FIFA Mirrors Life? Or a Blogger Seeing Their Own Things


It has been more than weeks since that spectacle of football called the FIFA World Cup took over, not just our television screens, but most of our social lives as well. Whether or not you are into football (at one point known as sokker by the New York Times) the ongoing World Cup has been just, everywhere you turn.

Anyway, I am a football fan, and I was digesting the exit of Nigeria and Algeria, from the competition at the first knockout level, it struck me that when seen from a certain angle, the level of performance of a nation’s football teams can be a mirror into the wider issues of how well (or badly) that nation gets things done. I am not talking just plain score lines here. I am referring to things such as squad selections, match preparedness, even dispute resolutions

Stay with me here as I run through some parallels. Let us take Nigeria for example. They have been one of the more exciting to watch African teams at any FIFA World Cup with several second round exits to show for it. They are a large footballing nation with lots of raw talent that was one of the first nations which the European leagues started to really scour with their talent scouts.

 

 

Many of the national teams’ players have been playing in Europe since their teens. On the other hand, since its independence Nigeria has been one of Africa’s more resource rich countries with big multinationals like Shell moving into to pump crude oil out of the country and the import it back as refined petroleum products. Where’s the connection there. Oil goes out crude, comes back refined, footballer goes out raw and untrained talent, comes back a professional.

Here’s another parallel that got me thinking. Since the 1990 edition, the World Cup has steadily been increasing the number of teams that participate in its finals tournament. The main beneficiaries have been Africa and Asia, whose allotted number of places has gone up from 1 each (I think) to 5 and 4 places respectively.

Let us take a look at what teams from these continents have done with these slots. In 1990, Africa had Cameroon’s miracle run to the quarterfinals, while all of Asia’s representatives got drummed out of the tournament at the first hurdle.

Nwankwo Kanu was my first football idol, because of Nigeria’s exploits at the 1998 World Cup. (Picture from Telegraph.co.uk)

In 1994, Nigeria showed up and played some beautiful football, on their way to an agonizing second round exit, which sort of covered up for the fact that none of Africa’s other participants really did much to write home about. Asian teams also went out in the group stages, but Iran won a game. 1998 same story for Africa, Nigeria into the second round.

By 2006, it was the same story for Africa. One team (this time Ghana) being respectable, pretty much for the rest of the representatives, whereas, the Asian Teams, two made the 2nd round and all four looked like they belong*. How much does this sound like that anecdotes the economist like repeating about how, in 1963 Kenya was ahead of South Korea, yet nowadays it is so very different. What is it about them that they seem to learn and get better at whatever they set out to do well, yet Africa it’s the same old same old?

Anyway, maybe I am reading too much into some random football tournament that comes around every four years. Maybe I should just enjoy the football for what it is, just football and let the other issues be. Pity that I probably won’t

DISCLAIMER: I am aware that 2010 was not a good year for the Asian teams, but I reckon my point stands

This article was originally written for the Storymoja Festival blog. The original can be seen here

More ICC (The cricket One) Shenanigans


It has been a while since International Cricket Council set about overhauling its global structure to better place it (at least according to the people running the changes) to tackle the challenges of keeping the sport of cricket viable, and relevant in the 21st century.

The initial ideas were based around the Woolfe report, which recommended much moreinclusivity, openness and support for the developing teams within the cricketing universe. What actually happened was the document was tossed out and the decision makers decided to head in the opposite direction.

Most of the widely debated changes touched upon the inner circle of full members (voting rights, revenue sharing, obligations to play one another and everybody else). Countries like Kenya, which is an associate member, were largely left in limbo: Waiting for clarification and structure to vague hints at promises that may or may not materialize from the ‘charity’ of the big boys.

The final version of the overhaul was agreed upon earlier last month. It generally is the tightening of overall control and moneysof the ICC to a cabal of 3 nations (India, England and Australia) and will see the ICC is presided over (initially) by a man who was barred from running his nation’s own cricket board by its supreme court.

On a how this is all relevant to Cricket in Kenya level, what it means is that rather than being accorded more support (in keeping with the idea that they might be developed into future powerhouses of the game), associates like Kenya will find it harder than before to become part of the cricket mainstream, and a lot easier to slip into oblivion if they do not work extra hard to keep the little access they do have.

