Category Archives: KPL

KENYAN FOOTBALLERS NEED TO INTROSPECT: LESSONS LEARNT FROM GEORGE ‘JOJO’ WAWERU (AND OTHERS)

It was the 2019 AFCON qualifiers games last week, and we were up against Ethiopia. We desperately needed to beat them in order to have a shot at qualifying for the tournament.

The first leg of the fixture was in Ethiopia, with both teams unable to score. The game ended in a barren draw, and I for one could feel my heart sink.

What if the Wallas managed to beat us in our home turf? The Stars have not always been particularly consistent in terms of performance; what if they had chosen this second leg as the perfect opportunity to drop the ball? (figuratively and otherwise).

Please don’t forget about all of the financial hardships our national team has had to endure this year. Delayed allowances and delayed staff remuneration were bound to have a detrimental effect on the morale of the team.

However, these were apparently cleared up before the second leg of the tie (thank you Jesus! But it is seriously shameful to see how poorly funds are managed within our sports fraternity)

I would have been mortified if we lost at home.

But we did not lose.

If you watched the second leg of the Ethiopia-Kenya tie, like I did, that performance must be etched in the upper echelons of your limbic system.

You, just like me, must be thoroughly impressed with our boys’ performance. We won 3-0 in a must win fixture and it was my best football experience this month, of course after our (Arsenal’s) 5-1 thrashing of Fulham earlier this month.

There has been some debate in some quarters on the financial benefits that teams accrue for reaching different levels of this and other CAF competitions, but this post is not about that.

(although a 166%increase in prize money for the winner is quite an impressive financial incentive. Maybe if we at least manage to reach the quarter finals, we can stop relying on handouts to support the Stars).

This post is about how we treat, train, and guide these sports men and women who make us so proud as a nation. These individuals who invoke in us a sense of nationhood. Individuals who make us proud to be called Kenyans, albeit for one game or one race. They are doing something worth celebrating; but most importantly, worth protecting.

Being a Kenyan is one of the most difficult roles under the sun- there is constant disappointment literally everyday and everywhere you look- but the way these individuals use their talents to put us on the world map- that is indeed something we need to hold dear, guard and guide.

But we have failed to do so… miserably!

The last time Kenya qualified for the AFCON tournament was in 2004 in Tunisia under the able leadership of Jacob Ghost Mulee.

In the lineup was a young, brilliant defender who played a crucial role in helping us qualify for the tournament. His name is George ‘Jojo’ Waweru. He is among the last generation of Kenyan players to have played in the AFCON competition.

He has won several accolades throughout his football career, which included winning the KPL title as a Tusker FC player.

Sadly, his career took a nosedive after suffering a neck injury while training for the AFCON game against Mali. He was literally abandoned and left to his own devices by the league, by his club, by his government, and by his country men.

News reports indicate that he has been battling with alcoholism for years after being abandoned, and this has had a tremendous impact on his health.

He is currently admitted in hospital owing to alcohol-related complications where his condition is reported as being grievously ill.

Unfortunately, he is not the only legendary footballer who is ailing, living in squalor, and addicted to alcohol amongst other drugs.

I’ve heard numerous stories of Kenyan football legends who have been forced to eke out a living from menial jobs such as sweeping the streets.

They are so many and it’s a situation that has been repeated year after year, squad after squad. Worse still, we don’t seem to want to fix the problem.

Remember the Kadenge story I wrote earlier this year? As I was doing the research for that article, it dawned on me that this man-this hero has been suffering financially and health-wise for several decades after hanging his football boots despite being the biggest legend in Kenyan football history.

Watching the match between the Wallas and the Stars on Sunday, I couldn’t help but feel anxious about these men’s futures.

Will they end up on the same path as JoJo and the others?

Do they know that there is life after football? Do they understand how short a football career can be especially one occasioned by injury?

Do they have basic money management skills? Have they started saving for retirement?

Are they getting paid their worth? (Doubtful especially when you consider delayed payments both at the national or club level)

Are they investing the little money they do get in order to multiply their sources of income?

Or are they drinking it away- living for today with absolutely no consideration for tomorrow; chasing a celebrity lifestyle that they cannot afford to maintain- not with their pay and not in this economy.

Do they know that their so-called friends will desert them immediately their hard earned money runs out?

What about their minds? Are they taking care of their minds? Are they furthering their education? Are they investing their time in acquiring skills that can make them an asset even after hanging their football cleats?

Do they have the mental strength and resilience to avoid the alcoholism and drug abuse trap- a scourge that has permeated to the very fabric of our nation- destroying each of us including children everywhere you look?

