offices or official merchandise vendors. Even the CAF Club Licensing rules could not bring out the best of the two giants. Like the rest of the clubs, FKF looked the other way on many requirements. Meanwhile, the online pages of the two clubs are as active like bee hives. The problem is no honey flows from the fans to the clubs.
It is difficult to separate the Luo and Luhya politics from Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards’ respectively. This means that the only hope these clubs have lies in the networks and influence the politicians from the two communities have over their people. The problem is our politicians are selfish and myopic. Somehow when the clubs stretch out begging bowls once in a while, the politicians reach out to their pockets to massage their egos and feel relevant and not to help the clubs become self-sustaining.
In our tribal based politics, the best place Luos and Luhyas can show this country that they are fit to lead is in football. The biggest irony of our times is that Kenyan football is dominated by the two communities yet they don’t call the shots where it matters. Even in areas where they enjoy near monopoly dominance, other communities including foreigners call the shots. Politics is diminishing the stature of our two big clubs but in there lies a way out as well. It boils down to more leadership and less ujuaji. Mutajua Hamujui!
I am averse to betting for personal reasons but I will confess that the recent Ksh. 221 million jackpot win almost made me reconsider my stand. Kenyans have taken up betting like fish into water which has led to overnight growth of betting firms like Sportpesa. This has also attracted other global players in the industry into the local market. Betting has its negative effects which ended up in parliament. Even before parliament passed the bill, the government proposed severe tax measures beginning next financial year.
The government recently announced plans to tax 50% of betting firms gross profit and a further 30% on net profit. It can never get worse than this for any industry. The truth is, betting firms cannot survive these measures after enjoying great profits in the past. Sportpesa- the biggest player in the local industry – has reacted by threatening to withdraw sponsorship to football, boxing and rugby outfits. Is this sabotage or a genuine distress call?
Amidst all this, Sportpesa was reported to have signed a shirt sponsorship deal with EPL side Everton worth Ksh. 3 billion. This could have been prompted by the relegation of Hull City FC who have athree year deal worth about Ksh. 400 million with Sportpesa. The cry from local fans has been that Sportpesa makes the bulk of its money locally, gives local clubs peanuts but rewards foreign clubs well.
Recently Sportpesa spread across the border into Tanzania where they got into partnerships with local sports outfits. They are renovating the artificial turf in a local stadium while they are now the shirt sponsors of local football giants Yanga and Simba. I waited for the details of the two deals to shed light on the cry of KPL fans but it did not yield any juice for this article.
Sportpesa is giving Simba and Yanga about TSh. 5 billion each which is in the tune of Ksh. 250 million over five years. This is in the range of what Gor Mahia receives though slightly higher than what AFC Leopards earns which is Ksh. 225 million over a similar period. May be the outcry from local fans pushed them to set their ceiling around the amounts they have with Kenyan clubs.
Sponsorship is not charity. A firm goes into a sponsorship or branding deal with a football club for purposes of brand visibility. Sportpesa is going to get more visibility in Tanzania through the two local clubs than they are getting in Kenya. Tanzanians love their football and they show up for matches in big numbers. The league is also well featured in the local press. Tanzania Breweries Limited the shirt sponsor of the two clubs pulled out of football after it changed hands which meant Sportpesa got the two giants in financial straits. This could be the reason why they may have given in to not so good deals.
Kenyans should build the brand equity of local football in general but most important KPL clubs in particular. Sportpesa will only pay what the brand they are partnering with is worth. There is a big difference between their deal with Everton and what they signed with Hull City yet both clubs played in EPL. If brand equity is a measure of sponsorship then Sportpesa has been good to Kenyan football, especially clubs. Look at their perks for Kenya Rugby Union, Ksh. 607 million over five years and purported Ksh. 360 million over four and a half years as KPL title sponsors.
The term ‘purported’ comes before the KPL deal because unlike KRU, KPL did not reveal the actual value of their deal. That is a big pointer of where brand equity tilts; Kenyan rugby is a better brand than football despite having fewer followers. To attract more funds, clubs must package themselves as institutions worth of any amount they feel they are worth. People do not buy products or brands; they buy emotions associated with them. We must make our clubs and league attractive.
As Sportpesa and other betting firms prepare to fight it out with the government over the new tax regime, clubs must prepare for any eventuality. If the government’s stands its ground, Sportpesa is justified in transferring about Ksh. 400 million annual budget for local sports institutions into part of the tax that the government collects. Only two things are certain in life, taxes and death. Either way, we must play football.