A Summary of the changes that will affect Kenya, from avid cricket writer Andrew Nixon

 

No longer is a place at the showpiece 50 Over World Cup a guarantee (the one Kenya made the semi-finals of in 2003).Making it to the t20 version of the World Cup proper has had an additional level of qualifiers tossed in. The World Cricket Leagues and Intercontinental Cup (through which Kenya’s national teams kept busy) have been trimmed down, as well as the youth and developmental tournaments that used to support spreading the game.

It is true there has been an actual offer to provide a pathway to qualifying for test status, but it remains an unsubstantiated promise with no guarantee (at least from the way the ICC has backtracked on other things) of ever becoming reality.
Anyway, I have blown a fuse previously on the absurdity of the so called reforms with regards to how they hurt rather than help the game in countries like Kenya.

Lots of other bloggers have done the same, but for now it seem that even if the local administrators were to get their house in order and get the game in Kenya growing again, it may be for nought.

In short, If cricket stakeholders in Kenya didn’t know this befor they should now understand that ther is simply no future to being a small fish within the International Cricket Council.

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

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!

The #ICC Kenya should be pulling out of


Apparently when the team Kenya national team landed in India for the last 50 Over World Cup in 2011 they were swamped by local journalists who had mistaken a parliamentary motion to withdraw from the Rome statue and thus the International Criminal Court as a move to pull Kenya out of the International Cricket Council. As it was that was not the case and to date this blogger is not aware of any serious move to actually withdraw from the International Cricket Council (yes, Mr. Indian sports writer, the motion passed by parliament   a few months ago is about the same ICC from before not the cricket one)

Provocative title aside this post is about what this blogger feels is the way shifting tectonics in the priorities of the ICC plus the outmoded way it decides things means there is probably no reasonable expectation for country like Kenya to take the game of cricket to its maximum potential within the structures of the present ICC. Why am I saying this? The immediate reason is the decision to re-structure the 2014 T20 World Cup  to make it so the associates, who have already had to deal with numerous qualifying rounds to qualify for the tournament, have to go through yet another layer of qualifying within the tournament, to get to play with the permanent members. The full members qualify essentially are there because they are full members and full members are just entitled to everything (except Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. They are more semi than full members these days).

The in depth reasons is this blogger is convinced that given the kinds of decisions that the ICC has made, and continues to make over its associates and affiliates indicate that there is glass ceiling that is getting thicker and thicker between them and the full members. I believe that the root of this trend is sometime in the 1990s, when an influx of TV money from ODIs, and the structure of decision making meant that, giving out test status went from being rewarding an apprentice for hanging around and learning the ropes, to essentially thinner slices of money pie all around. Consider that to this blogger’s knowledge there is no set criteria for graduating from associate status to full membership, it is ultimately down to ¾ of sitting members welcoming you into the club.

The principal reason for the title of this blog’s title is the continued refusal of the ICC to reform to reflect the new paradigm it exists in fact I do not think it can if it wanted to. Consider that in 2011 the International Cricket Council ordered an independent governance review (called the Woolf Report  partly in the outrage against a botched attempt to straight throw associates out the World Cups outright, to look at ways of modernizing itself and keep the game relevant. To put it briefly, some of the big nations had one look at the recommendations probably went blue in the face and that is the last that has been heard about that pesky document. Or at least the radical parts of it

I know just now a big chunk of Cricket Kenya’s cricketing programs are funded by ICC grants and subsidies but surely when it is patently clear that the ICC sees no future in taking the game in any non-full member, to real maturity, heck they might secretly be trying shed ‘dead weight’ for all we know, shouldn’t Cricket Kenya consider learning to fish (and maybe get lucky and land a Nile perch) rather than waiting on the fisherman that only feels they are worth an occasional omena

In all honesty were #Harambeestars really in the running?


Earlier this afternoon Nigeria’s Super Eagles landed in Nairobi, played our national football team, Harambee Stars, in a world cup qualifier, and won 1-0. The result put them in the driver’s seat in the qualifying group and, as I understand it, ended Kenya’s own hopes at being in Brazil in 2014. No doubt there will be the usual finger pointing, declarations of intent and calls to action from all the usual circles. Heck I’m almost willing to bet that before this time next week some intrepid sports reporter will have uncovered some scandal, upon which all the rage of this result will be directed. Having said that, with all the things Kenyan football has put up with this past decade or so was it really that much of a surprise that things have turned out like this?

