NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 6 – At the tail end of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s address to the nation on Monday afternoon, the Head of State announced a raft of measures aimed at mitigating the financial impact the new novel coronavirus will have on the country’s economy as well as the financial status of its citizens.
Last on his address, the Head of State authorized the Ministry of Sports, Arts and Culture to pluck off a purse of Sh100mn from the Sports Fund to aid the ministry keep those who depend on it afloat.
“I further direct the Ministry of Sports, Culture, & Heritage to avail an additional support of Ksh. 100 M from the Sports Fund to our artists, actors and musicians, during the period of the covid-19 pandemic,” Kenyatta stated on point number 58 of his 44-page address.
But while this announcement was met with celebration and glee by those it touched, a key component of the ministry is now feeling left out; the Sportsmen, for who the Fund was initially set up for before it was spread out.
While they achieve in global competitions and make Kenya’s national anthem be the signature tune of any world event, their success is always met with a zillion ‘Congratulations’ on the interwebs and countless hugs and near kisses on their arrival at the airport
And just like Jesus Christ on the cross on the day of his crucifixion, they have now all cried out in unison; “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?).
“They just took our sports cash which we have never seen and they gave it to artists. Covid-19 has affected sports in a huge way; we cannot play any sports now we are jobless. we have never mattered to them,” a dejected Ariel Okall, who turns out for the Kenya Morans basketball team posed on Twitter.
“The ministry is going in one direction and it’s not fair. I have nothing against artistes getting money and all, but as sportsmen we are forgotten because we have been hard hit by this pandemic. We are not competing anywhere, we are earning anything at this point,” Rio 2016 Javelin Silver Medalist Julius Yego wondered.
“For some of us it is easier because apart from sports, we are employed by the government so at least we have a salary at the end of the month. What of those who totally depend on sports? Essentially, this season is almost ruined because we have so much postponed,” added Yego, who is also a member of the National Police Service.
For athletes, the first three legs of the Diamond League, which often rakes then enough money to survive for a year have been postponed.
“At the moment we are merely surviving on reserves which might be depleted soon. Just this month we were to go to Mauritius, then Doha, Shanghai and Stockholm for the Diamond League before we come back for the Olympics trials. All this is income in appearance fee, time bonuses and prize money is all wiped out,” Athletics coach Bernard Ouma says.
He adds; “I don’t really understand their rationale of making the decision, but to be honest sports is really hit hard. I hope they can find it wise to give something towards ensuring we all remain okay.”
In Rugby, four legs (London, Paris, Hong Kong and Singapore) of the World Sevens Series have been called off and that means players will not get a chance of earning allowances to keep them afloat.
Kenya Sevens skipper Andrew Amonde has disclosed to Capital Sports that the Union has sent them a notice of reduction in salaries with the coronavirus now sure to take away action until September when the Hong Kong and Singapore legs of the series will be staged.
“Well if they can step in I think the Union might rescind the decision because sports is really struggling. If they are not offering any help, I think that is very unfortunate,” Amonde said.
Footballers have also not been left behind in crying out for a piece of the pie, especially coming at a time when Kenyan football is on its financial ICU.
Gor Mahia is one of the clubs struggling to pay its players and skipper Kenneth Muguna has also weighed in on the issue and believes the President should consider a bailout for sportsmen.
“For a long time, sports in this country has been looked down upon and with what was announced today, it is like sports is not a big deal. I think it is unfair that as sports we have not been supported and yet we always strive to put the flag of the country up there,” Muguna said.
He added; “I would really like to urge the President to have a second thought about us. Lack of matches means we are not even getting the allowances that most of the time kept us going when we can’t get salaries. It is not only us at Gor but many clubs in the country.”
But even as sportsmen seethe from the fact that they are a forgotten lot, Kenya Volleyball Federation boss Waithaka Kioni, who is also a member of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) executive has asked specific federations to voice their concerns.
“I have no problem absolutely with artistes getting money from the government. It is their right and for us, we will continue agitating to get ours as well. We (KVF) met the President in Mombasa after we qualified for the Olympics and he promised us that the money from the Sports Fund will be availed to us and I believe it will happen in due time,” Kioni said.
“For Federations who feel that things are tough on their end, they should address their proposals to NOCK and we can in turn petition the government on their behalf,” Kioni further stated.
But meanwhile, as they wait for the man who occupies the House on the Hill to listen to their cry, sportsmen in the country will need to adjust the holes of their belts.