SECTIONS

Mr President, fix Kenyan sports once and for all

President Uhuru Kenyatta when he handed a national flag to Team Kenya at State House, Nairobi as they headed to the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Oregon, USA and the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games in the UK. [PSCU, Standard]

Every five years, Kenyan voters troop to the ballot box to overhaul leadership right from the grassroots to the top. The President sits at the apex and drives the nation. The buck stops at his doorstep. On August 9, 2022, over 14 million Kenyans voted for their next President.

The President, after his inauguration, will therefore set the pace for the country. Among his in-tray will be Kenya’s sports sector. Always brimming with huge potential, the sector needs an urgent overhaul. For years, Kenyan sports has remained at a crossroads and on the periphery.

Yet this is an industry capable of growing the economy. Athletics, rugby and volleyball - some of our key sports disciplines - have been on the downside thanks to challenges that conspired to cripple talent development.

Sports has been poorly run. From lack of infrastructure, doping, scandals within Sports Ministry and federations to top Kenyan talents switching nationalities to other countries.

Lack of training ground for most athletes has seen them resort to practising along the roads. A number of them have been knocked hit by motorists while training. They include three-time World Half Marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor and Sammary Cherotich, a former World Youth 1,500m champion. Others train in forests.

Kamariny Stadium in Elgeyo Marakwet has stalled since 2016, Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret has had renovations that seem to never end. A similar script reads at Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Kapsabet, Kapsabet Showground and Kericho Green Stadium. The outgoing government has pumped billions of shillings into stadia development.

There is also the elephant in the room, doping. In the last ten years, more than 200 Kenyan athletes have been banned for violating anti-doping regulations. Majority were banned for not updating their whereabouts. Some Kenyan stars missed tests and ended up getting suspended or banned.

The scandals that always rock national teams heading to international assignments must come to an end.

During the campaigns, we saw well-scripted manifestos on the youth, which basically target sports. The incoming President must instill professionalism in sports management. The new administration must nurture and maintain local talent. They should find it irresistible to remain Kenyan.

Kenyans want a hardworking and visionary Sports Cabinet Secretary and Principal Secretary. The duo must bring back glory and patriotism in each and every sports federation. They must deliver their mandate and be accountable. The sports federations must look at sports through modern lenses – with a broader eye on talent nurturing and sports marketing. Over to you Mr President!