Kwame Owino is a good economist, no doubt about that. If he wasn’t he wouldn’t be the CEO of Institute of Economic Affairs – Kenya. I don’t have a problem with his credentials, but I have a problem with how he recently went into thinking too much about economics. Economics like all sciences that rely on figures and data, is only as good as the interpretation. On the five stadiums Jubilee Government promised, Kwame is trying to massage facts to go deep into his imagination.
Tomorrow, the Nairobi Derby is on at Nyayo Stadium. Perennial rivals AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia are meeting for their first leg match. For the past two weeks, the match has been in limbo. Initially it was meant to be played at Nakuru’s Afraha Stadium but KPL ruled that the facility was not fit to host such a high risk match. We have one world class stadium in Kenya at Kasarani; the other (Nyayo Stadium) can be described as a concrete bowl. The two are under renovation so KPL was contemplating putting off the match until later in the year. Imagine a country like Kenya lacking a stadium to stage the local derby yet we hope to host CHAN in 2018.
If we are to subject everything we do to economic evaluation, we won’t have justification for doing half of the things we do. Take spending money on weddings and funerals. How do we justify raising millions of shillings to send off a close friend or relative? We all know that a few months after the burial, we will be moving on with our lives without the money and our loved one. Why do we bother with weddings (even a 100/- one) when we know that a wedding is not a precursor to or indicator of- a happy marriage? Some things in life beat economics, and a stadium is one of them.
The world over, Kenya is known for two things; wild life and sports especially middle and long distance running. Brazil is known for their Samba Carnival, football and volleyball just like Egypt is known for the great pyramids. These are low lying fruits for these countries in terms of international branding. It doesn’t take economics to teach you that if you are good at something you must let the world know about it. There are only two outcomes, you may make money out of it, or walk away with pride and courage that you can conquer the world to do other things.
Kenya as a sporting nation has never made an initiative to build its own stadium. Nyayo Stadium was a bribe from Americans for us to boycott 1980 Moscow Olympics. Kasarani was a ‘grant’ from the Chinese to enable host the All African Games in 1987. The world may marvel at Collins Injera and Humphrey Khayange’s athleticism in Sevens Rugby, but I am sure if they went and saw Nairobi Railway Club where the brothers train with Mwamba RFC, they will be shocked and respect them more. We are treating our athletes who bring us honour in the world stage with contempt they don’t deserve.
So Kwame is happy the government did not bother to borrow money to build stadiums yet we have an SGR that our grandchildren will pay for built by borrowed money from China. There are roads in this country that have been tarmacked for aesthetic purposes; they make no economic sense at all except that once in a while a vehicle uses it to get to its destination faster. The rationale behind these infrastructure projects is that they will open up the areas for investments. Why are we building Isiolo Airport when everybody knows that Eldoret Airport is a few flights a day away from being a white elephant and Kisumu Airport does not operate at night?
Given, the World Cup and Olympic Stadiums in Brazil are white elephants at least for now. The Birds Nest Complex in Beijing may not be doing much either, but what does Kenya have? The devil is in the details, Brazil has a host of football clubs, the government can hand over these centres to clubs. I believe the problem lies in the bureaucratic systems of governments and not the stadiums.
Look at Kasarani for instance. It has a three or four star hotel just across Safari Park Hotel. There is no hotel on the Nairobi Side of Thika Highway that can match the Kasarani hotel in terms of facilities. The problem is the services rendered at that facility. What if the Sports Kenya upgraded the services to Safari Park standards? With a jogging track and an Olympic size swimming pool nearby people may just cross over from Safari Park for affordable but better if not equal service. The National Prayer Breakfast can be held there.
Look at Nyayo Stadium; it has office space that is rented out to the public. It has two restaurants and people park there too during the week. This clearly shows that a stadium does not have to be a white elephant. Nairobi West next door is a 24 hour bee hive. Some of that traffic can find space at Nyayo Stadium; someone just needs to think a little less than Kwame Owino. Very many services can be offered within the premises, only the playing field can be left as sacred.
