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Michael Kwambo: To appreciate our sport, let us appreciate its past

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 10 – I’m pretty sure that those of us who profess our love for all things sport have affiliations to certain teams and affinities to particular athletes and disciplines. 

 Many are the times we will engage in conversations about athlete x, team y or sport z…thanks to current information that is readily available on various platforms, inclusive of digital media.

We may also, out of our vast knowledge or in a boastful streak, churn out historical information and statistics related to the sports, teams and athletes we follow.

These are conversations that will, in the large part, revolve around foreign teams and athletes.

Let’s face it, all sorts of data, information and memorabilia are readily available because deliberate efforts have been put into ensuring it is collected and adequately utilized going forward, even to the point of monetization.

Can we say the same for local sport?


Picture this, Nondescripts RFC who bestrode the local club rugby scene like a colossus, last tasted league success in 1998.

That notwithstanding, a visit to the Nondies museum at their Red Lion clubhouse at the Ngong’ Racecourse leaves one filled with awe and respect.

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Awe – because this team, founded in 1923, have spared no effort in capturing as much history, data and memorabilia as they possibly could over the years.

Respect – because from this journey through the past, one is able to understand how and why they dominated the Kenyan club rugby scene as they did in those days.

And while the team has been unable to scale the lofty heights in the ensuing years, you can sense the pride from the Nondescripts fraternity, they know their history, and they can showcase it too.

Athletics Kenya did well to open a museum within their Riadha House premises a few years back but the idea has, to the best of my knowledge since become a cropper. It is quite sad, when you consider how much athletics has contributed to placing Kenya on the world map over the past 60 years. That’s a potential gold mine they’re sitting on.

There isn’t much to write home about other sporting entities, whether clubs or federations across various fields.

Even without the mention of athletics, there are loads of stories, statistics and memorabilia that can be captured across other sporting disciplines.

There is plenty of history around cricket, boxing, volleyball, hockey, golf, motorsport, tennis, football to name but a few. 

Unfortunately, Kenyan sport still experiences a laxity in data collection and record keeping, which in the long run, is a great disservice to the country’s rich sporting history.

 Part of the reason could be that local sports bodies have abdicated this responsibility to mainstream media and enthusiasts, instead of incorporating this function.

In that breath, it is extremely important to recognize and appreciate the work of Roy Gachuhi in consistently sharing sports nuggets on a regular basis through his column in the Daily Nation. There are many others out there, the likes of Emmanuel Mketu, Paul Okong’o and Bill Cherry who are doing their bit to capture Kenyan sports history.

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Even as we celebrate these gents, do we, for example, have official memorabilia and memoirs from Harambee Stars players and coaching staff from their heady days atop the CECAFA Challenge Cup summit when they won three consecutive titles between 1981 and 1983?

 A list of Kenya Cup top try scorers from 1970 to date?

Or the Kenya Lionesses official team photo from the 1994 FIBA World Basketball Championship for Women?

And with sport becoming so deeply embedded in our lives that it has become a part of our culture and a reflection of our society, do we know the true origins of the long standing rivalries between Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards?  Impala and Quins? Nondies and Quins?

Probably not.

This is history that can be tapped into, and documented with the intention of changing several narratives and perceptions around local sport and teams. It can also play a big role in giving life and significance to legends and competitions from days gone by.

The legends can, on a lighter note, back their “in our days” stories with factual evidence during their story telling sessions sipping their favorite tipple.  They can, on a heavier note, be propped up, using their status to act as goodwill or brand ambassadors or keynote speakers at various events. They could even benefit from the odd endorsement.

Armed with historical information, the profiles of competitions could be raised and could even end up attracting partnerships that add monetary and material value.

However, for this to happen, there needs to be a deliberate effort from our sports entities (clubs and federations) towards collecting and harnessing data, historical data included.

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Let’s not miss out on the opportunity to capture our sports history for posterity, and profit.

Yes, profit.

Our sports bodies can benefit from not only sharing historical content but also by monetizing memorabilia and specific content where need be.  These are probably just some of the benefits derived from data collection and record keeping. 

Remember…data is king!

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I would again like to reiterate the fact that Kenya prides itself as Africa’s innovation hub.

So how about innovations geared around sports data and history?

Anyway, whatever the case, it’s only prudent that sports entities take sports history a lot more seriously.  The possibilities are endless…

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