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Moi: The President who loved sports

Former President Daniel Arap Moi greeting Harambee Stars players before a past match

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 4 – On a certain morning early 1996, then President Daniel Arap Moi received a call from then Confederation of African Football (CAF) boss Issa Hayatou; it wasn’t a call delivering good tidings.

Hayatou was informing Moi that Kenya had been stripped of the rights of hosting the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) and the President, fondly referred to as M1, was disappointed. He had been actively involved in lobbying for Kenya to get the hosting rights.

Not even anything he could tell Hayatou at that time changed CAF’s decision.

He was a President who loved sports and never missed watching a Harambee Stars match whenever he was in the country. Of the four Heads of States that have governed the country, Moi cleanly takes the gold medal as one who loved sports inside out.

Kenya’s hosting of the 1987 All Africa Games (now African Games) was hugely down to his input, majorly lying on the construction of the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani which remains as the biggest sporting facility in the country.

Kenya finished fourth in the overall medal standings while Harambee Stars won silver in the men’s football with Moi in attendance at the final.

In that same year, he was also available at the Kasarani Stadium to hand Gor Mahia the Nelson Mandela Cup (CAF Cup Winners Cup), now known as the CAF Confederation Cup when the record Kenyan champions beat Tunisian side Esperance.

He was also actively involved in the Moi Golden Cup (Now FKF Cup) a Cup tournament whose winner ended up playing in the Confederations Cup. Moi was always available on the final day to hand the winners the trophy.

It was renamed to the President’s Cup in 2002 when Moi left power. Kenya Pipeline were the last team to win the title under the name Moi Golden Cup.

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Former Harambee Stars skipper Sammy ‘Pamzo’ Omollo introduces striker Francis Oduor to former President Daniel Arap Moi while Nick Yakhama and Sammy Sholei look on before a previous match

Former Chief of Defense Forces General (Rtd) Joseph Kibwana perhaps put his love for sport in the clearest perspective as he paid tribute to the former President.

“There was a time we had African Military Games at Kasarani and at that time, he was in Nigeria. We told him that the opening ceremony would be starting at 10pm and he did all he could to leave Nigeria and arrive in time,” Kibwana said as he spoke to Citizen TV on Tuesday morning.

Apart from the construction of the Kasarani Stadium, Moi was also integral in the construction of Nyayo Stadium, the second biggest in the country. To date no leader has managed to match his input in sports infrastructure in the country.

On the day he died early Tuesday morning, Moi has been mourned across the sports fraternity as one who offered a conducive environment for the industry to thrive.

“The two facilities (Kasarani and Nyayo) are a testament to the love he had for sports in the country. As a person who worked all his life for the unity of the people of Kenya, Moi found sports to be the greatest unifying factor hence went out of his way to support it,” Athletics Kenya said in a statement on Tuesday.

They added; “The support former President Moi gave the athletics fraternity is immeasurable. Like the current government, Moi went out of his way to ensure the athletics team were given the requisite support and were comfortable whenever they represented the country in international assignments.”

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