Maracana in Brazil is like a shrine in the football mad country. Camp Nou, the home of FC Barcelona like Amahoro Stadium in Kigali is more than a football ground. The Catalans view Camp Nou as a symbol of their resistance to the draconian rule of Dictator Franco. Many Rwandese survived the 1994 genocide by running into the UN protected Amahoro Stadium. To them, like the Catalans’ “more than a club” call on FC Barcelona, the stadium is more than a football ground.
Culture can also be deduced as what people do in their free time. Kenyans at the moment can be termed as a drinking nation; we never miss an opportunity to drink to our triumphs and sorrows. Yes, stadiums may not make immediate economic sense, but their aesthetic value goes beyond the balance sheet pegged on them. They can be the beginning to a cultural revolution in Kenya.
I hope people at the Ministry of Planning did not read Kwame Owino’s blog, if they did it is my prayer that they can see beyond Kwame’s obsession with unrealistic economics. There is more to stadiums than the cost of construction and operations.
Sports plays an integral part in any child's development. It instills and teaches the need for discipline, It keeps the mind fresh for academic excellence, It keeps the young ones, and even the not so young, away from various ills of life. It also presents itself as an alternative career path. These are the reasons a group of seven Kenyans founded the Khwisero Sports Academy, to give the youth of Khwisero in Kakamega county a sporting Chance.
A Basketball player and administrator, an experienced marketer, a sports entrepreneur. Cynthia Mumbo requires no introduction in the sports circles. After several years in the corporate world that saw her work with giants like East African Breweries Limited and Menengai Oil, Cynthia has opted to transfer her experience into sports and help commercialize the Kenyan Sports Industry. The Young CEO of Sports Connect Africa is our Kenyanstar of the week and here is her story ...
KS: Thank you for accepting to do this Cynthia, For the benefit of our readers who may not know you, please introduce yourself.
I am Cynthia Mumbo, a sports entrepreneur and I’m very passionate about developing sports not just in Kenya but on the entire African continent. I have about twelve years experience in working for corporate companies in Kenya and I’d like to bring that experience to sports business and the discussion around sports on how we should move forward. I am a mother of a sporty nine-year old; we eat, drink and live sports.
KS: Tell us about your passion for sports, The origin and where has got you thus far?
I’m always excited about sharing this story because it takes me back to when I started running and playing. I have a very strong influence in Benjamin Ayimba, former coach of Kenyan Sevens rugby team. When I was a kid, we lived in the same flat and I was mesmerized by his medals. Benjamin used to make me and my friends run when we were kids, for some reason I used to win a lot and I remember being given presents like sweets for winning, so that just got into my system. My parents were also passionate about sports so it’s an in-built thing. I started very young and I always thought I would play in the WNBA. I had that dream when I was young and I have always wanted to excel in the field of sports. I do what I do because I feel that I didn’t make it as an athlete in the sporting space so I want to create an opportunity for other young people.
KS: What credentials do you hold sport wise?
I am an all-rounder who has an interesting background. I have credentials from Chartered Institute of Marketing, currently I am studying my masters in sports management at the Johan Cruyff Institute in Spain. I have been to Vitz University through a special program that was sponsored by SuperSport, which is a Diploma in sports management and I am actually the only certified female federations manager from FIBA in East and Central Africa.
KS: You played in the Kenyan basketball league for over ten years. What were the highlights of your playing career?
As a player, I was lucky enough to play for several teams; I played for NSSF and I think that as my first team to play for was fantastic. That is where I learnt most of my basketball because I was lucky to play with talented guys. From there, I played for USIU then moved to Kenyatta University. But my highlight was playing for Yana; My first job was actually at Firestones so I got to play basketball for them, where we set up a team from scratch and in the first two years we got into the play-offs. Starting a team from zero and taking them to that level was fantastic.
KS: Any low moments?
Yeah… one is the fact that I’m not playing now because I think I should still be playing; I got injured and the injury bit just took me back. Another low moment is that I feel there should have been more in basketball in this country and there still should be more because as an athlete, I feel that I didn’t get to achieve my best because the sporting environment has not really supported team sports in this country.
KS: How did you balance sports and academics? Sports and your marketing Career? Is it easier in some sports than in others?
Currently, I’m going 100% in sports business but marketing is everything. I really got into marketing because ultimately, my goal was to get into sports business so I don’t think it has been a challenge in terms of balancing because when I was working in the corporate world, the idea was to try and understand how a business works. I was also in the basketball federation for about six years so whatever it is that I was pulling in from the corporate side, I was able to bring it back to the sporting side. It is really a matter of balancing, and sports teaches you to be disciplined so you have to figure out what time you need to do certain things.
