Kenyanstar Of The Week - Richard Omwela

Born in Western Kenya, 60 year old Richard Omwela studied at Kakamega High School before pursuing a law degree at the University of Nairobi. While at the University he did not make the grade to  play Rugby   due to the School back ground. Omwela headed the Kenya Rugby Union for close to 8 years between 2003 and 2011, a period within which Kenyan Rugby grew to unprecedented heights.  For his contribution to the game, Richard Omwela is our Kenyanstar of the week ...   

KS: Who is Richard Omwela? 

I'm a 60 years old Kenyan, born in Western Kenya. I schooled at Kakamega High School and proceeded to study law at the University of Nairobi. I'm a lawyer by profession and for the last 37 years i have been practicing corporate law. I'm a partner at Hamilton Harrison and Mathews previously the Managing partner. I'm also the current Chairman of the Kenya Rugby Union. 

KS:  What is your story with Rugby? 

I followed Rugby from my University days and was at the University of Nairobi when the University team  Mean machine was formed. I came from a football background in High school, back in those days Kakamega High School was primarily a football giant and not so much ruby. When i got to the University of Nairobi I had to be content with watching from the side lines as there were better, more established players from Rugby playing schools such as Nairobi and Lenana  so i did not make the grade.  In terms of managing the sport, i joined Impala club as a member of the club when i finished my university studies but between 1991 and 1995 I served as the chairman of the club. That is how i joined Rugby administration because Impala was then as it still is a Rugby playing club among other sports. It is from this that i got into Rugby initially as a director in charge of Fund raising because of my corporate background. I moved on to become secretary of the union them moved on to become chairman of the Union. It was always felt that because of my corporate background i would help fund raise for the union.  

KS: And how did the fund raising go? Did your leadership help? 

 Pretty well i would say, initially our targets were very low, just about Ksh 10 million to run the sport every year as compared to now where we are looking at annual budgets of close to Ksh 500 Million. And yes i believe my leadership helped especially in corporate governance, introducing structures and generating an interest in the game.  Back in the day we would call for an AGM and only a handful of people would show up and we would divide the available roles but now we have actual competitive elections. I have always looked at how much i can give to the game in terms of my expertise and time resources as opposed to how much i can get from it and I believe my contribution to the sport has been immense especially by putting in place structures that would outlive us when we leave management of the sport to others. 

KS: That is interesting Mr. Omwela considering in the last election you campaigned on the platform of 'Coming back to clean the mess that had been created'.  Are the structures not strong enough?

The structures we have been continually putting in place are the reason our Rugby got a chance for another two years of good leadership and are the reason why there will always be a chance to make amends when things go wrong.  The unfortunate thing, and it applies to the country at large, is that while we have very many able Kenyans, most of them shy away from positions of leadership.  Some of those who offer themselves for leadership  could be coming in for other reasons other than leadership Good leaders also need to take the initiative and step other than live in their glorious days. I believe we have a lot of credible people able to offer leadership post Omwela or post anyone else.  

KS: What would you say is the current state of Rugby in Kenya? 

Rugby has grown in leaps and bounds. You will find that in all counties in Kenya, Rugby is being played not just at club level but all the way from school level to Universities and colleges. So, the game has grown rapidly.  The issue we have now is how to manage it because as the game expands we need competent officials, referees, coaches and even equipment and medical support. In those aspects we are lacking. Rugby is also playing a part in improving the Kenyan society values because of the discipline of the game. For instance we have an Under 10 program we run at the union in partnership with Shamas foundation. This program collects youth from Kibera and Kawangware and parents have observed that the youth who join this program have shown improved grades and personalities. This is mainly because of the discipline demanded of a rugby player and in the case of the youngsters also just being around successful individuals who play or manage rugby inspires them to do better in other spheres beyond the game. 

KS:  How would you say we rate against elite Rugby playing Nations like South Africa, England, Fiji and the likes? 

We are far much behind the elite Rugby playing nations and we need to do much more to come close to them. These are countries playing fully professional rugby back in their local leagues while we depend on players who have different day jobs  are in Colleges or have just left College.  

KS: How long Mr. Omwela before we go fully professional? 

There are deliberate efforts to fully professionalize our league. Clubs like Kabras, Impala, and Homeboyz are already moving towards that direction but a key set-back which the industry has been grappling with is the lack or insufficient corporate participation because a professional league is very expensive.     

KS: One would imagine that with rapid growth of the game corporate organizations will be literary struggling to be associated with it. What seems to be holding them back? 

There are two important factors we as administrators need to work on before we get full commitment from sponsors;

The first one is accountability and issues to do with corporate governance. Sponsors not only want to know how every single shilling they gave you was used, they also want to ascertain the monies they give are directed for the correct purpose and for the growth of the game.  So the way you run the game has a bearing on if sponsors will come on board and our efforts over the years has won the confidence of people like KQ, Safaricom, EABL, Bamburi  and most recently Sports Pesa. 

