Respect for veterans will encourage rising stars
- Now that funds will be collected from betting to boost sports, I beseech you to involve former players, media, sports associations and other stakeholders to come up with a blue print which will take care of athletes and players when they retire
- Lobby Parliament to pass laws so that former athletes/players start getting monthly stipend or ‘malipo ya uzee’ after attaining 50 years, instead of 70
- The fact that Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko funded the team’s preparations for and travel to the Amputee World Cup doesn’t justify their suffering at the hands of our sports authorities
At the weekend, I received an email from Gor Mahia legend David Okello.
Okello played for K’Ogalo in the 1970s, and was in the “Invincibles” side that clinched the Kenyan national league title unbeaten in 1976.
Early that season, Okello broke his leg after a mid-air clash playing against KFA and, despite having recovered in the latter stages of the season to lift the trophy, unbeaten, his game wasn’t the same again. He thus opted to switch careers and has been a good golfer since.
Okello follows Kenyan sport keenly, and I reproduce an appeal he made on behalf of the country’s sports stars via a letter to Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa, which holds a lot of water:
“Ndugu CS Echesa,
Now that funds will be collected from betting to boost sports, I beseech you to involve former players, media, sports associations and other stakeholders to come up with a blue print which will take care of athletes and players when they retire.
The best the national football team did was 1972 in Cameroon during the Africa Cup of Nations.
The team comprised: James Siang’a, Charles Makunda, Jonathan Niva (player/coach), Samson Odore, Dan Anyanzwa, Jackson Aluko, Allan Thigo, John Nyawanga, Steve Yongo, Peter Ouma, Chege Ouma, Daniel Nicodemus "Arudhi" and John Chore.
Out of the entire squad, the following are still alive: John Nyawanga, Allan Thigo and Steve Yongo (who is ailing).
You can do a "one-off” for the three. It will encourage up and coming players. Suggestions:
Reward those who have done duty for over five years. (The period my look short but it is because of the burn out/ risks associated with sports);
Introduce medical insurance;
Lobby Parliament to pass laws so that former athletes/players start getting monthly stipend or ‘malipo ya uzee’ after attaining 50 years, instead of 70.
There has been a fixation with one legend whenever politicians want a photo opportunity.
There is an urgent need for an all-inclusive policy involving all disciplines.
Meanwhile, Okello, in a separate correspondence, also made some brilliant suggestions on issues the ministry needs to address urgently, and these include:
1. Need for harmony/ co-ordination between the sports ministry and different sports bodies;
2. Need for state of the art facilities with every county boasting stadiums which can accommodate most sports disciplines.
3. Talent development. (German coach) Eckhart Krautzun did a good job for Kenya national team and Bernard Zgoll, also a German, did a good job by setting up Olympic Youth Centres.
4. Expose as many former players/athletes to high class training locally and internationally so that they can be used in the grass roots (train the trainer)
5. Lobby the private sector to chip in sports development. They will only contribute if there is accountability and integrity.
“Recognition, payment, setting up hall of fame would not be a tall order,” concludes Okello.
I agree with every suggestion made by the legend, especially in the light of recent developments in Kenyan sport where our stars remain unappreciated.
For instance, granted, Mary Keitany competed and earned prize money at the New York Marathon just over a week ago as an individual, but when she won, it was the Kenyan anthem that was played at Central Park and the country was celebrated.
The fact that she competed as an individual doesn’t warrant the low key reception she received in Nairobi upon her return.
Equally, despite donning ‘Team Sonko’ jerseys — which I found ill-advised — at the Amputee World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico, Kenya’s amputee national team carried the country’s flag high, finishing second among African teams and 12th overall out of 24 nations.
The fact that Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko funded the team’s preparations for and travel to the Amputee World Cup doesn’t justify their suffering at the hands of our sports authorities.
Blame has been shifted back and forth, but every other year, the same problems occur with national teams unleashing their begging bowls before international assignments and blaming lack of government support whenever they return poor results. It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be terminated.
We are closing another year and, hopefully, by now, most of the national federations will have tabled their wish lists to the Ministry of Sports and Heritage for 2019 funding.
Which in itself is an archaic way of running our sports.
In the modern era, national sport should self-finance, rather than rely on the exchequer as Treasury has more pressing needs to deal with, including security, universal healthcare, education and affordable housing.
That’s why it will be interesting to see if the much trumpeted National Sports Fund will eventually take off.
But in Kenya, the more things change, the more they remain the same!
Although I will keep highlighting these issues, I’ve resigned myself to being a pessimist.