KS: Do you think an attempt to balance sports and academic excellence is suppressing our sports Industry?
Our culture is education first and then other things and I know that that is something that is changing by having the Wanyamas of this world excelling while having gone to school and still being disciplined. That is a good thing because parents then realize that it can happen. If you put a kid into sports at a young age and notice that they can run or play basketball, the most important thing is how do you manage their time so that there is time for athletics involvement and there is time for books. Our culture does not appreciate that athletes who are the actual people who make the industry exist. People would rather fight so hard to be a member of the federation because there are more perks in being one. So I think it’s something that needs to be worked on.
KS: What challenges would a player face playing basketball in kenyan basketball league?
One is that there is no value, meaning what goes back to that athlete? There is no reward so it is like a pass time thing. I am not saying it happens to everyone; KPA, Equity and others reward their players. But there is a very big imbalance because there are so many teams that are self-sponsored, so they are not playing for anything and when you don’t have that, there is no competition. You find the same teams winning because they are the ones that are valued. I always go back to the discussion around the players because once they are taken care of, you find that the broader discussion around sports will change because it creates strategy.
KS: You have served as the team manager for the Kenya ladies basketball team and also as a committee member of the Kenya Basketball Federation. First, what was your contribution to the game in these two position?
Being in the federation, I think the highlight for me was being part of the team that got Kenyan basketball on to SuperSport live broadcast and for the first time bringing on board partners like Menengai and Kabras, therefore injecting money into the sport. That has not happened since.
KS: Secondly, do you think the state of basketball is better now compared to how you left it?
I feel that we have gone lower than low. The thing about sports is that it is evident in the execution. We are not in a better place. It pains me because basketball is in my blood. If we could be able to structure things in such a way that we are able to bring in more stakeholders and open up to criticism, it will help the game.
KS: Tell us about the Vikapu Elite Basketball Camp.
It’s my brainchild and vikapu as you know means basket. The idea for me was to support talent at a young age so we were to hold our first camp last year but unfortunately it didn’t materialize. Unfortunately again we have elections in August so we have to push it to December. I have a lot of networks outside this country and I get a lot of people writing asking what they can do or bring to help. The idea of Vikapu is to bring young people together for a week or two and give them the basics on basketball, but also empower them through life skills.
KS: How do you intend it to grow basketball in Kenya?
Talent is required across the board. I think you have seen what the NBA is doing in Africa. Our idea is to empower and then take them out to the networks that we have, and you never know what opportunities they might get. We have networks asking for that talent from Africa and we are at the forefront at investing in talent at this particular juncture, so that we can provide the world with that talent when they need.
KS: Are you involved in any way with the junior NBA team?
Yes. Junior NBA is the flagship youth program for the NBA and we are the implementing organization for them in Kenya. We have started the pilot program in Nairobi with thirty teams and together we have about 450 kids between the age of nine and twelve in the program. We will actually be having the junior NBA finals in July and it will be nice to have you come. We run the full basketball operations from getting the teams together to the finals and making sure the whole basketball element is sorted out.
KS: You have been in the press a lot this year, probably in the past too. One online media asserts that you have turned your sports passion into a lucrative business. How lucrative has it been for you?
We are at start up so there is still a lot of challenges. But I look at the opportunities and ask myself if European countries are doing it, what are we not doing. And that is where the lucrativeness is. I look at it and say what can we do to create a commercial discussion around sports, and that’s what drives me every morning. I am very passionate about sports and connecting people, and that is where Sports Connect Africa comes in. We are trying to bring these together so as to create an income, not just for me but also create value for the country.
KS: Tell us about Sports Connect Africa.
I think by now you can tell that I started sports when I was very young. I didn’t necessarily know that I would be running a sports business at this point in my life. The fact that I didn’t ultimately make it in the athletic environment is what pushed me to look for what I can do. The fact that I also worked in corporate for a long time made me realize that the business element was what was missing, so I wanted to figure out how I can bring that discussion about business around sports. So that’s where Sports Connect Africa came from.
KS: Besides yourself, who are the other brains driving Sports Connect Africa and what exactly are their roles and contributions?
I work with consultants given that the business is still young. So we have had to accommodate what we can afford at the moment. I’ve got Harrison Kaudia who is very key in terms of the basketball program elements and I’ve got Papi Odhiambo who understands finance from very many different angles. We also have Pamela Sinda who works for us from an administrative perspective.