The second is each sponsor wants a return on Investment so if they are putting money into the game what value worth of their money will they get back in terms of visibility and or publicity. Our league for instance is played over just seven months every year. This could have a bearing on when or if sponsors come on board because it is probably a short time for them to get value out the sponsorship But going forward we want to have a structured league where the main league can be supplemented by two other competitions so that whichever sponsor comes on board gets value across the year. So as we continue to professionalize our game these are some of the issues we have to look at.    

KS:  Has KRU and the various clubs under it complied with the Sports Act

Not 100%, it is still  work in progress but the intention is that by 2018 all the clubs plus the union will have complied fully. The union will be having an AGM in the coming month [March] and one of the agenda items will be to review our progress so far in complying with the Act. Some clubs have complied in some of the aspects like changing their constitution to have a 4 year circle for leadership instead of a one year circle... 

KS: Why is that particular one Important? Having a four year term instead of a one year term? 

 It is important because it allows the organization in question more time to concentrate on the sport which is the most important thing. If you keep it at one year then for a half of the year the people in office are thinking about re-election and the sport suffers....

KS: Does the four year term then completely fixes this? 

Not entirely because you still lose considerable amount of time with people politicking. At rugby we are looking at a possibility of a succession plan where you have the Chairman and probably 1st and 2nd Vice Chairmen with a clear structure of who will be chairman after the incumbent and so the union leadership definite and known even for the next several years.   This will allow more time to be invested into the sport itself. 

KS: Will you be defending your position in the upcoming elections? 

Yes! I will vie again to serve one last term as the chairman. But I'm not campaigning. I want clubs to look at the work we have done vote us in or out based on that. I think as a sport we are in a position where we can make decisions based on tangible evidence and not mere rhetoric. 

KS: What is the union’s plan for Infrastructure? 

Currently our best bet is having the government come good on its promise because the President  of the Republic of Kenya HE Uhuru Kenyatta promised us a rugby stadium on our return from Singapore but if they don't then we will have to explore other options. 

KS: Is it the government's responsibility to put up this infrastructure? What role does the union play in ensuring it happens? 

Look, the government did build Kasarani and Nyayo stadium for football, the county government further built City stadium but for football yet again so it is not so much to ask that they do one for Rugby and Cricket for that matter we also pay taxes as a sport so why should all the resources be channeled to one sport that has produced no known result over the years?  

KS: So if the government doesn't come good on this promise?

Of course it has always been on the table for us. We had plans in 2011 to acquire the Ligi Ndogo grounds and combined with the KRFU, our main grounds then we would put up a standard facility including some bed and parking capacity, we had even already set aside some Ksh. 45 Million for this project. We had entered into an Agreement for buying Ligi Ndogo grounds and paid a deposit. Unfortunately there was a change of leadership and consequently a change of thinking around this project so we lost the opportunity. If it is to come up again then we will probably look at a partnership with the County Government of Mombasa to put up a Rugby stadium.

KS: Why Mombasa? Have you already engaged them?    

No, Not yet! But it would be our best shot if we ever want to get on the  World Rugby 7s circuit.

KS: Wasn't Safari Sevens meant for inclusion on the World Rugby 7s circuit?  

Safari Sevens is a great competition by the idea to submit a bid for its inclusion on the World Rugby 7s circuit was not well thought out. It was never going to make it for various reasons; For starters the hosting city needs to have a five star bed capacity of at least 20,000. Nairobi doesn't have that so our best bet is probably Mombasa combined with Diani and Malindi and they will still be strained. Secondly, you need not only have a standard rugby pitch for the main competition but also a second one for the women and several others for training. We are not anywhere close to these requirements. Lastly, the current thinking around World Rugby is to host all the legs of the circuit in low altitude cities so there is no possible way our high altitude Nairobi will have a chance unless this thinking changes. So if it were me i would not even submit that bid. 

KS: Why do you think the number of fans attending the Safaricom Sevens has dwindled over the years?    

It is a combination of factors and especially for last year's event. First is competition with other sports specifically motor sport which was on the same weekend. Second is the location, Kasarani you would admit is on 'the other side of town' with respect to majority of Rugby fans in the city and creates some sort of an inconvenience and lastly is the reduced level of Safaricom sponsorship. Previously the sponsorship included marketing the event through their various platforms but that was not the case last year so the event publicity suffered. Obviously we should have done a lot more for publicity but it's a lesson we learnt and have already put in place a committee for this year's event. 

KS: Is this a pointer we will not be going back to Kasarani for Safari Sevens this year? 

