Don't be shy, borrow a leaf from Gor
By Andrew Kipkemboi
My friend and colleague, CEO, the Pulse Editor was in consolable on Monday morning. He was among thousands of fans who watched as the trophy of the Kenya Premier League slipped out of the fingers of Gor Mahia at City Stadium.
Throughout this year, Charles Otieno was walking on cloud nine, telling those who cared to listen that his team was the one to beat in the league. The ardour he portrayed was matched only with his passion for Manchester United, his other team.
The excitable CEO never missed the floodlit matches at Nyayo National Stadium, always donning the colours of his team. All that ended in tears on Sunday when Ulinzi Stars lifted the trophy.
It was not a bloody end to the K’Ogalo train, but all the same it was brutal. Though mournful, Gor fans trooped out of City Stadium on Sunday evening with their heads high, after bringing pride, stature and colour to what was once a dour league, known better for squabbles over players’ fees and non-attendance.
The extricable decline of football in the country bears all the hallmarks of mismanagement, grotesque incompetence and the stubborn refusal of football managers to change with the times.
It is commendable that Gor fans took centre-stage in the management of their team. Going out of their way to fund the team and spruce it up to compete with others with fair sponsorship deals.
The sky was the limit and the high-spirited fans made it an article of faith to support the team in whichever way, though sometimes the adulation bordered on tribal veneration.
History will judge whether this is healthy, but say what you may, the swell in Gor crowds have seen a corresponding rise in the numbers in the other teams. And this is good for the game.
It was electrifying to see the boisterous crowds cheer their teams just as they do in the English, Spanish or Italian leagues.
Actually, resurgence of the Kenyan Premier League may be attributed to the contagious beauty of these Western leagues beamed on pay-TV that are lubricated by mind-boggling sponsorship deals for the players and fostered by a national pride in the beautiful game.
Which, in consequence, means the players must play football of sublime quality. The excitement on the pitch last weekend was an antidote to the habitual squabbles that have characterised the management of football in the country.
Next year could be more exciting than this, but it is the sorry state of the national team that must be addressed if the growing interest for local football is to mean anything. Our team has fared dismally in continental championships thanks to shenanigans at Kenya Football Federation and Kenyan Premier League.
This has been manifest in the pitch where the demands of the game have looked intimidating to national team Harambee Stars.
In truth, a few of us dare to look forward to our international fixtures with any fondness.
Missing out on the 2010 World Cup in South Africa remains a wart on the history of our football management. The shambolic preparations, amplified by the humiliating loss to Nigeria in Nairobi, locked us of the first tournament on the continent.
To have participated in it would have been historic in its own way.
But after losing to little Guinea Bissau and drawing with Uganda in the qualifying round of the Africa Cup of Nations early this year, Kenyans were united in despair at the hapless state of the game.
What ails Kenyan football? You couldn’t look farther than the greying men that sit on the analogous boards that claim to manage the beautiful game for our country in connivance with Fifa, the world football governing body.
Hungry for silverware
With the less impressive performances this year, we are inwardly consoled that there is room for improvement. But still, the loss to Guinea was too much for a country hungry for silverware in the world’s most popular sport. Evidently, there is still much that must change for us to play in the big leagues.
In most of the fixtures the players have looked hapless, humiliated and out of place. With Uganda, they lacked invention. They lacked tempo. They lacked flow and they were not inspiring though they made few unimpressive bursts.
The managers of the national team might want to learn a few tips from Gor Mahia.
The writer is Foregn News Editor at The Standard.
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