KS: Coming back to overall sports, what do you think is the state of sports in the country?
I feel that we are not where we should be. I asked myself, why do our children wake up and work so hard to go and play in Europe? Why can’t Europe come to Africa? I’m that cocky about Africa. We are trying and I don’t believe in trying, I believe in doing….we need to set our aspiration maybe a hundred times higher than where we are. If you go to any sport in the country and ask, is there a minimum wage bill? Is infrastructure supported?. Every space that was open in this town has been taken up by a building.…. I’m excited about what Mombasa government did of setting up a new stadium. That is fantastic. I feel that not much is being done and there is no belief as to what sports can do to this country as an industry.
KS: How is Sports Connect Africa helping in bridging the gap between where we are and where we should be?
It starts from a strategic element because it is not something that can be done in one day. We must first hold federations into account. We currently have the Sports Act but I feel guys are not yet being held into account. I think the execution element is what I would focus on. The corruption element in sports unfortunately is also among the key things pushing us back and it is sad. I think if that element is reduced even by 50%, so much will be done.
KS:Take us through some of the projects that you have previously or are currently handling as Sports Connect Africa.
The junior NBA is a flagship project and we are very happy with what we have been able to achieve in the first year. We recently held the GEC tournament which is a golf tournament that supported ten different countries and the winners went to Dubai. We have a couple of projects which we are working on that I can’t share on camera because they are still under discussion. Of course the Vikapu projects is another that we are working on and we are very excited about it. We still have other projects which are coming up, and they are very exciting.
KS:What challenges does Sports Connect Africa face in meeting its foundation objectives?
Resources. A lot of people don’t understand this business so I have to explain a lot. But challenges are there to be overcome so we look for what we need to do to reach out and solve the problems that we can.
KS:What do you think would be the impact of Supersport exit from the Kenyan market? What Would you say is the role of media is sports?
I like that you asked that question. We know about Olympics, NBA, World Cup and others purely because of media. In sports management, we have what we call the sports triangle where there are three key components; Sports, Media and Sponsorships. Media is very key, If sports is not set up properly, then the media will not be attracted. If they are reporting negative stuff or reporting nothing at all it means that is how our sports are. That will then influence other partners who are potential sponsors who will decline to be associated with sports, based on what they are seeing from the media. But if the sports is organized, everybody will want to be associated with it beginning from positive coverage by the media.
KS: What is your Parting shot to kenyans and readers of Kenyanstar?
Let’s take the commercial elements of sports seriously. I think it’s not a difficult thing to do but there has to be a concerted effort to steer sports towards being an industry that is respected. We are known for sports all over the globe so we need to create an industry that hires marketers, business people and so on. We also need to work together and realize that we are all going towards a specific goal, whether we are competing or not; and that is to change the lives of young people in this country and continent.
While most coaches are losing hair plotting on how to have at least one trophy in the cabinet at the end of the season, to Jos Openda, that has never been a concern. To him, Kenya Hockey Union league title is assured even before the first ball of the season bullies off. In fact, his biggest concern is how to finish the season in style, to win the league without conceding a goal.
Her illustrious career on the volleyball court was abruptly cut short by a deadly heart condition which has seen her survive three major hear operations. Despite the numerous health challenges punctuated by several trips to the hospital, Roseline Odhiambo, a former National team centre blocker and 2010 and 2012 Africa’s best blocker and server still has a big heart of helping the needy with the little resources she should ordinary be sharing with her two young sons.
He is the Kenyan version of Portuguese super agent Jorge Paulo Agostinho Mendes. He is many things to many people, and recently added another feather to his cap by venturing into player and coaches representation. Starting off as a journalist, he grew through the ranks to become a Television producer, took the big risk and ventured into football administration, before jumping ship to start what has been a largely successful venture of talent management.
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.
He is soft spoken. A man of few words but with an overflowing pot of humor. Japheth Munala, the Kenya Pipeline head coach is a man on a mission; to transform the Kenya Volleyball scene. His humility and dedication to his work has seen him record great success with both his club, Kenya Pipeline with whom he has lifted three consecutive league titles. He also assisted the national women's team, christened Malkia Strikers to their first international title when Kenya wrote history thousands of kilometers away by lifting the FIVB World Grand Prix in Australia in 2015. Munala also uses his free time to give back to the society. He shares his skills with grassroots coaches and upcoming volleyball players in High Schools. His effort has since been rewarded when he guided three different Schools to both the national and regional School stages.