Coming into this match there was a sense that anything was possible, what with the boys coming within a minute or so of getting a famous win against Nigeria in Calabar. That probably blurred the fact that in spite of that, Kenya were (and still are) bottom of the group with only two points in 3 games to speak of and a disastrous recent record in qualifiers leading up to that point. Locked out of the Cup of Nations at the first hurdle by Togo, still to qualify for CHAN, in spite of the money flowing into the TPL, and changing coaches more rapidly than a ‘socialite’ changes ‘boyfriends,’ is it really so surprising we are reaping the kinds of results we are?

Let us start with the team itself. A useful collection of talents (see Wanyama Victor, Oliech Dennis, Kahata Francis…) yet, at least in my view never a team. Especially not with the constant changes to the coaching staff. Consider this, whenever a team changes coaches, you expect that there will be a shift in outlook, tactics, etc, consider that Harambee Stars haven’t had a head coach finish 1 year in charge since at least 2011. These coaches have been hired and fired for pretty much every reason under the sun. How on earth is a national team supposed to reach World Cup level football with such a confusion of ideas philosophies and approaches?

Then there’s the federation. Aside from a bunch of office politics and branch re-organizations they haven’t really done anything…at all. Except fire coaches, I mean. My biggest gripe is where are the Olympic centres that Sam Nyamweya was so vigorously campaigning on? My head knows that the whole thing was a gimmick, but I still insist, where are they? Can I be proven wrong?

Those are just one or two things of the I’m thinking about as I digest the sudden demise of our attempt to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World. Cup. You know the one, Tusker made such a big deal about getting, a team from the Eastern Africa region qualified for. We now know it certainly won’t be Kenya. The thing that bothers me the most is that come the next qualifying campaign flop I’ll probably write this opt all over again. There will be a few high points along the way, a few low points. The characters might be different, there may be some other corporate running the circus, the might not be. All in all unless, there’s some sea change taking place that I’m not seeing (something along the lines of what happened in Germany in the year 2000) then, we fans shouldn’t really be expecting any better than we have just seen this qualifying campaign. In fact it could even get worse.

Kuchotewa Nayo?


A couple of hours ago, Kenya’s national football team came within 1 1/2 minutes of pulling off their first ever win over Nigeria’s Super Eagles. As it was, a injury time equalizer means the final score was 1-1. Kenya now have 2 points from 3 games in their World Cup Qualifier group whilst Nigeria have 5.

Granted the result is very small in the bigger picture of Kenya’s World cup qualifying hopes, within of itself it is still an achievement worth noting. After all Nigeria are the reigning champions of Africa. Over the past few hours the leading lights in Kenyan politics have been pouring money on this team with the likes of Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila Odinga and even Nairobi Senator elect, Gideon Mbuvi alias Sonko taking to social media to declare their acts of outrageous generosity to Harambee Stars.

The question in my head just now is haven’t we been here before? From Harambee Stars to Conjestina Achieng to our national cricket team and several others, this blogger has witnessed all manner of monied types in Kenyan society going out there way to be seen to be generous to some sports person or team while the getting is good, only to vanish without a trace when said team suffers a few bad results. Don’t all sports teams and athletes everywhere go through patches of poor form from time to time? This blogger understands that several politicians in the current mad rush of goodies belong to the Jubilee Coalition that won the last general elections, and that their manifesto has all manner of commitments regarding long term investment in sports. That is a post for another day. What gripes me is that if the people making policy for our sports team see them only as charity cases, to be milked for PR purposes when the occasional moment of glory or desperation allows it, can they really hope to see the kind of sound and long term interventions that make world beaters?

On a (very tongue in cheek) final note, Kenya’s 7s team are having quite the break out season on the World Series circuit and are in the Main Cup Quarter finals in Hong Kong. We’ve got a cross country team in Bydgosczc (sp?) for the world championships on Sunday morning. The same place they damn near won everything, and our cricket team just got back from Dubai, where they man handled Canada in a pair of World Cup Qualifiers and Intercontinental Cup. Any spare change for them?

