Sunday, July 23, 2023

Eat the old

When I was in high school, I loved Sunday afternoons. We had free time between 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm, and part of that time was spent watching the NBA. The Bulls, the Celtics, the Cavs, the Warriors...I loved all of them. Every other Saturday was reserved for the EPL: Liverpool, Aston Villa, The Spurs...I loved most of it. Thirty years later, I can say, hand on heart, that maybe part of the reason why these leagues were enjoyable is because they dod not have the whiff of serikali about them.

From the moment Daniel Moi intervened in the identities of Kenya's football clubs, little that Government has done to "improve" and "reform" organised sports in Kenya has been a boon for sports or sports federations. The continued global dominance of Kenya's world class long-distance runners is despite the interventions of serikali, not its support. And the shambles of the way Kenyan athletes, if not all sportspersons, are treated at the Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games by Ministry mandarins is proof that more Government intervention in sports' federations equals extreme poor treatment of athletes and their fans.

I can't remember who the last Minister of Sports was that did anything innovative to unleash the talents of the sporting fraternity. I bet that none of you can, unless you are like sports administration savants or something. We have powerfully emotionally redolent memories of sportspersons who brought us to near-tears with their talent: Washington Muhanji and Wilberforce Mulamba forever will bring a lump to my throat when I think of their exploits on the football pitch. We don't have fond, if any, memories of sports ministers or sports administrators. We revile the mandarins in charge of sports. We think of them as villains. They are, collectively, the cartoonishly evil Montgomery Burns of Kenyan sports.

I know that the present generation of sports fans still enjoy watching sports on TV. Where I am sequestered for the moment, a group of young people have extolled the virtues of Steph Curry that perhaps I may admit to myself that my fandom was considerably tame. But equally, save for organised intramural competitions among schools, few, if any, see sports (other than long-distance races) as a viable option. They know that serikali isn't interested in nurturing and protecting their talents. No number of we-will-build-this-that-and-other-stadium promises are expected to come true by Kenya's young people. (Long-distance running doesn't need a stadium, so little, if any, disappointment is feared.)

It looks bleak today when we think of the status of Kenya's sporting talents. Stadia are rotting. Talent development is infested by carpetbaggers, thieves and ne'er-do-wells. But at the top of the ash-heap of mediocrity sit governmental officials with neither the skill, talent, knowledge or motivation to establish frameworks and systems that will allow talents to flourish. Young people are at the mercy of old men with old ideas. I don't know what is to be done save to say, eat the old.

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