K.S: Thank you coach for your time. Just walk us through your first contact with Volleyball.
Munala: I started playing volleyball while in School. Musingu Boys High School. I feared going for cross country and i would hide among volleyball players. The captain saw my height and convinced me to stop running and concentrate on volleyball. I excelled so fast and before the end of that year i was in the starting lineup. While in form four, i took the team to the nationals. That's how I begun playing volleyball.
K.S: So how was the transition after high school?
Munala: That was in Form Four. I went back for Form Five and Six in the same School. While playing for the School, I joined a club, MOW of Kakamega. I played for both the school team and Club and when I cleared form Six, I moved to MOW on full basis and stayed with them for three months. I then switched to Kenya Ports Tele Communication (KPTC) in 1988. That was a branch volleyball club of KPTC. After one year in Kakamega, I was transfered to the headquarters in Nairobi where the senior team was based. I remember they were the national champions for very many years. They saw me play in Kakamega then transfered me to the bigger club, Posta men where I played until I retired.
K.S: What was your most memorable moment as a player and what are some of the achievement you can point out during your time at Posta?
Munala: The most memorable day was when I played for Posta for the first time. We had good players in the team then and It wasn't easy for anyone especially a new and upcoming player to get a slot in the starting line up. When I got the starting role, I never looked back. I held that position (left attacker), up until I retired from the team in 2007. Unfortunately I never played for the national team. I was called several times but I never made it to the final squad. We won the national title with Posta severally. We were the national champions for more than 10 years in a row. We also won KICOSO games and we finished third at the Africa Club championships, the first time a Kenyan team finished in the medal bracket at the continental stage. Only Kenya Prisons (men) has done better than that when they finished second in 2013.
K.S: You must have had some bad luck there with the national team. Sorry about that. So then how did you transit from the court to the bench?
Munala: While still playing, I went for a coaching course in 1997. I was still very active as a player but i needed to have the certificate with me. So i went for Level 1- coaching course and got the necessary papers. I continued playing until 2005 when I started doubling up as a coach-player, still with Telecom. I actually started as a player-trainer then coach-player. After I got retired from Posta, I took coaching as a career in 2008. I started with the Telkom in division two and took them to division one. I later left Telkom for Kenya Commercial Bank as assistant coach to Paul Bitok. When he (Bitok) left for Rwanda, I took over the team as the head coach. We won the league that year with KCB, finished second in Africa (Club Championship). In 2011, Pipeline saw me and that's where I am to-date.
K.S: What are some of the challenges facing the growth of women's volleyball in Kenya?
Munala: When we joined volleyball, i would say there was shortage of players but some of us took up the challenge as coaches to go back to Schools and nurture players. Currently, there are a lot of players coming through from Schools. The only major challenge is the few number of clubs which is not enough to absorb the growing number of talent coming out of High School. For a very long time Schools have played the role of feeder to various clubs in this country. What I can say is that there is no shortage of players now but we have a shortage of the number of clubs, especially for women.
My wish and appeal is to corporate bodies, the private firms to come in to Volleyball. We should have more institutional clubs which should be able to employ these players so that we can have transition from Schools to club volleyball. Otherwise the four clubs in the women's top division are not enough to take in the big number of players coming from School. I would challenge corporate institutions to form clubs that will absorb all these talents being wasted.
K.S: Talking about Schools, we've seen you working very closely with quite a number of institutions. Why so and do you do it for monetary gain?
Munala: Not at all. Money is not the driving factor. I started with Malava Girls when they had absolutely no impact in School volleyball. There were only two schools then - Lugulu Girls and Mukumu. Those two schools were very good in Volleyball. So Malava came nowhere near them. I started with Form Ones and by the time they got to Form Two, they were the champions in Western Province. Until the time I left, they were the champions East Africa.
Then I went to Kwanthanze Secondary in Machakos County. In my first year with Kwanthanze, they finished fifth. The second year they came third and the third year they finished in position one, both at Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association (KSSSA) and East Africa School games. After Kwanthanze I went to Soweto Secondary. Soweto is a very small School from Kibera slums. Not known in Volleyball but after one year stay with them, Soweto became the Nairobi and Metropolitan regional champions. Then they finished second in both the national and East Africa. So those are the achievement I can point out at school level. I can say that the majority of young players in Kenya Volleyball today, about 70 percent have passed through my hands as a coach of schools. I've seen them grow. In fact, majority of them are now coming up to the national team ranks. This is an initiative that every coach in Kenya volleyball should take up. That way, we may not lack volleyball players in future.
