A Match Fixing Kenyan Cricketer!? Say it isn’t so…

Some of the more long term fans of Kenyan Cricket will remember the drama which effectively ended the International career of Former Captain, and all rounder Maurice Odumbe, in the early noughties . That saga happened as part of a wider global match fixing investigation was outing big fish such as South Africa’s Hansie Cronje, and India’s Mohammed Azzrahuddin (sp?) et al

Anyway fast forward a decade later and there has been a second global ‘outbreak’ if you will of players accepting inducements to tamper with match results with various convictions (including jail time) handed out to players involved in competitions varying from a Test series between Pakistan and England, through t the Indian Premier League, County Cricket and so on.

There have even been allegations that matches at the 2011 Cricket World Cup (incidentally the last one Kenya qualified for), were affected, with initial suspicion raised over the suspicious number of wides that Kenyan bowlers conceded in their group match against Pakistan, among other things. That particular investigation  ran out of steam but it seems t seems that story itself will not quite die just yet.

say’s Crickets ACSU

Britain’s Daily Mail recently broke a story where among other things a ‘former Kenyan captain’ if fingered in a conspiracy to fix games at that World Cup, from a leaked ICC Anti Corruption Special Unit (ACSU) Probe.

 Thanks to the revelations, the 2010 ODI series between Bangladesh and Zimbabwe fell on ACSU’s radar. These matches were the topic of discussion between JS, a former Kenya captain and a Zimbabwe-based bookie for over five months. More than a 115 calls were made, allegedly to fix matches.

The above quote is the relevant bit for Kenyan cricket in the Daily Mail story. Given that Kenya has a long list of ‘former captains’ very much still active in the game, many still playing, this cat amongst the pigeons is surely not the kind of revelation that the game needs now, never mind at any time.

Anyway lets wait and see if this goes anywhere

Money! Money! Money!

If we had a little money!So goes the popularly 1970s Swedish rock band ABBA. Something is going down at Cricket Kenya, and its connected to the way they handle their money.

The Story in question, which to tell you is simple a cut paste job of a Facebook post by a more connected cricket stakeholder, indicates that there are some serious rumblings over the revenue that Cricket Kenya is raking in thanks to the East Africa Premier League and Cup Competitions

Consider this. For a long time the official narrative for why the game of cricket is still well…a niche sport is the absence of resources to do a proper expansion of the game


Well , if the rumblings of these stakeholders are to be believed, then Cricket Kenya, don’t have ‘a little money,’ they are bloody drowning in it!

So where is it all going? My best best is that most is swallowed up in salaries and Central contracts and so on, but is only a best guess based on the few tit bits that Cricket Kenya actually releases.

In that Vacuum the ‘stakeholders’ come out and make ruckus about their rights and so on and  ultimately the game is the big loser, as we Kenyans know what ‘Stakeholders’ are all about?

Anyway, there is an annual general meeting coming up where the usual tug of war between ‘stakeholders’ and board members will happen, and we will very likely end up where we started, despite there being plenty of voices calling for a more reasoned and practical approach.

I means seriously the East African Competitions, all sorts of ICC and corporate funds, are directed to the board to build a game of international repute and to date it hasn’t happened isn’t it time the bickering stopped and the growth began?


Kenya XV’s Latest Adventure

By Now you have probably heard. In fact as I write this blog, the boys should already be knee deep into their 1st match of the pool stage. Kenya XVs quest for progress and relevance has taken them to Cape Town, where they will be contesting the Vodacom Cup as the Tusker Simba XV

This is the latest of numerous interventions done with the dream of Kenya making her maiden appearance at the Rugby World Cup. Or at least show some of the breakthroughs that have been witnessed at the more successful 7s national team.

There have been several promises to bring over 2nd tier nations from Europe and South America that did not work out. There was the Elgon Cup, which grew into the Victoria Cup before collapsing in  heap. There has also been the on off participation in the Junior World rugby TrophyThis was t the international level

At the club level there is the Bamburi Rugby Super Series, which goes from strength to strength, as well as efforts to grow the kenya Cup-Eric Shirley Shield and the Enterprise Cup.

All these driven by the quest to get the XVs team to catch up with with the level of growth that the Sevens lads have seen.

This intervention, on the other hand is a whole different approach. The Vodacom Cup is a South African Competitiobn that as far as I know is essentially a finishing school fro Rugby players en route to the wonderful world of Super Rugby, Tri-Nations and all the glory that goes with it.

The gist of Kenya’s participation, is that the several week of grueling competition will prepare the team mentally and cohesionally (hiyo ni neno?) to finally pip Namibia to that Africa slot. Is this a long term thing or a once off entry?

I guess we will find out with time. Meanwhile I should be googleing scores, no?

