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Is It True That Kenyan Sportsmen And Sportswomen Are Neglected?

How many Kenyan school certificate holders and Kenyan diploma holders continue to face harsh times, and who is holding brief for them, in the same way that Kenyan media continues to hold brief for “neglected Kenyan sportsmen and sportswomen?”

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Image| Freepik

By Michael Mundia Kamau

I refer to story published on page 2 of the “Sunday Nation” of 12th May 2024, titled “Grace to grass: Former Harambee Stars defender now charcoal seller.”

Strictly speaking, no Kenyan sportsman or sportswoman, is owed anything by any Kenyan, and it is time that Kenyan media became much more objective in coverage about how we Kenyans, “neglect” Kenyan sportsmen and sportswomen, when they retire, Kenyan sportsmen and sportsmen who brought “big honour and pride” to our country, when they were active.

Sport is business, big business, and sportsmen and sportswomen around the world, including Kenyan sportsmen and sportswomen, are among the most well paid and well remunerated members of society.

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Kenyan sportsmen and sportswomen are very well travelled around the world, stay at the best hotels in the world when on “national duty,” and get paid very attractive allowances while on “national duty” outside the country. For example, a scandal involving the misappropriation of approximately 200 million Kenya shillings, by the Kenyan contingent to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, is still pending, is yet to be resolved.

The struggles of the common man and common woman in Kenya, are not the struggles of elite Kenyan sportsmen and sportswomen.

When will a Kenyan “mama mboga” ever board an aircraft destined for America, Saudi Arabia or Australia, and stay at the best hotels in America, Saudi Arabia or Australia, when she gets there?

When will a Kenyan “boda boda” rider ever board an aircraft destined for Brazil, India or Denmark, and stay at the best hotels in Brazil, India or Denmark, when he or she gets there?

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When will a Kenyan “mkokoteni” pusher ever board an aircraft destined for Ireland, Papua New Guinea or Singapore, and stay at the best hotels in Ireland, Papua New Guinea or Singapore, when he or she gets there?

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Numerous disillusioned Kenyans continue to bank their hopes on five year election cycles, that will “hopefully,” bring “a better Kenyan Government” or that will “hopefully,” bring “better Kenyan leaders,” as elite Kenyan sportsmen and sportswomen continue travelling the world and continue winning gold medals “for Kenya.” Continue winning gold medals “for Kenya,” or winning gold medals for themselves?

Strictly speaking actually, winning a gold medal is like attaining a school certificate or a diploma, is a personal accomplishment, to be proud of, yes, but not a “National Kenyan Accomplishment.”

How many Kenyan school certificate holders and Kenyan diploma holders continue to face harsh times, and who is holding brief for them, in the same way that Kenyan media continues to hold brief for “neglected Kenyan sportsmen and sportswomen?”

The Government of Kenya’s 4th President, Uhuru Kenyatta, placed an emphasis on the development of elite sporting facilities around Kenya, and the Government of Kenya’s 5th President, William Ruto, is following in these very footsteps.

In an ironic and tragic sense, if both Governments had placed a greater emphasis on societal programs, rather than the development of elite sporting facilities, there would have been no catastrophes as witnessed with the ongoing rains and flooding in Kenya.

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It is meaningless for “highly educated Kenyan geologists” to now emerge and tell us about “fissures,” how they could have been addressed, and how addressing them, could have averted the catastrophes linked to the ongoing flooding in Kenya.

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Joe Kadenge (1935 to 2019) belongs to a generation of Kenyan football players who brought “glory” to Kenya in the 1950s and 1960s, in the days of what was known as the Gossage Cup. Joe Kadenge was very travelled, travelled to many places in the world that the majority of us never will.

Joe Kadenge was also privileged to have held senior managerial positions in his time, such as Sales Manager of Coca Cola Kenya, and Sales Manager of Six Eighty Hotel, Nairobi, Kenya, in the days when Sales Managers were highly revered and highly regarded, and in the days too, that Coca Cola Kenya, and Six Eighty Hotel, were highly revered, highly regarded, and highly prestigious.

It was surprising therefore, to read that Joe Kadenge was “one among several neglected Kenyan sportsmen and sportswomen,” soon before he passed away in 2019. Kenya’s president at the time, Uhuru Kenyatta, even came to the “rescue” of Joe Kadenge, which Uhuru Kenyatta really should not have done, because there were, and are, millions of Kenya, much more deserving of assistance. How many Kenyans, past and present, will ever have the opportunities that Joe Kadenge had?

The mismatch between elite Kenyan sportsmen and sportswomen, and the common man and common woman in Kenya, is no doubt one of the reasons why all sports venues in Kenya today, are virtually empty, even when “big games” and “big matches” are being played, and this applies to all sports in Kenya today. Who cares?

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For example, in the 1970s and 1980s in Kenya, when two of the biggest football clubs of those times would meet, namely Abaluhyia Football Club (today AFC Leopards), and Gor Mahia Football Club, other than the venue being packed to full capacity, “overflowing capacity” actually, a good part of the rest of Kenya would also be closely following on radio. When Abaluhyia Football Club (today AFC Leopards), and Gor Mahia Football Club met in those days, it was like some sort of “public holiday” in Kenya.

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However, with the high levels of disillusionment and incongruence in Kenya today in the year 2024, even if the common man or common woman may have disposable income on him or her, of say, 100 Kenya shillings, or 200 Kenya shillings, rather than he or she “supporting Kenyan sport” and/or “supporting Kenyan sportsmen and sportswomen,” he or she would rather spend it on alcohol, or something of that nature, watch a Nigerian movie, watch pornography on the internet, or watch pornography saved on a device.

Kenyan sport needs to be overhauled and transformed, for it to win back the goodwill and following of the Kenyan people.

The people of Kenya too, need to stop being pontificated to by the Kenyan media, about how Kenyans have “neglected” Kenyan sportsmen and sportswomen, past and present, the example above of Joe Kadenge, standing out prominently, on how Kenyan sportsmen and sportswomen, past and present, have far from been “neglected.”

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