0.007


That being the margin, expressed in Net Run Rate, by which Kenya’s attempt to get into the World T20 World Cup in 2012 fell short. Kenya eventually finished the tournament ranked 9 out of 16 participants and with an overall reccord of 5 wins and 4 losses. Obviously there is more to this failure than one run, or one less ball. That’s what this post is about. First lets look at the batting. Kenya’s batsmen turned out nothing short of a Jekyll and Hyde performance. In the 5 wins the batting looked as solid as any in the tournament. 50s were had by most of the people tasked to deliver them, and in general they did so at the kind of high strike rates that are the heart of T20 cricket. This we shall call the Dr. Jekyll. Doing as expected, conforming to expectations, but ultimately a facade. The Mr. Hyde in this case, and what a gruesome Hyde it was, came out particularly in the defeats to Ireland and Namibia. In these games Kenya were shot out for 77 and 108 respectively. These innings were marked with panic, slow run rates and multiple wickets falling in quick succession. A solid reliable top 6 suddenly had no answers to the questions posed to them by the bowlers. Note that the two teams that managed to draw out this level of panic from Kenya will meet in a playoff to fight for a slot in the T20 World Cup. It seems that the level of cricket the above mentioned two teams are operating marks a threshhold beyond which Kenya’s batsmen simply lose their way. As for the bowling, their failures were far less dramatic than those of their batting counterparts, however they still looked notably out of their depth against the teams who’ve since progressed farther than Kenya in the qualifiers. Can that be helped? Notably both Namibia and Ireland have one thing in common that Kenya doesn’t. A core of players continually exposed to levels of cricket (in South Africa and England) which they have to cope with the pressure of being outskilled on a regular basis. This is something I alluded to in my preview to this tournament. Our boys boys don’t seen to know what to do when their natural gifts don’t give them a significant advantage against their opponents. In my previous post I noted that unlike Kenya’s cricket teams of the past this lot have virtually no exposure to anything better than their buddies at club level. Players whom they are so much better than. This puts Kenya in a Catch 22 situation. In order to get better they must qualify for the big ICC tournaments on a regular basis, but in order to qualify for these big tournaments, they have to find a way past the Irelands and Namibias of this world. In order to do that they have to get better. In the medium term Cricket Kenya’s East Africa Premier League could possibly attract a level of outside talent that will force Kenya’s players to learn how to win even when outgunned. However until then, Cricket Kenya has to find other ways to raise the level of competition Kenya is exposed to or next time the margin won’t be 0.007.