Devolving Football? What Sofapaka and Tusker FC’s moves portend

Kenya’s 2014 premier league season starts imminently and aside from the usual ins and out, there have been two moves, or rather two incidences of a move that have struck as different. Over the Sofapaka Football Club, Mathare United and Tusker FC will be opening the season in new locations. The  formely Nairobi based,  Mathare United, Sofapaka, a shifted base to Machakos , and Tusker set out to move to Meru. The Tusker Move not beingwithout its controversies. The Stadium move being stalled first of all by KPL declaring the proposed Kinoru Stadium venue unfit to host premier League matches, only for FKF to interfere and muddy the waters further

Why did these clubs make (or set out to make)there moves? This post won’t attempt to give a ‘comprehensive’ answer to this but here are some hypotheses. Firstly, Its likely the two clubs did this because of market forces. Over the part decade, Tusker and Sofapaka have between them won more trophies than pretty much everybody else in the Kenya Premier League, yet in hue crowded field of Nairobi football, hearts and minds still very much belong to to Ingwe and K’Ogalo.

What do these moves mean for Kenyan football?  Without pretending to offer a ‘comprehensive’ answer here are a bunch of hypotheses that I figured come into play.

Firstly, the two clubs are seeking new markets to grow their brands. Tusker FC is the third most successful football club in Kenya outright, and in the past decade or so and could very well have  closed out other teams in terms of success on the field had a revival of corporate interest in the tow big community clubs (AFC and Gor) not happened when it did. Yet what do they have to show in terms of a fan base.  To the best of this blogger’s knowledge their games continue to get minimal gate attendances and for an institution with all the financial backing that Tusker has, that just ain’t right!

Sofapaka, and Mathare United on the other hand are new kids on the block. Sofapaka backed by the flamboyant Elly Kalekwa, and Mathare Unieted by the MYSA. They have taken the league by storm, and though they have better crowds than Tusker, they too seem to have found that,  the hearts and minds of most Nairobi football fans seemingly belong firmly to either Ingwe or K’Ogalo. So what do these teams do? Move I suppose.

What is the way forward For Tusker and Sofapaka?
What is the way forward For Tusker, Mathare and Sofapaka?

On the other hand why Machakos and  Meru and not say…Uasin Gishu and Murang’a ( hoe county of Kenneth Matiba, the founder of Tusker FC)? This blogger understands that the county governments in question were more than passive participants in the football clubs’ respective moves? What is in it for them

This blogger reckons that its not just prestige, but the possibility of drawing attention to use the teams as a centre-point to develop sports and cultural activities is what convinced Governor Mutua of Machakos, and Governor Munya of Meru to act on this opportunity.

Which benefits to they intend to harvest from this? Will the football clubs start developing local footballers for use their Premier League and continental assignments? Will the exposure on Super Sport TV draw interest to the wider opportunities that these counties have to offer?This blogger certainly hopes so.

NB: This post has been updated to reflect the controversy revolving around the Kinoru Stadium in Meru.

The Future is Now, whether Kenyan Cricket likes it or not

The streak is over. Kenya’s longest streak of consecutive world cup appearances in any sport is over. In failing to secure passage to the 2015 Cricket World Cup, something we had started taking for granted, Kenyan cricket has lost a platform to really market the game on the global stage. Kenya has also fallen out of the privileged group of ICC Associates whose national team games were accorded ODI status. The boys fought to the bitter end, only losing their ODI status on the third to last delivery of the last over of the final game against Scotland.

What are the implications? In the immediate term, there are a whole bunch of grants that Cricket Kenya will no longer be entitled to on account of not being in the World Cup. The loss of ODI status means loss of access and profile for the games that Kenya does play which means those reluctant sponsors might just become even more reluctant to put their identity with Kenya’s national team. It also means that Irfan Karim, Duncan Allan, and Alex Obanda,   co’s talents will remain Kenya’s little secret for the foreseeable future, thus it will be that much harder for them to land those pro contracts which make the time and opportunities they have sacrificed to be Kenya’s national cricket team worthwhile.

The only consolation is that by at least making it into the super 6 stage of the World Cup qualifiers, Kenya probably still has the Intercontinental Cup (or whatever the ICC’s ongoing overhaul will replace it with) to look forward to

Where does Kenya go from here?  This blogger feels that at least at the admin end they should already know the answer. If they don’t perhaps they should borrow a leaf from one or two the teams <a cough>Papua New Guinea</a> for inspiration. Nepal is one of the teams that will be taking over the opportunity ODI status for the next four years that the likes of Kenya squandered. Start getting serious about making cricket national sport, build real partnerships with the neighbouring full members (akin to the arrangement that PNG had with Australia) and if I haven’t mentioned it before, get serious about taking the game out of the members clubs and into schools colleges and perhaps even the disciplined forces. I mean imagine how appropriate it would be for Kenya to give the world a team named Armed Forces Cricket Club?

