|FOREIGN JERSEY, EMBARASSING|
|Monday, 06 February 2012 10:44|
I always found some inexplicable discomfiture whenever I watched veteran coach Chris Makokha on the AFC Leopards’ touchline. It was nothing to do with his thick lenses or his slow motion walking style as he shrilly shouted instructions to players on the pitch. It was all to do with his attire. Those who recall Makokha will confirm the old man had this liking for a Real Madrid jersey he wore every time Ingwe were live on TV. I found it disgracing for the love of my country. Period! Here was a top Kenyan coach of a top Kenyan club pompously showcasing (to the whole continent) a foreign brand.
AFC Leopards was not so poor that it couldn’t afford the coach some Rio Tinto. No, the great tactician tactfully chose to be a Madrilenian. Some of the key issues that ail our football, I opine, are our refusal to push our brand, our constant complaints about the perceived inferiority of the brand we seek to push and the mega airtime we generously give the foreign leagues on our chests.
The Kenya Gunners group used to come to the stadium in full Arsenal FC combat that included caps, shirts, pants, jackets (don’t mind the February heat) and bracelets. Comprising of Mike Njiru, Carol Radull, Gidi Gidi and others, these senior Kenyans were amazing to watch. They arrived nearly at the same time, sat at a particular stand in stadium, nibbled snacks together and cracked jokes only understood by them. I admired their uniformity but kept wishing they could wear jerseys of local clubs. Not so many clubs had their merchandise on shop shelves then with the exception of Mathare Utd so the Kenya Gunners group was rather justified in donning Arsenal outfit then. I’m talking of 2006 stretching to 2009. Today most clubs are beginning to publicize their brands through massive sales of merchandise to the fans and the league is regaining some beautiful hype. But the sight of European jerseys in our local stadia isn’t impressive. They are extremely few but extremely annoying to see their wearers jumping and singing among those who don green, white or blue.
Sometimes I’m accused of being petty in my complaints about stuff in the local game. People have sacrificed to pay for tickets to the game yet I still vilify them for their ‘wrong’ attire. Yes, the inspiration that took you to the stadium should send you searching for a jersey of your club. How else can we hype the local game if not by donning our colours? Beauty is in colour as well.
My friends in South Africa tell me it’s difficult-near impossible- for a Bloemfontein, Chiefs or Pirate fan to attend a home match without the club’s replica jersey. The guilt haunts you and before you enter the stadium gate you are confronted by fellow fans asking if (in your formal shirt) you are going for some meeting or a game.
The thought of donning a European jersey is even unimaginable. So would attending a local match be too expensive? Fanaticism is the mother of all creativity. As much as we’d encourage official club merchandise, fans have created some of the most admirable outfits that match their clubs’ colours and logos over the years. Donning t-shirts with friendly colours is just one way of saying “I’m still looking for a good club replica.” Let’s come back to our country, Kenyans!