 We cannot rule out Kasarani but we need to look at other ooptions. Nyayo Stadium is one of them. Part of the reason why we have been having it at Kasarani is the Safaricom was the main Sponsor of the Stadium  and it made no sense to take it elsewhere. We understand that has now changed.  

KS: Shall we see the return of the Bamburi Rugby Super Series? 

The super series was a competition for regional Franchise teams in Kenya and Uganda sponsored by Bamburi mainly because their business covered these countries. The super series can of course make a comeback albeit with a bit of modifications but first we are sourcing for a sponsor because it is expensive to manage these franchises. The potential sponsor candidates are corporate organization with countrywide product reach and with that respect we have considered and engaging people like Bidco and others. It was a very good competition because from it we got teams like Western Bulls which has come up very strongly. 

KS: What are the union's top three priorities over the next five years? 

The first is to put up a high performance center. A piece of infrastructure that can comfortably host an international tournament without the limitations i mentioned earlier like Bed Capacity, Training facilities and even parking space. 

The Second is to have a fully functional secretariat with regional branches all over the country and effectively institute some supporting structures to manage the game throughout the country so we won't have to always dispatch resources human and material to various parts of the country when needed.

The third is to develop further our national squads, both the Sevens and the Fifteens. We missed out narrowly in the last world cup but we are hoping to qualify for 2019 one.  So you will notice we are putting a lot of emphasis on the junior teams and giving them more game time because in the near future we shall require them to step up. 

KS: Tell us about the Kenya Rugby Limited.

The idea behind Kenya Rugby Limited was to have a company that is fully owned by the union to run the business aspect of the game, while allowing the union to deal with the game itself.  It did not and still does not feel prudent to have the union involve itself in the business matters of the sport. The union's core function is to run the sport, not the business associated with the sport. Things like jerseys would be sold by the company not the union. Back then I had Kenya Rugby Limited running the Safari Sevens as an independent entity.

KS: What steps has the union taken to make the game safer especially following the recent deaths of several Rugby players? 

That is a very unfortunate thing that has been happening. We have sent our condolences to the affected families and I did convene and chair a meeting with all club representatives to discuss the matter. We made some resolutions that every club must take the responsibility to know the health status of their players and recheck the same on a quarterly basis just to ensure we are not risking anyone's life. We have also instructed the match officials to be keen and ensure that for the case of injuries the match must be stopped for the affected players to get medical attention. If the player is concussed then he must not come go back to the field of play. Such a player must undergo treatment and take leave from the game for at least two weeks.  And finally we are also calling out to all players to be conscious of their personal health status and not risk their life. 

KS: Has the union outlined any sanctions or penalties for any parties that do not adhere to these recommendations. 

We have a team working on that but need a buy in from Clubs and players. 

KS: What challenges do you think Kenyan Rugby is facing? 

The three main challenges are poor infrastructure, insufficient resources to effectively manage the growth of the game and relatively low uptake by sponsors. We don't have enough match officials, coaches and even qualified medical personnel and I encourage more Kenyans not only to train for these functions but also to come forward when these positions are advertised. 

KS:  What do you make of the teams participation at the Rio Olympics? 

There were some failures on our part but this was also an epic failure on the part of NOCK. On our part I think we had a poor team selection. On NOCK's part they did not consult and were failing even on the very basics. For instance if they would have consulted us then the rugby teams would not have camped in Nandi which is a high altitude area while we were going to play in a low altitude Rio. So while Nandi is a good training ground with good facilities especially for athletes, it was not the best preparation for our Rugby team.  I also think our friends at NOCK are not giving attention to team sports especially when they look at the prospects of one man bringing back a medal vis-a-vis seven men bringing back the same medal. So i think we went to participate not to compete.  

KS:  What lessons do you think other sports federations in Kenya can learn from KRU?  

Mainly it's improvement of their corporate governance.  Some things that happen are very disheartening. The hitches with player visas and travel arrangement to a point where government has to fork out Ksh. 40 million to charter a plane like it happened in football the other day are all a reflection of poor corporate governance. 

KS: What role do you think sports play in national cohesion? 

Sports play a big part in National cohesion because when we go out there to play we win or lose as Kenya, not as a Mluhya or Luo or Kikuyu or any other tribe. It is always about Team Kenya. A good example to look at is South Africa and the 1995 Springboks  winning team. Had that team not won then it would have been more difficult to hold that country together. 

KS:  Finally what would you like to tell Rugby fans in particular and Kenyans in general as your parting shot? 

I want to assure all rugby fans and Kenyans in general that we will continue to do whatever we can to grow the game despite all the challenges.  We have received enormous support from the country and we thank every single Kenyan for that. My phone never stops ringing every time we lose a match, with Kenyans asking what went wrong and commenting on the team selection. This is an indication that they follow our progress and we do not take it for granted. 

