Unfinished projects and everything in between

A week ago, perusing through a newspaper, a small picture caught my eye. Showing an athletics coach marking a ground for the training of athletes. I would have let it pass but the caption was longer than that. Its a ground within a school, yes, a school and athletes have taken it upon themselves to mark the ground and donate soil for levelling of the ground. All this, contributed by the delays in the renovation of Kamariny Stadium in Iten, Elgeyo-Marakwet County, much more infuriating is that cash has already being allocated for the project. Almost typical, or just a classic one.

I never understand what happens when the money is available and has being availed to the relevant authorities already. Then you hear such cases of cash allocated being wasted by the county government. Officials getting to enjoy the money supposed to build such mega structures as stadia, and they give no explanation and the general public is left in the dark as to what is going on. Contractors who had already pitched camp for months are left idle and they have to be paid compensation for the lack of work. Its occurring much nearer where I am in Ngong Stadium which has stalled for about three years now.

It is in such views that I would like to recommend to the Cabinet Secretary in charge of Sports, Arts and Culture, Rashid Echesa that he and his ministry set up a strategy that would see that all planned construction of stadia around the country, working in tandem with the CECs in charge of the same docket, to makes sure that moneys allocated to such like projects are done well. That would require serious commitment and follow up, which should be as regular as possible. That means the CS, should sit down with all CECs, 47 of them and have a dialogue about what projects are ongoing or are being planned on to go on, as far as sports is concerned.

It’s not a, b,c , it’s not 1, 2,3 but neither is it rocket science. If we have to be at the top in making sure that projects in the country are started and finished successfully, then a structured system must be set in place and adopted. This is one of them. We do know that CECs are under governors, and therefore, governors might instead be called in to discuss on the projects that they are concentrating on and what allocations they have have and might need for their next budgets if what is at hand is not enough. It is a bad show when a project is started, or is to be started and won’t be finished. I am glad we are in the devolution era, which has had its fair share of ups and downs, and will continue but improvement is what should be aimed for at the end of the day.

That said, the notion that needs to seriously be moved from is, that projects in sports such as stadia and other necessary facilities should be worked on when we are to host a tournament that has international teams and clubs in it. Isn’t it ironical that projects being worked on now, are being done in preparation for the IAAF Under-20 tournament next year July? Same thing we occasioned in 2017, tried for the CHAN 2018, which we failed to host due to unpreparedness. Now, it is key to remember that, we do have other tournaments in the nation, KPL, NSL, Kenya Cup for Rugby, you got athletics championships around different counties almost every week. Aren’t this enough to make stadia and facilities necessary for hosting of such be complete and in good time?

Local championships are just as important as international tournaments that occur in the country and that needs emphasis. We have less local grounds that are up to standards worthy of hosting the first tier league in the country, KPL. That should be a cause for concern and action. I already suggested clubs could really benefit in working with county governments to have stadia in the counties be used by them as their home-grounds for a whole season or as they agree in contract with counties. I will also suggest, the Ministry Of Sports, Arts and Culture, work with the private sector in understanding what needs to be done in order to appeal to the private sector some more . That would open a bigger avenue for private-public partnerships which would see many other facilities that are not currently in sports in the country, put in place.

This is just what I feel and think will be necessary going forward for sporting facilities that are being constructed currently.

Professionalism in sports for Kenya

Just this past year, we as country, an athletics powerhouse, launched a new laboratory to try and curb the menace that had dogged us for years. Doping. It does not look to serve only us, but the rest of the region as well. Quite a moment to be happy, a moment to be glad that we do not have to fly out, all the way to South Africa or Europe for samples of blood to be tested.

Its a quite honorary step to bring professionalism into sports. 21st Century it is, but we are worlds apart compared to Europe, America and Asia. Why? The question of professionalism has never being more fundamental than it is now even as we seek to take and see, our sports reach to that next level across the whole continent if not the region and country.

Professionalism is defined as a way of doing a job showing great skills and experience, according to the Oxford dictionary. Translating that to sports would mean that sporting federations, the ministry in charge of sports as well as their counterparts in county governments in the form of CEC’s and corporates should possess this. The know how of how to not only run sports administration but as well, addressing challenges in the best way possible. Athletics Kenya did a good one in partnering with Lancet Group of Laboratories in East Africa to have this project initiated and it passed the test to have it up and running.

