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Local footballers lost in own hype

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2015 FOYA Awards winners pose for a group photo after the fete on December 9, 2015. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

2015 FOYA Awards winners pose for a group photo after the fete on December 9, 2015. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

NAIROBI, December 18- Like any other latter day journalist will freely admit, social media has become a rich catchment of story ideas.

Yours truly has not been spared as the industry shake-up continues evolving from the notebook, pen and typewriter era to the modern cyber age where one can pretty much spew anything from a desktop or smart phone keyboard.

In the past week, the Kenyan Premier League and Athletics Kenya held gala awards at Nairobi’s Safari Park Hotel 24 hours apart and as fate would have it, the sharp contrast between local footballers and athletes could not have been pronounced as night and day.

At the 2015 Footballer of the Year fete that ended past midnight since Gor Mahia who hogged nominations were involved in a GOtv Shield semi-final, what social media wags who support the game or ‘wadau’ (stakeholders) as they style themselves call ‘look’ took precedence over celebrating the finest the SportPesa Premier League had to offer.

Nominated and invited active players arrived in all-manner of gleaming, cheesy and on occasion, dapper outfits, ignorant of the the official black tie dress code as they fell over themselves to outshine each other in the fashion stakes.

Gor Mahia midfielder, Khalid Aucho (left) receives his Midfielder of the Year runners-up trophy from SuperSport EA General Manager, Auka Gacheo. PHOTO/AFP

Gor Mahia midfielder, Khalid Aucho (left) receives his Midfielder of the Year runners-up trophy from SuperSport EA General Manager, Auka Gacheo. PHOTO/AFP

To maintain the ‘look’ that is; keeping up with the latest fashion trends, its no secret they spent an arm and a leg in purchasing designer wear and accessories with Gor midfielder, Khalid Aucho, turning up in gear or ‘swag’ straight from a CMYMB rap video.

A day later, the 2015 AK Golden Gala rolled to town and the celebrated cast of Olympics, World, Commonwealth, African, World Youth, World Cross and World Marathon Majors winners gathered.

In sticking to their humble nature, they turned up in running tracksuits (Cali World Youth team) or demure outfits before some changed into dress befitting the occasion, only this time, there was no screaming dyed hair that could be spotted in pitch darkness, crazy hairdos and blinding shiny clothes.

As the disparity weighed on mind, a Facebook post from SuperSport head of camera operations Francis Ngira who posts as Ngira Okello Kimathi finally cranked the keyboard to action.

“Wadau niwekeni sawa, mmesema hizi vitu, aquarium na rugged jeans ndio vitu zinamaliza Sing on fee na mshahara kidogo ya wacheza? Shamba, Insurance hizo in allergy?” (Stakeholders, make me understand, you claim, aquarium (designer sport shoes) and rugged jeans are the things exhausting signing on fees and wages for players? Are (investment) in land and insurance allergies?) He posed.

The accompanying photo (as posted below)had designer footwear; shoes, socks and slacks local footballers are dying to ‘dunga’ (wear) as the lingo goes.

CONVERSE-SNEAKERS

 -Accurate description-

It was a sardonic but sadly accurate description of the typical fame-hungry and young SPL player, a group content with shining and earning adulation on home soil by ‘wadau’ with a sharp taste of fashion and living large representing a career zenith.

Since Harambee Stars and Southampton midfield ace, Victor Wanyama left for Belgium as a teen and worked his way up to the prestigious Barclays English Premier League, there’s arguably no local player who has broken into-with any measure of success-to even the backwater leagues of Europe, the standard dream for many Kenyan young footballers.

Julius Yego (left) receives a portrait of self from Sports Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Hassan Wario at the 2015 AK Gala Awards on December 10, 2015. PHOTO/AFP

Julius Yego (left) receives a portrait of self from Sports Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Hassan Wario at the 2015 AK Gala Awards on December 10, 2015. PHOTO/AFP

In the middle of last season, Footballer of the Year Michael Olunga and Golden Boot winner, Jesse Were left for trials at Premier Soccer League side, Bidvest Wits that had desperate need for a forward but none cut the grade in South Africa.

With their futures hanging in the air, it is important to note previous celebrated and glorified SPL stars such as Francis Ouma, George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo and Kevin Kimani have failed to turn local excellence into international product.

To their credit, defenders Brian Mandela (Santos/Maritzburg United) and Gor hero David ‘Calabar’ Otieno (Zesco United), forward duo Allan Wanga (Azam FC) and Jacob Keli (Nkana FC) as well as midfielder Anthony Akumu (Al Khartoum) are few who have proved themselves outside the SPL cuckoo nest.

If lavish domestic praise was a benchmark for success, they would be playing at Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Arsenal and their ilk.

Overzealous emphasis in dressing to impress, limited ambition or the big fish in small pond mentality , lack of focus, believing in their own hype, poverty of effort, indiscipline and lifestyle excesses is the toxic cocktail restraining talented local footballers from flourishing into consummate and financially stable professionals.

Tales of former top flight players living in abject poverty notwithstanding, for them what counts is living in the bubble of stardom fuelled by obliging cheerleaders that have spread like a virus since the advent of social media.

2015 SPL top scorers, Jesse Were and Michael Olunga pose with the Golden Boot and runners-up trophy at the FOYA Awards. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

2015 SPL top scorers, Jesse Were and Michael Olunga pose with the Golden Boot and runners-up trophy at the FOYA Awards. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

There is no need to document how successful elite athletes, doping menace or not, have transformed the economy of an entire region with their earnings. They can afford to buy the ‘look’ from famed fashion houses in Milan, Paris, Dubai and USA but choose not to.

True, just like footballers, they also ‘dunda’ (go out) and make merry during the off season but once training starts, luminaries such as David Rudisha, Ezekiel Kemboi, Julius Yego and Asbel Kiprop abandon their mansions to set up camp in single-room structures to bring glory to the nation and financial rewards to self way beyond the dreams of SPL stars.

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