BY JOSEPH KAMOTHO
In the just concluded Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India the Kenya National Anthem was played more than that of any other participating nation in the track events. And, spectators are always left wondering how a country with poor training facilities or lack of them can beat the rest of the world – some of them so well prepared for the contests.
With the medals loosely hang around their necks, these Commonwealth heroes and heroines were paraded at the just inaugurated Mashujaa Day celebrations, a complete departure from tradition. In a live televised broadcast on the 47th anniversary of Kenyatta Day renamed Mashujaa Day, President Mwai Kibaki said that these are Kenya\’s modern day heroes.
This was the second time in weeks that the President was hosting sports stars including yesteryear heroes at a national function. The presence of these unsung heroes graced the promulgation of the new Constitution on August 4, 2010. President Kibaki deserves a pat on the back for the belated recognition of sports stars and remembering those who brought honour to the country in previous international contests.
The Delhi performance was more of a repeat of the Africa Athletics Championships in Nairobi where our country emerged as the overall winner in the track events. The country is no pushover in the Olympic Games as well – thanks to our dedicated track stars who train under strenuous conditions.
After handing sportsmen and women the national flag, Kibaki\’s predecessors had no time to receive the country\’s heroes and heroines. It is disturbing that a gold harvesting nation hardly celebrates its heroes yet others celebrate even bronze medal winners!
Consequently, some of these retired stars live in squalour and die paupers. Hopefully Kibaki\’s successors will continue in the current spirit, which to many, is a morale booster to sports and participants in the games.
There is too much waste of sports talent that has not been tapped in the countryside. It is time that attention was paid to sports administration because it is not only a lucrative industry but a public relations tool. Sports Academies should also be established in the Counties to offer academic subjects as well as training the upcoming stars.
Other sporting disciplines are not spared the routine neglect by the government of the day. Soccer in particular is a case of pity after the previous government banned community clubs ostensibly to foster national unity. Their replacement, institutional clubs, is an embarrassment and neither are they a cure to chronic tribalism. They don\’t attract desired fanatical support and sports lovers here support foreign clubs instead of company clubs.
Football management is a living shame because the leaders are more interested in what they can pocket not development of the sport. The world soccer body FIFA is not amused by the way the sport is run in the country.
What baffles sports lovers, aspiring sports men and women is the wanton neglect of the sports by none other than a sporting nation.
(J.J. Kamotho is a former Cabinet Minister and Secretary General of two different national political parties in his long public career. Email: [email protected])