With this, we could promote equality in sporting competition and culture really well. We can halt the doping menace not only in athletics but in all sports as well as we have the capability, proven by us being permitted by WADA. That said, the success of such a laboratory in the country would be really a thing that we will have to watch and pray that no scandals, will dog its progress in the near future.

For other federations, the question has always being about the adoption of a more transparent and accountable method of administration in sports. If there has being a thing that has drugged as down for a long time now, it is corruption. Even in doping, it is corruption. All around money or objects changing hands illegally.

That said, we should remember that a lot of money goes into supporting sporting activities in the country, whether be it supporting travelling teams, organizing tournaments within the country or just having to run the federations in day to day activities. Yet, sadly, even what is given is not enough. Even more sad, is that the people entrusted with this mere resources plunder it through wastage and questions are raised about it.

We will remember that the Auditor General raised questions about, the use of the Kes.3.5 Billion given during the IAAF Under 18 World Championship hosted here in Nairobi back in 2017 July. According to the concerns raised, almost more than half of that, Kes. 1.7 billion, could not be accounted for by the Ministry. Maybe, and just maybe, that’s why the government would just be giving less and less towards the Ministry to control on the appetite of wastage and greed that may have being occasioned from them.

Last but not least, it should be extended in the hosting of hosting of sporting events in the country. Yes, we have being able to host a number of tournaments such as CECAFA, IAAF under 18 that we are now entrusted with IAAF Under 20 tournament next year in July. Haven’t heard a thing about the progress of preparations so far but the last minute rush to prove that work is ongoing is a culture that must stop. It cost us the chance to host the CHAN tournament last year, and if not careful, might cost us even more in the future.

Failing to host CHAN, whose hosting rights we were granted back in 2013, is quite a painful reminder of how important it is, to prepare much earlier. We got a lot of learning to do from the past mistakes which could translate to a much better professional approach in sports in the country, region and the continent as a whole. Of course, I have not gone into all aspects of where professionalism is needed in our sports, but the ones above, are a few areas I felt are critical to address.

Light at the end of the tunnel

We are at a time in our country’s politics where youth empowerment is a topic that dominates political propaganda but when it comes to implementation, well, look no further than the President’s recent apppointment to head the Sports, Arts and Social Development fund: 91-year-old Moody Awori. NINETY-ONE-YEAR-OLD. The man is literally older than the sovereignity of our country!

The irony of the appointment is depressing to put it mildly. This appointment spits in the faces of Kenyan youth and quite frankly highlights the blatant disregard in which our sports and arts are held. The appointee himself has no credible record to which he can be backed by in either field and the President’s remarks concerning his appointment seem to raise more questions than answers.

How hard can it truly be for our President, considering all the resources at his disposal, to setup a competent team of professionals to carry out interviews for the said office and determine a suitable candidate who can lead our sports and arts in a NEW direction? Was it really that hard to find a single Kenyan with enough experience in the said fields to warrant the said appointment? Why did he go even further to suggest that our youth are not to be trusted with public funds l? Why is it that we always seem to take two steps back(or in this case ninety one) whenever we seem to be heading in the right direction?

This is really painful to take when we consider what the private sector has done to promote the arts and sports in what are tough economical conditions and the blatant neglect that has become part and parcel of our public service. The same people that our president has accussed of incompetence are the people who go out of their way to provide sufficient platforms for our youth to express themselves in the said fields and receive a stable supply of income.

Privately organised tournaments like Extreme Super 8 soccer tournament have provided such platforms. The competition consists of a three-tier annual grassroots soccer leagues that accomodates about 2,500 footballers under the age of 25 providing an ample environment for them to showcase their skills to potential suitors and scouts.

Green Sports Africa is another private entity that is working towards bridging the gap between talent and opportunity for our youth in soccer. Not only have they successfully held various soccer tournaments but they also have a good soccer academy that aims to nurture well-disciplined, competitive athletes.

Similar endeavours in other sports are desperately needed in the pursuit of growth of our sports and arts but unfortunately for us the government has proved to us once again that it cannot be relied upon for change. The importance of the role that we as the private sector has to play cannot be understated. By all means possible we should support endeavours like the above mentioned by turning out in support of such tournaments because they are all aimed at the betterment of OUR community and that is what should count the most. Only this way shall there be light at the end of the tunnel.