I digress. The important thing is that for Kenya to come out of this low, the model of old must be tossed out, and a new one constructed in its place.

Cricket Kenya’s Alamo

In the year 1836, a battle was fort between American settlers and Mexican settlers over a fort in what is now

This commemorative coin, marking 100 years sin...
This commemorative coin, marking 100 years since Texas declared independence from Mexico, includes the phrase “Remember the Alamo”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

modern day Texas. Though the odds were against them , and in due course  they Americans lost what has now gone down in history as ‘The Battle of the Alamo‘ the outpouring support and the subsequent revenge mission is a big part not only in the US acquiring what is now its largest state geographically (Texas), and a massive part of the pride that residents of that state have in who they are to this day.

History aside all intents and purposes this qualifying edition is as important to the fate of Kenya’s national team as the said battle of the Alamo. In early January, Kenya’s youngest national captain will be leading Kenya’s national team. As i have pointed out in other posts, the outcome of Kenya’s attempts to qualify for this world cup will be felt, not just on the pitch but in the ability of Cricket Kenya to grow the game in the country.

So who has been tasked with the duty of making it happen? (world cup qualification) This is the list I have seen going around on social media:Rakep Patel (captain), Ragheb Aga, Duncan Allan, Irfan Karim, Shem Ngoche, Alex Obanda, Collins Obuya, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Nelson Odhiambo, Thomas Odoyo, Lameck Onyango, Elijah Otieno, Morris Ouma, Steve Tikolo, and Hiren Varaiya

What is surprising about this squad, is not so much who was selected, but who wasn’t. In terms of changes from the last squad (from the T20 World Cup Qualifiers) Lameck Onyango has been brought out of retirement, and Steve Tikolo is doubling up as interim head coach. Ignored were, Lucas Oluoch (a left arm fast medium bowler in pretty good form as I hear), Dominic Wesonga (an all rounder), and Tanmay Mishra (currently holder of the highest ODI batting average of all Kenyans) among others.

All three’s cricket careers have developed during the existence of Cricket Kenya, and their being overlooked (particularly Mishra over some small spat they should reasonably have gotten over by now) is worrying. Nevertheless, this squad must put all this aside for the moment and find a way to finish among the top two nations at the World Cup qualifiers,and hope that the result can reverberate in the same positive way that the Alamo did for Texas.

The Rise and Rise of Rakep, and Other Stories

This blogger has heard it on the grapevine that Rakep Rajendra Patel, is set to be confirmed as the captain o the Kenya men’s national cricket team. The Top Order bowler slash part time off spin bowler slash back up wicket keeper has been in the national team since 2007 is  be taking over the captaincy from Collins Obuya, who had been captain of the team since 2011

Cricket Kenya Logo
Cricket Kenya Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I believe (though not 100%) that at just over 24 years old Rakep has become the youngest person to be handed the reins of the national cricket. The next youngest (as far as my memory tells me) being when a 25 year old Maurice Odumbe was asked to captain Kenya’s team to the 1996 Cricket World Cup.

I feel, that circumstances aside, his appointment represents a unique opportunity for the national team to take a new direction under a person, hopefully for the betterment of the team as a whole.

Mind you this is not Rakep’s first ever significant captaincy assignment, as he has a back ground of captaining Kenya’s U19 national team, the EAPL franchises Kanbis Tigers and Express Ndovu as well as being a leading light in the Kanbis ‘A’ team that has pretty much dominated the NPCA leagues this past decade.

In addition to that, with former Kenya captains: Collins Obuya, Morris Ouma, Thomas Odoyo, Ragheb Aga, and possibly Steve Tikolo active and available for selection, he will not lack for a ‘council of elders’ to harvest input from

His immediate task is to rally the team to get one of the last two slots for the 2015 Cricket world Cup in Australia and New Zealand, that will be contested in New Zealand early next year. What is on the line is not just a 6th consecutive appearance on the biggest stage in world cricket for Kenya’s men’s team, but access to a bunch of grants and credits which are presently the largest source of steady funding for Cricket Kenya as a organization.  They will pretty much be playing for their livelihoods there.

This will not be easy given Kenya won only 4 of the 10 matches against the teams they will be facing in New Zealand, in the earlier  stages of the qualifiers.

Nonetheless, he can take heart that they did beat Ireland, who booked an early ticket to said world cup by winning the WCL league, fairly convincingly, so the ability is there.

In conclusion this blogger assumes that the appointment  of Rakep Patel is made with the long term in mind. let us hope that it goes well. GOOD LUCK TO YOU RAKEP!