K.S: Coach thanks so much for doing a lot to bring up young layers. Kenya has dominated continental volleyball for the last two decades. Unfortunately, that is not the same case when we cross over to the international stage. As the national team coach, what would you say is the biggest difference between Kenyan Volleyball and the rest of the world.
Munala: The biggest challenge I would say is lack of basic skills from our players. That has been the biggest undoing whenever we play outside the continent. But if all coaches would go back to the grassroots to start teaching these basics straight away from School, I think we'll go far at the international stage. But I am thankful that we've made some progress in the last few years and made impact at the international level.
K.S: We've seen your success with both the national team, at Club and even School level, as a coach. Besides your achievement with Schools, you have won the national title three times in a row with Kenya Pipeline and several accolades with Malkia Strikers. Unfortunately, during your time as a player you were not this successful. How did you turn it around, to be this successful on the bench?
Munala: As a coach you have to be very committed. You have to instill discipline in players, whether it's at School or club level then push it. Becoming the national coach has given me a lot of experience. I've traveled the world, I have seen how other players are playing and how other coaches are conducting themselves and I have learnt a lot in terms of drills to give to the players.
What worries me is the lack of support Sports receives from the government. For example, our main undoing at the international stage is the poor reception. About 99 percent of our league matches are played outside. This shouldn't be the case. The way you receive the ball in the gym is totally different from the way you receive the ball in a windy environment outside. Outside there, volleyball is played in the gym. In Kenya we only have one standard gym for volleyball which is shared by every body, including politicians. I thought the county government would help us by constructing more Gyms. If only the county government would construct at least 20 gymnasium for indoor sports, then we would be far. I don't know what happened along the way and we are still waiting for somebody to come to our rescue (laughter)
K.S: What is your obsession with young players?
Munala: The way to go is to give young players a chance. For continuity of the sport, you have to at least have that generation, the old and young. Every coach should strike to have at least two or three young players in his or her team at any given time. If you rely solely on old players you may find yourself in a very awkward situation. Old players will 'cheat' you that they are on form but when they step on the field, they tire very fast.
K.S: What are some of the challenges you face as a coach specifically as someone who works with female players?
Munala: Very difficult. Coaching women is very difficult. You have to understand each and everyone of them. You have to understand their mood especially when they are on their menses. But the most important bit is, as a coach you should never date a player. The moment you do that they will stop listening to you and that's the last thing you want as a coach. There is also the issue of pregnancy coming in when you least expect it. Your best player leaves for maternity and you have to devise ways of filling the gap. These are the issues we battle with as women's team coaches. For example my employer will not understand why i lost a match because of the absence of one or two players. But the truth is, the team can be completely weakened due to unavailability of that one player. Its never easy coaching women.
K.S: Back to your achievements if you don't mind. We've seen you dominate the local volleyball scene for the last three years with Kenya Pipeline, something that usually guarantees you an automatic ticket to the Africa Club championship. This title has eluded you for the last five years. Currently you are preparing for that very event. Is this the right time for Pipeline to win their first continental title in over a decade?
Munala: If there is any stressful moment for a coach, it is during club championship and national playoff. It gives me sleepless nights. Long nights because you don't know in which pool you are going to land. Whether it is going to be friendly to you or not. Club Championships are a headache to any coach. It has eluded me several times since 2011 and now we are goin to 2017. I hope God will give it to me this time round. I've done my best, we've tried everything and I hope we are going to do well in Tunisia.
K.S: Finally, as a coach, what do you consider when signing a player, height or skills? And is Volleyball all about height?
Munala: What I can say is that height is an added advantage in Volleyball. But again, you can be tall but lack the jump. Volleyball is nothing but to have a powerful jump. If you have a powerful jump then height is an advantage, even better for a player. You should have a moderate height or above medium. But if you are tall and have the jump, then that's the ideal player every coach will be looking to have in his team.
K.S: Thanks so much coach for your time.
The interview was conducted at the Kasarani indoor Arena during Kenya Pipeline training ahead of the 2017 Africa club championship.
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