Prime Minister manages to reinvigorate Kenyan patriotism that is reminiscent to the 2002 NARC dream
Through the personal intervention of Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the circus that has been Kenyan football seems to be on its way to sanity and recovery.
Raila has in the space of only one month (something that the GNU/PNU government could not do in five years) managed to have the stars back to winning ways and consequently also given the sharply divided Kenyan population what is, in my opinion, the single most important unifying factor since the disastrous elections in 2007. While some ethnic chauvinist and rookie politicians refuse to accept the reality that the PM did this country a big favour when he accepted to drop political demands and is now in an equitable partnership in the coalition government, the youth of this country have found a national bond in sports and are rallying behind the national team and the prime minister – whose name, together with that of Senator Obama and Oliech, they chanted whenever Oliech raced towards the Zimbabwean defence last Saturday. The red-hot Dennis Oliech put Kenya on the road to a World Cup and African Nations cup qualification on Saturday with an 88th minute goal against the Warriors of Zimbabwe. Oliech’s goal two minutes from the final whistle plus a 12th minute goal scored by MacDonald Mariga took Kenya to a 2-0 victory over the Zimbabweans. Oliech ended the game as stand-in goalkeeper after Origi was stretchered off with a knee injury. Kenya are now at the top of their group with six points.
It is no secret, but the hottest ticket in any man’s wallet in Nairobi today is not a ticket to the movies and what-have-you but a ticket (and a miniature Kenyan flag) to watch any of the Harambee Stars matches. Tickets to these matches are selling-out two days before D-day and crowds are filling the 30,000 capacity Nyayo Stadium hours before kick-off. While it is clear the PM and the country has moved on from Kivuitu’s antics, it is a pity some politicians still want to play power games humiliating the PM in have been caught flat footed and are a busy criticizing the Prime Minister for accepting to be installed as a Gikuyu elder.
Even more importantly, and in accordance with the ODM manifesto, the recent grand coalition government budget allocated Kshs. 1 million to each of the country’s 210 constituencies for development of soccer and purchase of sporting goods. During his recent trip to Germany for an eye surgery, Raila not only met Sepp Blatter (FIFA President) whom he convinced to allow him (Raila) time to sort out the mess in management of soccer, he also had the German government pledge to support the stars by way of supplying technical support to KFF, even if it meant seconding a qualified coach to head the stars technical bench. A similar pledge was made recently when Raila met South African President Thabo Mbeki during the World Economic Forum in Cape Town. No doubt the PM, himself a former player with disbanded premier league side Luo Union, having recognized the importance of sports in economic development and has made it his business to give hope to the youth of this country through sports.
During his meeting with Mbeki, Raila also managed to set up a crucial appointment for Sports Minister Hellen Sambili. The minister will this week be visiting South Africa where she will attend a summit in Durban which will strategize on how Africa can explore the many socio-economic benefits arising out of soccer. This good news was delivered to media through a news dispatch from the Prime Minister's Press Service in which Raila said Sambili would also visit Johannesburg to meet South African government officials and the National World Cup Committee to explore better cooperation, technical assistance and sponsorships. Additionally, and in what will sound like sweet music to rural communities who have no access to pay channels DSTV or GTV, Raila also revealed that South African government will provide giant screens for 2010 World Cup live matches to urban centres in Kenya. Details of this arrangement will be handled by KFF.
It is hard to imagine that just early May 2008, the country was staring at the prospects of an indefinite football sanction when World soccer governing body, FIFA, angered by the a court ruling barring KFF officials, gave the country a 72-hour ultimatum to rescind the move or face a total ban. This was after the High Court in Nairobi kicked out the KFF executive led by Mohammed Hatimy for being in office illegally. High Court Judge, Justice Hatari Waweru, ruling in a suit filed by the faction led by Sam Nyamweya that had demanded the removal of the Hatimy group, said Hatimy and his group were "strangers" who were in office illegally. The court ruled that the Hatimy group, which enjoys the backing and recognition of FIFA, could not be entrusted with running the federation. "Football is a serious sport in this country and it cannot be left in the hands of strangers," he said, technically giving the Government-recognized Nyamweya team the mandate to manage the sport. But FIFA Secretary-General, Jerome Valcke, in a letter to Hatimy, accused the Nyamweya group of "colluding with a former sports minister (read PNU’s Maina Kamanda) to orchestrate the crisis in the federation to maintain their control of Kenyan football". Last week, the High Court, on receiving Hatimy’s appeal and recognising the folly of antagonizing FIFA, overturned its own ruling and reverted the management of soccer to the Hatimy group as per the KFF constitution and FIFA statutes which provide for elaborate mechanisms of dispute resolution and even bar football officials from recourse to courts of law.
The prestigious FIFA World Cup is due to take place in South Africa and for the first time ever on the continent in the year 2010. All African countries have their sights set on sending a team to this event, and indeed all of us have a patriotic duty to drop the politics and support the PM in his efforts to ensuring Harambee Stars qualify for this event. This may sound like a dream to many people out there, but I have every confidence that Harambee Stars may just surprise you!