About Kenya’s Football Factories

Right now I am in the middle of a coffee buzz. possibly the best thing in the world to inspire writing. Anyway, I read this article on the rise and fall of a certain famous, and storied German Football club and it got me thinking. How does the state of Kenya’s leading football clubs reflect on the state of Kenya’s Harambee Stars and the wider state of Kenyan football?
Many writings I’ve seen that address this issue of Kenyan football history will immediately rush to recall the glory days of the 198os as though they were some kind of footballing ‘garden of Eden’ from whence we are now forever banished. But why?
It is true that this period was one which Kenyan Soccer hit new heights. At least in the men’s game. Harambee Stars were finalists in the All Africa Games gold in 1987, three consecutive CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup trophies, and even qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations 1988 edition (a tournament which stood out becuase in that year it was for only 8 of Africa’s best football nations).
How did Kenya’s premier football clubs Gor Mahia and AFC Leopard do in that season? Very well actually. They were winning the CECAFA club championship with regularity, both made semifinals appearances in Continental Club competitions, with Gor Mahia winning the Mandela Cup in 1987. So how are these successes connected to one another?
Except for a brief period in the 1970s, the football academies that are the centre of the article I mentioned at the start of this piece, have not been a central part of Kenyan football clubs source talent. Indeed, aside from Mathare United, this bloggers is not aware of a top level football club that directly controls a football value chain, all the way from when their are in their early teens to when they finally graduate into the senior ranks as is common with the above mentioned football club as in the case in most of Europe.
Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards historically sourced their players from networks of football clubs in their ‘hinterlands’ and in today’s KPL, it is becoming customary for these two teams, together with Sofapaka, and Tusker FC, to cynically poach the best performing players of their rival clubs from the previous season, as though these teams were nothing more than academies for them.
But I digress, if you look closely at the past, you will notice, that an overwhelming majority of the players that were at the heart of those 1980s Gor Mahia, AFC Leopards, and from there Harambee Stars, had been seasoned (if you will) through working out in a series of Olympic football centres set up by a German coach by the name Bernard Zgoll in the 1970s. these centres used to scout regional teams, and bring in the boys they felt were going somewhere, and then expose them to the highest brand of technical training available in the land. these players would then transit to the big football clubs and from their into the history books.
When Mr Zgoll left, his Olympic centres died, and it was not until Mathare United became that upstart Nationwide league team, which insisted on embarrassing AFC Leopards at Moi Golden Cup Finals, did the concept of specialist football academies come back into the football mainstream in Kenya.
Mind you this article is not about fetishizing football academies in particular, because as I have stated earlier, AFC Leopards, and Gor Mahia, were quite good without directly controlling football academies and in any case, even with their football academy, nowadays Mathare United see to merely existing in the Kenya Premier League rather that trying to win any kind of accolades on the field.
The real loss, if you put the fancy football academies to one side, is the breakdown of the traditional, feeder clubs that community based teams used to partner with as talent identifiers on the ground, because to be honest, even these academies like JMJ and the like also need to get their raw talent from somewhere.
Right now, what amounts to a squad the best of Kenya’s locally based footballers plus filler, are contesting the CECAFA challenge Cup, against the best local talent from across the region. They might very well win. They were finalists in last year’s edition and we are hosting the event. However, how much refining have the gems in today’s Harambee Stars before hitting the big time, compared to the Harambee Stars squads of the 80s? Is it any wonder that the current Harambee Stars always seem to hit a brick wall when trying to turn the occasional big win, or surprise draw into a successful World cup qualification?
I’m not going to pretend that I have concrete answers to these things, but wouldn’t bringing a bit of that old 1980s preparation back into the Harambee Stars supply chain help, because simply shelling out for an expensive coach to make a scape goat out of when that brick wall gets hit isn’t working

Kenya miss world cup again

Another round of qualifiers for the ICC is done and Kenya’s is once again one of the teams who came up short. The 6 slots set aside for associates at said World Cup were taken up by Ireland, Afghanistan, Nepal, Hong Kong, United Arab Emirates, and The Netherlands. Kenya finished 11th out of 16 with 3 wins and 4 losses at the group stage and a playoff win over Canada.

At the end of the day even the last minute return of Steve Tikolo and Thomas Odoyo did not do enough to bridge the growing gap between Kenya and some of the top associates, that have moved from strength to strength since the ICC launched a formal development program for non full members in the noughties.

In the short term the national team has to pick itself up and try fight for the last two of four world cup slots, in the 50 over version of the game, which will be contested in New Zealand in February. Too much is at stake for Kenya to risk missing that world cup, or even lose their One Day international status, which will also be at decided at the New Zealand qualifiers

However, there is something to be said about about the long term actions that can be done, or should begin to take in the wake of Kenya’s missing yet another world cup. Some of which I have highlighted on this blog , and have likely been advocated by numerous other stakeholders. However as things stand all that could be moot if Cricket Kenya lose the funding they receive from the International Cricket Council’s High Performance Programme.

This blog is to push discussion and debate about sports and sports people in Kenya

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