We are still young and short in capacity but we have enormous talent.  We are the only small country playing with the big boys but we hope and believe that Singapore wasn't an accident. We will win more. 

Finally i want to call upon the Government of Kenya to support our efforts more because their support will go a long way in taking us several steps forward. 

The National 'B' League match between Kimathi and UoN was characterised by missed chances and players slipping down the wet turf at the City Park Stadium.

The match that was played at a sub standard level through out saw UoN players slip on three separate occassios in the first quarter. The turf was watered just before the game and the surface proved unbearable for the university teams. The quality of play however was not as interesting.

After a change of shoes and the coming out of the afternoon sun in the second quarter the match played without anymore funny incidents. Unfortunately there was really not much going on in the second and third quarter to stir up the crowd like the slideshow in the early stages.

The game came to life in the final quarter as each team tried to push for a goal. The game was end to end. UON scored a goal but it was after the referee's whistle and hence did not stand, moments later Kimathi did the same, their goal disallowed as well. Both teams went all out attack. UON wasted shorts corners but it is  Kimathi that will knock themselves as two minutes before time they wasted two clear cut chances. The game ended 0-0 and it was the lack of finness that carried the day as the crowd booed.

The results leave UON third in the National 'B' League with 7 points while Kimathi are at sixth with 4 points.

Two valuable points were dropped by both JKUAT and Sliders, a missive hit in their endeavour to close the gap at the top.

The Ladies Premier match played at City Park Hockey Stadium started at a slow pace. The first quarter was cagey and both teams seemed to be focusing on defence. There was little action and the game was mostly played at the centre of the park.

The second quarter was no different. Both teams were tactical and the outcome was fatigue in both sets of players. In the third quarter however Sliders broke the deadlock from a short corner that was fumbled in goal, 1-0 to Sliders.

JKUAT came for the final quarter with more purpose. They pressed Sliders and finally got their reward. The match ended 1-1. A fair result that reflected their equal strengths.

A point didn't really do any team much good but it was JKUAT who were more pleased by it on the virtual that they cme from behind.

JKUAT remain second on nine points, that is two points more than Chase Amira and Sliders who have both played a game less.

Ghanaian forward Gilbert Fiamenyo will lead the forward line against Posta Rangers in the released line up by coach Stewart Hall.

AFC Leopards line up to face Posta Rangers:

Ian Otieno, Robinson Kamura, Joshua Mawira, Marcus Abwao,Samuel Ndung'u, Duncan Otieno, Bernard Mangoli, , Allan Katterega, Andrew Tololwa, Whyvonne Isuza, Gilbert Fiamenyo

Subs: Gabriel Andika, Yakubu Ramadhan,Salim Abdallah,Paul Kiongera, Marcelus Ingotsi, Juma Simeo,Harun Nyakha

 

Tusker FC line up sees Duncan Ochieng' start in goal ahead of David Okello in their away match against Muhoroni Youth.

Tusker
Duncan Ochieng, Collins Shivachi, Shafik Batambuze, Marlon Tangauzi, James Situma, Martin Kizza, Cercidy Okeyo, Humphrey Mieno, George Mandela, Michael Khamati, Allan Wanga

Subs: David okello, Eugine Asike, Hashim Sempala, Anthony Ndolo, Clifford Alwanga, Abdul Hassan, Jackson Macharia

Here are the Kariobangi Sharks vs Chemelil line-ups

 

Sharks

Jeff Oyemba, Geoffrey Shiveka, Pascal Ogweno, Bolton Omwenga, Michael Bodo, Sven Yidah, Patilla Omoto, Mike Misigo, Mathew Odongo, Duke Abuya, Rodgers Omondi

Subs: Robert Mboya, Wycliffe Otieno, Stephen Odhiambo, Ibrahim Kitawi, Cavin Odongo, Masoud Juma

Chemelil

 Jairus Adira, Willis Ouma, Yusuf Juma, Ouko Smith, Omino James, Ojuang David, Echesa Hillary, Majid Victor, Mwita John, Omondi Cliff, Saphan  Oyugi

Subs: Aimo Richard, Oketch Benjamin, Odeny Faraj, Osure Moses,  Jafary Owiti  Laban Gambareko Adebayo Mustapha.

 Mathare United assistant coach Salim Ali says his side will draw energy from their draw against Chemelil when they  face Gor Mahia on Sunday.

"The draw against Chemelil Sugar was a boost for the team in terms of morale. We know Gor Mahia is a good team. They have quality players both in their starting line up and on the bench. We will certainly have a different approach for this game.

"We have a young team and every match is part of their learning process. They have looked sharp in training and we are looking forward to tomorrow's game with renewed hope," said Salim.

Salim will be in charge of the side as head coach Francis Kimanzi continues to serve his ban from the touchline.