We live in a nation where alcohol advertisements form the bulk of adverts on TV, and on billboards, in newspapers and on social media. We’ve made consumption of alcohol so cool and so alluring that it has become a national culture. We entice people to enter into alcohol and drug abuse, but we abandon them when they are overcome with addiction, and cannot get out.

Can they withstand the pressure and not follow their peers into this death trap?

Do they understand the gravity of the fact that the Kenyan Government, their clubs, FKF, and the country they play for will not give a hoot about them when they leave the game? If it takes months for them to receive their dues now when they are active, how much worse will they be treated once they retire?

Twenty years from now, where will each of these Stars be?

If I’ll be there, will I be penning another sad story of a fallen football hero, addicted to drugs and alcohol and unable to pay his own medical bills?

I don’t want that. I don’t want to see people who once gave me so much joy, who had a chance to be bigger than we have ever imagined, and who consistently put their bodies on the line for national pride end up poor, deserted, sick, dejected, and plagued by alcohol and substance abuse.

I don’t want that.

So, I’m calling on all Kenyan footballers, regardless of club, league, or whether they play for the national team or not- to learn from the mistakes of the legends who have gone before them, and purpose to be better;

To learn how to manage their income with tomorrow in mind;

To discern that this is a short term career and they need to develop alternative sources of income now before they retire;

To shun bad company (slay queen’s are not your friends; neither are your boys if all they want to do is drink your money or invest in shady deals);

and to know that in this country, heroes are treated badly, literally abandoned, after their service to the nation.

Anyway, back to the present. Let’s wait to see if we have to play Sierra Leone or not.

Good luck Stars; AFCON here we come!!

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Learning To Love and Appreciate Harambee Stars and African Football as A Whole

We are inching closer to the semi-final stages of the 2018 World Cup, and the competition is getting juicier. This is definitely one for the memory books considering how many great teams have fallen along the way (wink wink Portugal; wink wink Argentina; sad wink wink Germany).

Count yourself lucky if your favorite team has at least made it into the quarters of the World Cup. Mine didn’t; they did not even make it past the group stages. For a minute, okay, let’s be honest, for some time now, I have been suffering from an internal paralysis. Don’t be alarmed! My organs are not failing. But, I feel a deep sense of loss, a deep sense of mourning, and an even deeper sense of stunned motionlessness. ‘Where did they go wrong?’ is a question that keeps ringing in my head. It actually feels like a small part of my heart is broken. These changes in the world order are too monumental, you cannot ignore them.

That is how much emotion I had invested in the German national team going all the way to the finals of this tournament. Their football, their passion, their lust for glory has beguiled me for years, and it was like a kick in the stomach when they could not meet my expectations this time around. I probably should have seen the signs when they lost to Brazil in that international friendly match three months ago. I ignored those warnings!!

I craved and yearned to see them play at their best. My body and mind needed that fix I get whenever they play. I was looking forward to that excitement, to the numerous goals, to the un-ending action. But it all came to a sudden stop, and now my drug of choice isn’t flowing anymore.

For some time after they were knocked out, by South Korea no less (you can check out my short commentary on how devastating this loss was here), the World Cup for me felt empty. At least until I caught the Belgian bug.

I’m better now, thanks for asking. I am beginning to enjoy the WC  a little bit more, so that’s a ray of sunshine.

I am still very disappointed though, but my disappointment is not only directed towards Die Nationalmannschaft. They sucked, and that is on them, but I also feel a bit disappointed in myself.

Why?

I just came to the sad realization that I am putting too much effort into deifying another country’s football team whereas I can barely remember eight names from the Harambee Stars’ starting line up. That is so sad!

Sure, the love of football should transcend all borders, but how comes I do not feel the same commitment, and loyalty to our national team?

Why don’t I get thoroughly depressed when they lose? Why do I dismiss them so easily, and only take the time to watch just a few of their matches annually?

Why is it that I do not feel connected to Harambee Stars as I do another country’s national football team?

Fifa currently ranks our national football team at position 112, which is a bit embarrassing I have to say. I also think we have the worst football management in the history of football management. There are so many reasons to not pay attention to Kenyan football, to Kenyan sports for that matter.

But, I feel like a traitor. Whether they suck or not, there are tens of men and women all over this country who are playing football at a professional or semi-professional capacity for many months every year. We see the sacrifice our brothers and sisters are putting into playing in this toxic, depressing environment that is Kenyan football, and they do not stop. That’s their love for the game. There’s a resilience about being a Kenyan football player; about being a Kenyan sportsperson that you just cannot find anywhere else.

