Guidelines for sports return apt and will certainly be ‘observed’, the Kenyan way

Kenyan tennis player Judith Nkatha works out at Public Service Club, Nairobi on August 24, 2020.

Photo credit: Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Even as the pesky virus continues to disrupt normal routine, sports have restarted in many corners of the world
  • The new football season in Europe has started with all the major leagues already seeing beautiful action but, peculiarly, behind closed doors because of strict social distancing rules
  • Football for example have had their president pledge  the safe return of the popular game this month yet there are no working committees we have had that have been constituted


Today’s column starts with a disclaimer: the views expressed are purely anecdotal and the personal conjecture of the writer.

But first a perspective of the Covid-19 pandemic that has devastated the normally well-organised and highly predictable sports calendar of the world.

By Tuesday Kenya had recorded 37, 079 Covid-19 cases, 23,945 recoveries and 650 deaths.

In England, following a rise in Covid-19 infections new restrictions were being implemented last week to cover large parts of the country. The UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the island kingdom faced a "very serious situation" and did not rule out another lockdown

Reported BBC Online: The government's scientific advisers are clear coronavirus is no longer a local problem contained to hotspots. Instead the rise in cases is now "widespread" across the UK”.

Meanwhile, parts of Madrid in Spain have been subject to lockdown as cases rise.

Other European countries, including France and Spain, are also taking action over the surge in cases.

Closed doors

On the other side of the landmass, Iran declared a red alert across the whole country last Friday as they braced for a third wave of coronavirus infection.

Even as the pesky virus continues to disrupt normal routine, sports have restarted in many corners of the world.

The new football season in Europe has started with all the major leagues already seeing beautiful action but, peculiarly, behind closed doors because of strict social distancing rules

The German Bundesliga proposed allowing spectators back in the stadiums in controlled fashion but the government quickly short down that idea.

In England, the English Premier League last week announced plans to start permitting fans in stadiums but in limited numbers and for specific matches only for the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to say yesterday those plans had been scrapped because of sharp rise in Covid-19 cases.

In Kenya, sports was suspended in March following the first case of the virus in the country, and apart from golf, the organised sports calendar at the elite level has been nonexistent.

This is scheduled to change after the government on Friday released guidelines for the resumption of sporting activity in the country against the backdrop of falling number of virus cases.

The detailed protocols allowed for certain sports, labelled non-contact, to open as long as they observed the containment measures outlined by the Sports Ministry.

Kenyan tennis player Judith Nkatha works out at Public Service Club, Nairobi on August 24, 2020.

Photo credit: Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group

These sports include athletics, cricket, tennis, golf, cycling, badminton, weightlifting and motorsports.

Contact sports including the popular football, rugby, basketball, volleyball, boxing are to remain closed until further notice.

The guidelines are very much in order, but knowing how Kenyans are, I will be laughing out loudly, at how they will go about individually and collectively  observing the rule.

Kenyans are Kenyans, and so, on to my presuppositions.

For starters, there are many Kenyans who believe there is no Covid-19 in the country.

Just listen to them on social media.

“Uhuru, open up the country, we are not seeing dead bodies lying on the road.”

“The government has announced Covid-19 cases in the country so that it can receive funding to be stolen by our corrupt officials”

“Look at Tanzania. The country is all open and people are going about their business normally. It is a clear example that there is no Covid-19.”

Many wantonly disregard social distancing rules and lock themselves in darkened, poorly ventilated bars to down their favourite tipple.

In this frame of mind, you can imagine how our sporting fraternity will treat the guidelines.

Worse still, knowing Kenyan’s penchant for short cuts, forgery and dishonesty, the guidelines will be manipulated with the regularity of government projects launched, never to be completed.

And why bother asking if someone has been tested? Why should a Kenyan go for testing if they can simply fake a certificate to show that they have undergone the exercise and are coronavirus free?

How many times have we read of Kenyans applying for jobs with fake certificates, travelling out of the country with yellow fever certificates indicating they have undergone vaccination for that disease yet they never received the jab?

The ministry has stated that the aim of the guidelines is to allow for sports federations to develop a detailed operational plan.

Did I write “detailed?”. Some of our federations that are so inept in organisation that even publishing a simple calendar of events for the season is beyond them.

I shudder to imagine how they will suddenly wake up from a long, deep slumber and produce comprehensive Covid-19 come-back plans.

The guidelines instruct federations to form a “safe return-to-training committee” to oversee the preparedness of activities that will see resumption of sports.

I will give credit where it is due. I know of certain sports federations such as athletics and tennis that have indeed set up committees and formulated their protocols for safe returns.

I also will, Kenyan-speak, “remove colour” on some. Football for example have had their president pledge  the safe return of the popular game this month yet there are no working committees we have had that have been constituted. And didn’t the courts call the federation president a king without a crown? So how is he ruling? How is he working? How has he produced the resumption of football plans?

He publicly declared he is busy working, and the sport is moving forward. I bet you, the other federation heads will present the same picture.

Things always look good on paper. But, as Kenyans are wont to say, things are different on the ground.

The resumption of sports scenario will be no different. People just want to engage in sports without so many details. Disclaimer ends here.

cnyende@ke.nationmedia.com