Gor Mahia midfielder Kenneth Muguna will miss the next fixture for Gor Mahia against Mathare United.

The midfielder took to social media on Saturday morning sending this message to fans.

"Good morning friends. A slight knock I picked during our last game has ruled me out of tomorrow's clash against Mathare. I hope to be back in action next weekend. Thanks for your support. Let's turn up and cheer the boys on."

Kenyan Striker Michael Olunga scored his first goal in the Chinese Super League on Friday against league leaders Guangzhou R&F.

Olunga, who plays for Guizhou Hengfeng Zhicheng, scored in the 22nd minute in his side’s 3-1 win over Guangzhou. This was his first goal in four games and will be looking to score more, after netting twelve times last season for Swedish side Djurgadens IF.

Manchester United held on for a goalless draw in a frantic Manchester derby at the Etihad after midfielder Marouane Fellaini was sent off. The Belgian lost the plot in the 84th minute in a moment of madness when he was booked for bringing down Sergio Aguero, and seconds later he walks over to the Argentine and delivers a headbutt. The referee Martin Atkinson had no choice but to show him a straight red card.

City, who dominated most of the game, thought they had a late winner when Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus noded home a Sergio Aguero cross from a close range but was flagged offside. The young Brazilian, who was put on as a late substitute for his first appearance since being injured in February, took some time to realise his goal won't stand.

The draw leaves City in fourth place, still a point and a place  ahead of their local rivals as Unites extends their unbeaten run to 24 league games.

Manchester will be at a stand still when City welcomes United in the third Manchester derby of the season. Champions League qualification spots are at stake an incentive that will psyche up the players more for the encounter, as if any extra drive was necessary.

The Citizens are a point ahead of their rivals at fourth with 64 points. They will be hoping the FA Cup semi final exit at the hands of Arsenal won't affect their League form. They are however on the back of two consecutive Premeir League wins. 

Pep Guardiola is looking forward to the game and insists United are a very good team with a very good squad. "They are good, good rivals, good quality, in good form. They've had big series without defeat in the Premier League. They have a lot of quality, history. We're looking forward to the game," said the City boss.

United on the other hand remain undefeated in the League since October, remarkable as that might be, most of their results have been draws. They have however collected maximum points in the last 3 league games including a 2-0 win over leaders Chelsea. A run that see them move within a point of top four.

Jose Mourinho affirmed his main target is to qualify for the Champions League and not to finish above their city rivals. Of course United still have the Europa League route to the Champions League.

"It means nothing. If we finish fifth and they finish sixth and we are above them it means nothing," said Mourinho. "If they finish third and we finish fourth they are above us, but it means a lot," he added.

The match will be played at 10pm local time.

Real Madrid played one of the best games of the season and they thrashed (2-6) Deportivo de la Coruña at Riazor. It wasn’t an easy stadium -Barcelona lost and Atlético Madrid drew- but Los Blancos made an exhibition. Again, the substitutes show Zidane that they deserve more minutes. Especially Isco, again brilliant.

Zidane might think in giving the opportunity in the big games to some of these players. Isco, Asensio or Morata are highlighting every time they have the chance. Kovacic or James Rodríguez show also a great quality when they have minutes. If Modric, Bale or Benzema are not fit, perhaps these are the solutions. Today, they play one of the best games of the season.

Messi four goals shy of another milestone at Camp Nou.

Messi is only 4 goals away from his 200th league goal at the Camp Nou.

188 appearances

196 goals

  70 assists

 

The 2017 CAF Champions League Draw was done earlier today in Cairo, Egypt.

The CAF Champions League is Africans' premier club football competition that sees top African clubs in their countries go ahead to head to be crowned champions.

The first round of group fixtures will start on the weekend of May 12. The groups are as follows:

GROUP A
Group A consists of Tunisia powerhouse Etoile du Sahel, Sudanese sides Al Hilal, and Al-Merrikh SC and Mozambique's Clube Ferroviario de Maputo.

GROUP B
Five time Champions League winners  Zamalek lead Group B. They play Zimbabwe Premier League champions CAPS United, USM Alger of Algeria, and Ahli Tripoli of Libyan.

GROUP C
African champions Mamelodi Sundowns will fight to retain their CAF Champions League title following tbeir group stage draw with AS Vita. The South African club will have a score to settle with AS Vita from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a side that was disqualified in last year’s edition to give the Brazilians a way back into the competition despite being knocked out.
The Brazilians will face AS Vita  as well as Saint George S.C. of Ethiopia and Espérance Sportive de Tunis of Tunisia in group C.

GROUP D
Egyptian giants Al Ahly who are on their way to claiming yet another Premier League title, play Wydad Athletic Club, Coton Sport and Zanaco in Group D.

The Gunners went into their Wednesday Premeir League clash against Leceister with only a win to suffice as they try to keep their Champions League hopes alive.