We, scratch that, I need to honor this sacrifice (you have to do it as an individual before we can achieve the desired collective action).

Our standards, techniques, coaching, or management may not be anywhere close to professional standards, but the sacrifice these players are making has to count for something.

And, I am all about embracing everything that is Kenyan, including that which is inherently wrong with us, football included.

Maybe if we paid more attention to it, like serious attention to it, and own this process of understanding the intricacies (problems and all) of Kenyan football, we can start revitalizing it; correcting the mistakes one by one.

Maybe that’s how I (and hopefully you) will learn to feel more connected to it.

It’s ours; love it or hate it, it’s always going to be ours, and we might as well find the gems hidden in the cow dung that is our sports fraternity.

We have a national football team. It is not the best but it is ours. We have to give it a little more love.

Enjoy the rest of the WC!

NAKUMATT’S FINANCIAL TROUBLES CONTINUE TO SPILL INTO THE FIELD

We had some mid-week afternoon action in the KPL with Mathare United (strong title contenders) taking on Nakumatt FC (a team that is so close to disappearing from the league, it is even shocking that they are still playing). Obviously, Mathare was the stronger team, and was expected to carry the game, which they did. What I didn’t expect was for Nakumatt to give them a run for their money. Impressed!

When it comes to spirit and fighting against all odds, this Nakumatt side has it down to a T. To give you a bit of perspective here, Nakumatt were the underdogs coming into this game not only because they are on the other end of the KPL table, but also because they have been facing serious financial hurdles especially this season.

This is a KPL team that does not have money for training, for salaries, and all the other expenses that a normal team in our league incurs within a season. Shocking! I know other KPL teams are struggling but Nakumatt’s case is just over the top in my opinion. And, it seems like this problem is not getting solved soon. Just last month it was announced that the club was up for sale, and I quote ‘…to anyone, including those who would like to change the club’s name!!!!’

For me this is scary (mainly because I’m an alarmist and I blow everything out of proportion). But seriously, what would new management for Nakumatt FC look like? What would be their prerogative when taking over the club? I, for one, would not like to see a money-hungry corporation take over and destroy the FABRIC of that team by selling some of their best players or eroding the culture the players have built around each other especially during this tough season.

I also would not want a company with a risky financial outlook to get their hands on the team. I know it is so difficult to get credible sponsors in the local football scene (something that needs to change btw), but I would not want the current management to just settle for any buyer. Like, please do a background check first, otherwise, the current team will keep bouncing from buyer to buyer, and that will have serious ramifications on their quality, their output, long-term careers, and their contribution (both individual and collective) to our local leagues.

To be honest, this is a riches to rags story in our local football scenery. There was a time when Nakumatt was considered one of the richest teams in Kenya. YES! Back when they could afford foreign coaches with names that sounded like a mixture of expensive chocolate and men designer wear, but whose faces, demeanor and body structure lacked the same exquisiteness. I’m talking about the time before Nakumatt had been upgraded to the KPL, and they were playing in the National Super League. That time we (just the media) used to refer to them as the ‘money bags’ team, and they were thrashing people left, right and center! Ai!

Sadly, those days are over, with the currently financially strapped Nakumatt only being able to manage one win this season, and their loss to Mathare this week continues to lower the morale of these boys. I don’t know for how long these guys can keep fighting, but, I’m proud of them regardless.

You can check out my other comments on the game here (and don’t forget to subscribe!!)

EASTER MONDAY RUINED FOR AFC LEOPARDS

The Kenyan Premier League continues to heat up with two round 8 matches being played on Easter Monday. Wazito FC was playing against Zoo FC, while Tusker FC vs AFC Leopards. The latter one was the main event, and the result was a shock for me. Watching the game, I could not believe this was Ingwe losing to Tusker (you can catch my comments about the game on youtube)

I went into the game believing that the Leopards had this game in the bag! Boy, was I wrong! However, it was still entertaining to watch Tusker try to redeem themselves from their dismal form this season. Going into the match, Tusker was at No 14, and I swear, I have never watched a season where the Breweries team has performed so poorly. Luckily, they won this game and were able to go up the table a few spots.

So, what exactly went wrong for the Leopards on this beautiful Easter Monday?

For starters, I would say Andika (their goalkeeper) was not in his best form, and that had catastrophic effects for the rest of the game. The last time we saw Andika play was during the second leg of the CAF Confederations Cup where Ingwe was unable to beat the Fosa Juniors. Consequently, they missed their opportunity to proceed in the continental tournament, and Andika (as well as other teammates) received a lot of criticism (you can catch my views on this game here).

