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SportPesa justified in suspending sponsorship of Gor and AFC

By David Kipkorir | May 6th 2016

In a sudden heave of wild uproar, the spectators, numbering in excess of ten thousands, were on their feet.  The stadium was electrified with excitement.

Then suddenly, the crowd fell silent.

All eyes were now on the referee.  For a second, he himself seemed to sense the weight of the crowd’s attention, and loneliness of his role.

He fumbled about for his whistle, then indecisively blew it.  What had gotten the crowd to its feet was an outburst of unexpected activity in the pitch.

The skipper of the attacking team made a brilliant breakthrough to the defence line and sent a bullet of a ball toward the goal.

The ball flew passed the goalkeeper, but hit the crossbar.  As it bounced back it clearly hit the hand of a defender and was deflected back into the goal.

The question the referee and the spectators were debating was whether or not that should have been a penalty or a score.

It was a crucial decision for the referee, for this was the moment in the match that the press had billed as the most important “Mashemeji Derby” of the season.

After a moment’s hesitation, the referee decided to award a penalty against the defending team.  Then all hell broke loose!

From every direction came all kinds of missiles-soda bottles, empty cans, mud balls, stones, all sorts of objects even coins! The referee bolted for cover.

Police stepped in to halt the match and to disperse the crowd, they fired tear gas, but the battle continued outside the stadium, into the streets and shops in town as the two sets of fans fought. Property of unknown value was looted and destroyed.

Such events are common place in Kenya, and the scenario may represent what many spectators have witnessed in different parts of the country at different times.

Kenyan football has two distinctive features.  Firstly, it seems to be the only sporting activity in the country which generates riots.

Secondly, while Kenya has distinguished itself as one of the leading athletic nations of the world, in the international arena, the standard of Kenyan football is distressingly low and mediocre.

Many things can be said about the chaotic situation of Kenyan football which continues to be primarily an outlet for pent-up tribal chivalry and rivalry; that personality clashes among its officials have stunted it’s growth; that government has not found a satisfactory formula for supporting it; etc.


But there is one other factor which may also contribute to the riots at football matches and the general low standards of the game in the country: general ignorance of the rules of the game on the part of officials, referees as well as fans.

So when betting firm SportPesa recently suspended their sponsorship with Kenyan Premier League giants Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards over hooliganism, it elicited mixed reactions on social media.

Kenyans took to social media and aired their opinions after the damning announcement was made by an enraged SportPesa CEO Ronald Karauri.

The Kenya Premier League and Football Kenya Federation announced new stringent measures to curb the rising cases of hooliganism involving the two most supported clubs in Kenya.

While many agreed with SportPesa over the suspension, many thought the move was ill advised, a knee jerk reaction that only works in the short term, pedestrian and simply meant to intimidate the two teams.

As I see it, the betting company is justified. There should be no room for hooliganism in football, period.

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