The match against the champions was cagey as they were happy to stay back and let Arsenal kick the ball around with no goal mouth action. It was Mahrez who got the first shot on target, a free shot resulting from a corner but the Algerian drove it right on Cech's path who punched it away.

Leceister showed little gimpses of their old self the little time they had the ball with Vardy and Mahrez hitting the side netting.

Granit Xhaka controlled the midfield as he occasionally sprayed long balls to the wings but the Leicester defence was solid. Theo Walcott got Arsenal's first shot on target when he dipped the ball past a Leicester defender and drew a superb save from Kasper Schmeichel.

Alexis Sanchez had a frustrating first half as he lost possesion on a couple of ocassion but showed what he is capable of on the brink of half time when his shot at the esge of the box hit the crossbar. Level it went at half time.

The second have started on a similar note with Leicester resolute at the back and Arsenal keeping the ball with no break through. Both teams made changes and it was the introductoon of Olivier Giroud for Arsenal that provided presence in the Leicester box. With 4 minutes to go Sanchez's deflected cross aimed at Giroud was knocked back to Nacho Monreal who drilled it towards goal and the ball took a wicked deflection on Roberth Huth for an own goal. 1-0 to the Gunners.

With 4 added minutes Arsenal tried wasting time with Sanchez trying some tricks that landed him in the referee's book with a yellow card. The vital win moved Arsenal to sixth with Leicester's relegation worries back.

In other games, Middlesbrough got one past Sunderland to take them within 6 points of safety at 27 points while Sunderland remain rooted at the bottom with 21 points.

Tottenham got a vital 1-0 away win against Crystal Palace to keep them in touching distance to the league leaders.

The 14th edition of the CAF Confederation Cup Draw held in Cairo, Egypt is out.

CAF Confederation Cup is the second African football club competition organised by Confederation of African Football, CAF after the CAF Champions league. This seasons competition has extended participants in the grouo stage from 8 clubs to 16. The winner of the Confederation Cup will face the winner of the CAF Champions League in the 2018 CAF Super Cup.

Jesse Were's Zesco United is drawn in Group C while defending champions TP Mazembe are drawn in Group D alongside Supersport United.

The full Draw of the knockout stages are as follows:

GROUP A
FUS
Club Africain
Rivers United
Kampala CCA

GROUP B
C.S.S
Platinum Stars
MC Alger
Mbabane Swallows

GROUP C
Zesco United
Club R.D. do Libolo
Al Hilal Elobeid
Smouha

GROUP D
TP Mazembe
Supersport United
Horoya AC
CF Mounana

First matches are set to be played between 12-14th of May.

Burnley midfielder Joey Barton has been banned from football for 18 months after an FA hearing over breaches of betting rules according to Sky Sports.

 Barton accepted a misconduct charge in February and requested a personal hearing after he was accused of placing 1,260 bets on football over a span of 10 years.

An FA statement read: "Joey Barton has been suspended from football and all football activity for 18-months with immediate effect after he admitted an FA misconduct charge in relation to betting.

"It was alleged that between 26 March 2006 and 13 May 2016, he placed 1,260 bets on the result, progress, conduct or any other aspect of, or occurrence in, football matches or competitions in breach of FA Rule E8.

"Following the Independent Regulatory Commission hearing, the Burnley midfielder was also fined £30,000 and warned as to his future conduct.

Barton wrote in his own statement: "The decision effectively forces me into an early retirement from playing football. To be clear from the outset here this is not match fixing and at no point in any of this is my integrity in question.

"I accept that I broke the rules governing professional footballers, but I do feel the penalty is heavier than it might be for other less controversial players. I have fought addiction to gambling and provided the FA with a medical report about my problem. I'm disappointed it wasn't taken into proper consideration."

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Even thou they finished fourth in the just concluded Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association Basketball championships, Rueben Muraya is one person who has caught the eyes of many. His dazzling dribbling skills and speed has made him a crowd favorite and a contender for the MVP award.

A terrific dribbler with an eye for goal. His skills and potential on the pitch have always left fans ecstatic. His dazzling runs and fantastic crosses have raised his profile in the local scene. He slowly grew through the ranks both at club and national level. He recently added to the statistics of players who have made the bold move from AFC Leopards to bitter rivals Gor Mahia where he penned a long term contract. 

Besides the magic on the pitch, critics have continually accused him of laziness and being a party animal. Is he? Kenyanstar sat with John ‘Softie’ Ndirangu and here is his story.

Kenyanstar: Thank you for your time. Tell us about your football journey so far.

John Ndirangu: I started playing competitive football at Nakuru AllStars when I was in form 2, by then the club was in playing in Nationwide League. I was with them all along, even when they got promoted in 2014 to the Kenya Premier League.  As a footballer, I have faced both difficult and easy times.