Kenya T20: A Preview to the World Cup Qualifiers


In little over 18 hours from the publication of this post, Kenya will begin the quest for qualifiction to the 2012 T20 Cricket World Cup to be hosted by Sri Lanka, in September by facing Scotland in a round robin match. Kenya is one of 12 associate (2nd tier) teams fighting over 2 slots in a qualifying tournament in U.A.E starting tomorrow. The other teams in Kenya’s group are: Namibia, Uganda, Italy and Oman. The winner of this group wil face the winner of group A (Ireland, Afghanistan, U.A.E, Denmark, Papua New Guinea and Bermuda) in final number one, for one of the two World cup places. The teams that finish 2nd and 3rd in their respective groups will themselves go head to head to determine which one will play the loser of final number one, for the other world cup slot. I have no idea why it has to be this convoluted, but that’s how the ICC seem to like doing things. Kenya haven’t been to the world cup for this format since the inaugural event in 2007, and the less we talk about what happened then, the better. Kenya’s team has been through a massive evolution, nay revolution since then and even now can still be said to be transition. This is transition from a generation, who developed their game when Kenya was stuck in the No Mans land of being sole ODI nation, to a generation of players who have virtually none of the exposure to the big guns of world cricket their predecessors had but are still expected to somehow assert dominance over the rest their associate peers. What are Kenya’s chances of earning one of these two World Cup slots? Its imperative that this team believes in its own ability to deliver the goods. All the players selected have shown in sparks here and again that individually they can wreak havoc (both as batsmen and bowlers) on players and teams even when on paper it shouldn’t be possible. Many fans will remember Collins Obuya’s sparkling 98 against Australia at the 2011 World Cup. Its not for nothing Tanmay Mishra’s become only the second international from outside the test (1st tier) nations to get an IPL Contract. Then there is the Ngoche brothers. They are the spine of Kenya’s bowling just now and have outclassed all the opposition batsmen at least once. Surely the penny’s got to drop soon and these sparks will develop into a big roaring flame. Maybe I’m getting a little carried away. Lets look at Kenya’s opponents. In group B. Italy and Oman haven’t done anything remotely notable in Cricket so, except for massive complacency on Kenya’s part these games should be won fairly easily. The other three teams in the group: Namibia, Uganda and Scotland, on the other hand represent a much tougher prospect and should be approached with utmost seriousness if Kenya are to get victory. Namibia is a team that have blown plenty of match exposure from being a part of South Africa’s domestic competitions and thus have lots of team chemistry. A Kenyan XI squad visited Namibia late last year and played 8 t20 matches losing 6 of them and winning 2. Though one could qualify the outcome by saying that not all of Kenya’s best players travelled and there was a huge amount of chopping and changing of line ups across the matches, its still a good indicator of how strong Namibia can be in this format of cricket. Scotland also have several seasons of playing as a team, this time in England, however Kenya’s head to head record against them in t20s is markedly better than that against Namibia. Nonetheless, they still represent one of the strongest squads in the tournament and Kenya would do well not to spare any slack when dealing with them. Uganda have developed a liking for putting egg on the faces of Kenya of late, they beat us as recently as Sunday. Though not normally a big contender for World cup places and the like, they do like to save their best for Kenya. Should Kenya come through this group, my expectation is the most likely competitors they will face, in whichever final they may have to play, will be Ireland and The Netherlands. Not only do both these teams have better head to head records in the T20 format against Kenya but they both have giant killing form characteristic of teams full of confidence in what they are doing. Which is not to say that they can’t be beaten, only that for it to be done there can be no room for complacency. Having said all that, Kenya’s is, a young squad, arguably not at the height of its powers. Coming through all this and securing a place at the high take of World Cricket in Sri Lanka come September would send a massive statement that Kenyan cricket is truly back.

World Cup Preliminary squad:My thoughts



Cricket Kenya has announced its preliminary 30 man squad for the 2011 50 over World Cup. The bulk of the new faces, come straight out of the u19 squad that is now just one step away from breaking Kenya’s 7 year absence at the u19 World Cup. These Include batsmen: Duncan Allen, Irfan Karim, Vinit Shikotra. Beyond these the only new faces (at least by my standards) are Runish Gudka.
To the best of this blogger’s knowledge is concerned only sub-continent teams (Bangladesh, India and Pakistan) practice this behavior of throwing players this green straight into the deep end. Given that these countries have huge cricket mad populations, this method, with its attendant high failure rate is understandable. For that is how the genius of India’s Sachin Tendulkar and Pakistan’s Wasim Akram were first uncovered. It is also the means that prodigies like Ishant Sharma and (the now disgraced) Mohammed Aamer have been discovered. But I digress. Some of these youngsters indeed have been given some exposure at international level (on various Kenya A team assignments). They managed some success (against Uganda) and one glaring failure against a touring Indian state team (where they found themselves generally unable to deal with the opponents pace).
Assuming that the first scenarios holds true then I hope one or two of these new kids shows skill enough to earn a place in the final fifteen when the final squads are announced before January 9th.
The full squad as listed on the Cricket Kenya website:
Ragheb Aga  
Duncan Allen
Runish Gudka
JimmyKamande
Irfan Karim 
Karan Kaul
Peter Kituku 
Alfred Luseno
Tanmay Mishra
James Ngoche
Shem Ngoche 
Alex Obanda
David Obuya 
Collins Obuya
Nehemiah Odhiambo 
Nelson Odhiambo
Thomas Odoyo
Lucas Oluoch
Peter Ongondo 
Joseph Onyango
Lameck Onyango
Elijah Otieno
Morris Ouma
Ken Owino
Rakep Patel 
Vinit Shikotra
Steve Tikolo 
Hiren Varaiya
Seren Waters 
Dominic Wesonga