Fast forward to this current game, and he is making rookie mistakes that cost his team the match. He misjudged a backpass from one of his cohorts (Kibwage), only for Timothy Otieno to come lurching forward, block that attempt, and see the ball going into the net. There was nothing Andika could do to stop it. AFC went down 1 goal thanks to Otieno’s initiative and Andika’s lackluster attempt at clearing the ball. This was in the opening minutes of the first half.

When the clock hit the 30-minute mark, Andika makes another blunder that sees his team going down another goal. He intentionally sweeps Otieno off his feet, without even attempting to make contact with the ball. Result: Andika is shown a red card and a penalty is awarded to Tusker. Now, AFC is down two goals to Tusker within the first thirty minutes of the game!

Other than that, AFC’s defensive prowess was literally unheard of the entire match. Their ineptitude to deal with the likes of Otieno and Wahome is what put their goalkeeper in trouble in the first place, as well as enable both of these players to score a brace each for their team. For instance, they were unable to mark the dangerous Wahome effectively when he was near the goal, which resulted in his two goals. In the case of the Otieno goals, an improperly timed and weak backpass from the defender (Kibwage for the first instance; Kamura for the second) was to blame.

There were also several missed chances from both sides but most notably from the AFC camp. All their frantic attempts were for naught until Isuza caught a lucky break and was able to whizz one past David Okello. Clinical finishes from the other Ingwe strikers would have ensured that they won the game or at least managed a draw, but alas, they ended up throwing those chances away.

Final result: Tusker 4 Leopards 2.

 

OF BAD BOYS AND EYEBROW RAISING TRANSFERS

Did you catch the Supercup derby last Sunday? Well, I did (on TV of course) and it was a hoot! It was right after church (where, btw, I am a Sunday School teacher), I had eaten, taken a nap, and I was more than ready for it. Down here, we call it the Mashemeji Derby, and every time these two teams meet, there’s bound to be fireworks for fans and players alike!

Can you believe these two teams have met 97 times, including last week’s match? Amazing!!

I was kind of jealous of the people who had made it to Afraha Stadium to watch the game. It felt like the teams and their fans were part of something familial and I was just an outsider looking in. This is perhaps one of the greatest and longest football feuds in our nation, and it sucks not feeling connected to the history of these two amazing teams!! 😦

Anyway, enough of the melodrama! Let me get right into it. It was a spectacular game with Gor looking stronger from the onset, in my point of view, and it was kind of disappointing that there weren’t as many goals as you would want in such an exciting clash! What did catch my attention, though, was the roughness of the game. This game was so intense and the referee had to make some tough calls throughout the game, including giving one ‘Gattuso’, a yellow card in like the first 15 minutes of the encounter.

I was struck by how aggressive he could be, but hey, he’s a midfielder, it’s bound to happen. What caught me off-guard is what the commentators said once he was shown the yellow. Their comments went along the lines of, ‘oh, this is normal, he’ll probably end up with a red, most probably won’t last the entire game’…(they were speaking in Swahili by the way just in case you were wondering). Shots fired!!

Gattuso is a skilled midfielder, with a stellar football career that has spanned more than five years. Having played for Gor Mahia, Sofapaka, and Tusker FC in the past, he has gained a reputation for being combative (in and out of the field) and an individual who is not squeamish about putting his body on the line in order to get the much-needed results for his team. He gets the job done……when, and if, he decides to show up.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a bad boy as much as the next girl, and his antiques over the years, especially while he was in Gor, were definitely newsworthy. From arriving late for training, missing training sessions, going missing completely from training camps, to numerous fines, and fights, and social media rants, this midfielder has earned a place on the list of  Kenyan football bad-asses!!

Which is why I was sort of surprised to hear about his recent transfer to ‘The Den’, Gor Mahia’s main rival. I mean, doesn’t AFC Leopards have enough problems to deal with at the moment without having to add a temperamental, headstrong bad boy with a penchant for flouting team rules on to its worry list? And, doesn’t the coach know that bad boys equal heartbreaks? Take it from me, I am a girl, I know these things!

The Leopards could possibly be on the brink of financial collapse and the last thing the team needs is indiscipline or even a hint of it amongst its ranks. Otherwise, their entire 2018 campaign is in jeopardy.

But, who knows, Gattuso could be exactly what they need right now in these dark financial times. Drama, passion, action, and heat follow this man wherever he goes and he could be a critical ingredient to one of their most fierce cup challenges yet. This could be the home he has been looking for, and with proper management, Ingwe could be looking at their next midfield talisman. Only time will tell!!

Good luck to both team and player!