KS: Where did this nickname Softie come from?

JN: I rarely talk too much, and people say my face is soft. So, Softie.

KS: Please tell us about your time at Nakuru AllStars.

JN: It was a bit hard for me since there were the demands on the pitch and at the same time I was schooling. I had to carefully plan my time. However, sometimes it was difficult for me because I had to leave school for training and when I got back to class I was so tired and couldn't focus fully.  

KS: You made a name for yourself  while you were at Allstars. Tell us about your time playing there and your relationship with the players, coach, management etc.

JN: First, I would like to thank Robert Muthomi. He took me as his son, he took care of me,he used to advise me and  managed me well. I also thank everyone who coached me. During my time there, I learnt something from all coaches and this made me grow to who I am today. My teammates were also supportive, as football is a team sport and you support each other. 

KS: You would later join Bandari. However, you never stayed there for long...

JN: I would not wish to discuss about my time at Bandari. It was very difficult for me.

KS: What exactly affected you?

JN: Lack of play time.

KS: Well, you at one point joined Kariobangi Sharks. What necessitated the move?  

JN: After Bandari I went back to Nakuru Allstars to get my form back. However, at the end of the season the team got relegated and so we agreed with Robert Muthomi, the CEO,  that since I had already made my name and was still young, it wasn't proper to play in the lower tier. Therefore I joined Kariobangi Sharks. We agreed with President Nick Mwendwa that if the team won't get promoted to the top league he releases me and that's what happened when I joined AFC Leopards.

KS: Leopards - You joined the club, lots of expectations, but left. Kindly tell us about your time at Leopards.

JN: I enjoyed my time at Leopards and would like to thank the management and coaches. They believed in me and I wish them all the the best. In December, I was asked by Leopards to look for a suitable club where I would go on loan and I felt it was not good for me. Therefore I  asked them to just release me instead. As a team last season we were unlucky not to do well and meet the expectations but I personally think that I played my part and was very surprised when they suggested a loan move for me in the transfer window. 

KS: You have some serious football skills. Very good running, very good dribbles. What's the tactical secret for you?

JN: Apart from talent in me I do watch skillful players like Neymar, Ronaldinho and Cristiano and try apply what I see on the pitch. Besides, I also work very hard.  

KS: Harambee Stars: You have grown from U-23 to the senior team. Tell us about your time and experience so far at Stars

JN: Each and every coach has his style of coaching and the kind of players he wants. I think during Bob Williamson's time I was called several times to the national team. He liked my dribbling skills and speed and he would tell me to just do that in the pitch, since that is what made him like me and give me a call up.  

KS: We haven't seen you at the national team in recent days. Why?

JN: As I have said each and every coach has his style of coaching and kind of players he wants. However, while at AFC Leopards I earned a call up.  

KS: You made what many call a 'daring move' by switching from Leopards to Gor. Do you feel it was a daring move or just any other normal transfer?

JN: I believe if you have talent and you work hard everything is possible. Talent can never be hidden. Kama unajua unajua. For me I see it as a normal move. My time will come and I'll shine.

KS: Gor Mahia - How is life there. What are your targets/goals?

JN: I am enjoying life at Gor. They do things professionally and think that's what differentiates Gor with other clubs. My target is to play as many games and help the team lift the title and in future I go to Europe. 

KS: You have been accused of the following: Missing training at times intentionally, partying a little too much and alcoholism. Your response?

JN: In life you must have friends and enemies and for you to make in life you must have enemies. All these stories came up when I was at Leopards. When Ivan Minnaert left a Luhya coach took over and he only wanted Luhya players. Therefore, Ian otieno and  I decided to stay at home because no matter how hard we worked in training, we weren't being considered.  On the issue of alcohol, I even cannot tell how it tastes. Yes, I used to go to clubs and watch football while drinking Delmonte juice.  

KS: Any closing words? 

JN: I just want to thank God for the gift of life and talent. I also want to tell my fans that they should  not lose hope in me. I know they believe in me and I won't fail them. 

KS: Thanks for your time Softie!

 

READ: John 'Softie' Ndirangu: Major Transfer Or Forced Out? 

Following the news that Serena Williams was two months pregnant when she won the Grand Slam, Rev. Fred Nile MP, has called for the world champion to be stripped of the title, claiming “foetal personhood” means she was unfairly advantaged.

“She was playing doubles in a singles tournament!” Nile screamed at the ‘Day of the Unborn Child’ protest.

“I believe that ‘life at conception’ should be the law, and that clearly means two people won the Grand Slam,” said Nile, who is both an avid fan of professional tennis and aggressively campaigning to legislate how people use their uterus.

“That’s clearly against the rules!”

However, feminists argue Nile’s view that pregnancy is a sporting advantage shows ignorance to the realities facing those who are pregnant.

