New stadiums won't resuscitate Kenya’s lost glory in sports

Some weeks ago, I came across a story about new stadiums to be built in several parts of the country but whose construction have not started due to certain problems, or reasons.

A wonderful story by all standards it was — written in the most colourful language by a sports journalist no less. But there in was the problem as experience has taught me to take every story by my professional colleagues who cover sports, with more than a pinch of salt.

It might not be fair to declare all stories written by Kenya’s sports journalists as bland. It is only fair to read deeper in to them and realise that more often than not, the half truths in them are informed by deliberate ignorance of what is happening to local sports.

The narrative about these new stadia is that they will make things better. That because of them, Kenya’s standing and value in the sporting world will improve to such levels that the national football team, the what-are-those Harambee Stars, might even win a continental trophy.

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That is a lie. Even those who have been touting construction of the stadiums as a panacea to Kenya’s sporting problems know that, but do not want to admit so because of various reasons which they think those who follow sports in Kenya do not know.

Compromising situations

First of all, one of the biggest hindrance to the development of sports in this country has been journalists — the easily excitable modern-day sports journalists to be precise — and their cronies, who are not only in bed, but in compromising situations on all types of furniture with the bosses of federations who treat the bodies as their personal property.

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Thus, save for jumbled up match reports, articles by Kenya’s sports journalists are rarely objective and often pander to the whims and interests of individuals in high places in Government or corporate entities.

As a matter of fact, even non-sports stories by Kenya’s sports journalists are more often than not meant to appease some politician, some federation boss, some sports man or woman or a corporate entity, and are rarely for national good.

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The sad part about Kenya’s sports journalists — more so writers — as we probably knew them some years back, is that they are so brazen, so shameless and do not know how to hide their bias, so much so that it is easy to tell from their stories that they are actually genuflecting, nay, begging for favours or acceptance.

One does not need to be a psephologist to tell that nine out of 10 of Kenya’s sports journalists write stories that glorify federation bosses’ corrupt deals and that they sell their voices of reason for a pittance.

There is no need for a scientific opinion poll for one to know that the odd one is fighting tooth and nail to gain space on the lap of corruption that is the hallmark of Kenya’s sporting bodies.

And so, these modern-day sports journalists have been howling from the laps of their benefactors that some new stadiums need to be built because lack of facilities is affecting Kenya’s performance in the sporting world.

That is arrant nonsense.

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Kenya’s sporting federations are run by cartels and soulless individuals who have never seen any public till they never wanted to steal from, and unless they are done away with, no number of new facilities will improve performance.

Naming rights

Here is a perfect example: Kenya has more public cricket grounds than those for rugby, but how is Kenya’s performance in cricket?

And if anything, Kenya’s best cricketers ever learnt the game and perfected their art not in modern cricket grounds, but on rugged surfaces in the estates, using improvised playing equipment.

The problems bedevilling sports in Kenya cannot be solved by simply building more stadiums.

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The simple reason is that even Sports Kenya, formerly Sports Stadia Management Board, is saddled with ignorant, and of course, venal members who cannot even negotiate a proper naming rights deal without having one company paint every inch of a public facility with its corporate colours.

So, what happens when a business competitor sponsors an event that can only be held in that sporting complex?

Almost all sports facilities in the world have naming rights deals with corporate bodies, but are they painted in the colours of those companies?

Aren’t the sporting facilities themselves brands with their own definitive colours that have to be preserved?

It is hard to understand how Kenya’s performance in different disciplines, or specifically in football, will be improved by the construction of new stadiums alone without sorting out underlying issues within federations where internecine wars are the order of the day and night.

Currently, the champion of the poorly run and of course corruption-riddled (like all other Kenya’s sports bodies) Kenya Premier League Limited is limping around with a begging bowl because it does not have a shirt sponsor, yet it is supposed to play in a continental competition.

Faltering performances

What does such a situation say about the state of sports (management) in the country, or specifically how the clubs are run now that corporate bodies fear having their colours on the country’s biggest and most successful club?

Kenyans have been told that private firms have been invited to fund certain aspects of these new stadiums. How will they put in billions of their hard-earned monies in to such projects when they lack the faith to give clubs millions of shillings?

Well, there are those football clubs with shirt sponsors, but is the amount of their deals anything to write home about considering that local clubs do not even own the basics like training grounds, team buses or even offices?

Corruption at all levels of governance is the biggest cancer hindering the growth of sports in Kenya, and even the construction of these stadiums will just open other avenues for more corrupt deals.

As a matter of fact, they will be new channels for corruption and under hand deals, starting with the tendering process for the contractors and ending with the procurement of the equipment.

Yeah, Kenya’s sports journalists who worship poverty will of course be given peanuts so they can regale Kenyans with stories about the new stadiums’ state –of-the-art equipment which will be tenth hand stuff discarded from some condemned stadium in other parts of the world.

The biggest beneficiaries will definitely be land grabbers, if the situation at Moi International Sports Complex at Kasarani is anything to go by.

To date, there has been no proper explanation as to why it lacks a public golf course, and sections for other disciplines yet initially it was as the name suggests, supposed to be a sporting complex with several amenities.

In a sentence, the problems bedevilling sports in Kenya are well-known, and lack of facilities is just the last of them. Solving the problem at any other end and not the root will just increase the chances of corruption and the performance will continue to falter.

All is not lost though. The stadiums can always come in handy at the end of the year when gospel music singers mime the whole night while their fans dance along to recorded music, and then claim that they attended live concerts.

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sports stadiums