“Serena Williams was in control of her own body during the Grand Slam tournament, and as such has the right to her title, and the right, always, to bodily autonomy”, said Immy Grantson, an outspoken activist campaigning for progress on women’s issues.

“Williams, like all people, has the right to choose what she does with her body: whether that be powerful backhands, and/or be pregnant”, said Grantson.

This comes at a crucial time in New South Wales legislation. Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi’s End12 Campaign hopes to make it legal for world class athletes to choose whether or not they are pregnant.

When asked for comment by The Garter Press, Venus Williams, who lost to Serena Williams under the now contentious circumstances, said she was “excited to be an aunt”.

Former Inter Milan midfielder McDonald Mariga has come out to praise the Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino for the key role he has paid in developing the career of his brother Victor Wanyama.  

The Kenyan International skipper has been a vital part of the Spurs midfield, prove of just how much Pochettino trusts Wanyama. Big Vic first played under the Argentine gaffer at Southampton and were later reunited at Tottenham last summer.

“He (Wanyama) said Pochettino is the coach who has made him. He’s the one who, when Victor came to Southampton, he taught him what to do and how to play, all the things. He’s the one who taught him everything and made even more qualities for Victor. He gave him exposure and confidence. If you don’t have confidence from the coach, you cannot perform well. He’s helped him a lot,” Mariga told ESPN.

Pochettino’s favorite 3-4-2-1 formation has suited Wanyama perfectly as he provides cover to the wing backs when they move forward to attack, something that has put Wanyama in favor with both the manager and the Spurs supporters.

The midfielder will be expected to take his spot back in the starting XI for the FA Cup semi-final meeting with Chelsea at Wembley this Saturday evening after a minor injury.

As the title race stiffens and Spurs still on track for the cup glory, Wanyama may just be the rock Tottenham needs to win the first trophy in over years.

Everton are considering a pre-season friendly in Tanzania as part of their expected new sponsorship deal with SportPesa.

Drogba had been without a club since leaving MLS outfit Montreal Impact in November, after rejecting a move to Brazilian giants Corinthians in February.

However, the 39-year-old Ivorian striker has finally found a home in Phoenix, where he will also be part of their "MLS expansion franchise ownership group."

Phoenix are in their fourth season in the USL, 12th in the Western Conference with one win after three games.

"I have taken my time in deciding what I wanted to do next and am really excited about the opportunity at Phoenix Rising FC," said Drogba.

"After seeing firsthand the potential for expansion of the sport in North America and getting to know the ownership group in Phoenix, I am convinced that I can help them develop their organization on and off the pitch.

"I look forward to their continued success in the USL, and no city is better positioned than Phoenix for expansion into the MLS."

Drogba - a two-time African Footballer of the Year – scored 23 goals in 41 competitive appearances for the Impact, having won four Premier League titles and the Champions League among other trophies with Chelsea.

"We want our club and our city to be synonymous with international excellence, and Didier Drogba is a testament to Phoenix Rising FC's commitment to that mission,” said Phoenix Rising club governor Berke Bakay.

"Soccer is an international language understood by sports fans all over the world, and we want to help inspire fluency among new fans everywhere we play throughout North America."

Wilfried Zaha has rejected Gareth Southgate’s suggestion that he had imposed a timescale to be selected again by England, effectively holding the national team to ransom, and has defended his right to instead represent the country of his birth, Ivory Coast.

Bale and Ronaldo both played as Real Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1 yesterday. Goals from Karim Benzema and Casemiro strengthened their grip on the La Liga title.

However, despite the victory, all is not well at the Santiago Bernabeu. Spanish outlet Diario Gol claimed yesterday that Ronaldo was fuming with Zinedine Zidane for substituting him late on.

The former Manchester United star provided the assist for Benzema's goal but was replaced by Isco in the 79th minute. It was said that Ronaldo believed Bale should have been substituted instead after an abject display.

But Diario Gol claim Bale was also angry after the game. The former Tottenham star's stock is rising in Spain after helping Madrid win the Champions League twice in the past three years. And the Wales international reportedly believes Ronaldo is preventing him from becoming the club's main man.

Bale has to play on the left wing due to Ronaldo's desire to play further up the field. He feels that Zidane is making a mistake by deploying him in that position as he prefers to play on the right, where he can cut inside.

Club chief Florentino Perez is now monitoring the situation as Madrid's two biggest stars aim to do outdo the other. 

"Victor suffered a big injury on his back and we’ll see now what happens. We’re sad for both players and now we have to wait," was Pochetino's response on Victor Wanyama's injury.

A friendly match between Ivory Coast and Senegal was abandoned after 88 minutes after crowd trouble spilled onto the pitch with dozens of fans invading the field of play and confronting players.

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