What you need to know:
- As far as opportunities for selling their manifestos are concerned, no politician has seen a podium he or she does not want to climb, be it in funerals, churches, harambees, private parties or grassroots football tournaments
- Like the national cake which everyone is yearning to partake of but very few are willing to bake, grassroots football tournaments have become convenient vehicles for politicians
- During prize-giving, he will give a long boring speech and make sure the cameras capture him shaking hands with players
No one can be more dedicated to a course than a Kenyan politician seeking re-election.
Out of experience, you know that in every electoral cycle, politicians who disappear soon after being elected suddenly crawl out of the woodwork in relentless pursuit of re-election.
As far as opportunities for selling their manifestos are concerned, no politician has seen a podium he or she does not want to climb, be it in funerals, churches, harambees, private parties or grassroots football tournaments.
In particular, grassroots football tournaments are a magnet to politicians. Like the national cake which everyone is yearning to partake of but very few are willing to bake, grassroots football tournaments have become convenient vehicles for politicians, never mind that the big men and women are never willing to fund such tournaments.
This week, a friend let me in on the frustrations that organisers of such tournaments go through to get politicians to sponsor youth tournaments outside an electoral cycle. Paul Abwonji, the organiser of grassroots football tournament called ‘Koth Biro’ in Nairobi knows the frustration of dealing with both dishonest sponsors who jump out of the deal at the last minute, and reputable men who stand by their promise to nurture sports talent.
Abwonji who is popularly known as ‘Polosa’, reckons politicians form the bulk of the first category. Getting a politician to fund a tournament begins with a cat-and-mouse chase as you make frantic calls, seeking out the big man’s Personal Assistant (PA) to book an appointment. It turns out that the PA is determined to keep you as far away from the big man as possible. He or she will either tell you that the big man is out of town or his diary is full way past the tournament dates, but you are a beggar and a beggar’s knees are supple, so you stifle your indignation at the temporary setback and persistently push for a meeting with the big man.
The PA tells you the boss is away but you are prepared to show up at the office without an appointment. You wait in vain and because the tournament is fast approaching, you show up at the big man’s office unannounced. After all, big man sponsored your tournament while campaigning for his first term in office.
The PA is in a foul mood and the big man, who only months ago was too happy to sponsor your tournament as he was seeking political office, is engrossed in an hour-long conversation over more important issues. You are not offered a seat but you sit at the reception area, hoping to catch his attention or to get hold of him on his way out for lunch but he slips out through the lifts to the basement, into his heavily-tinted car and out through the rear exit.
You have now become a bother, a big liability. It dawns on you that you have hit a dead end but you dare not disclose this to the youth teams for fear of crushing their young dreams so you keep on pressing.
When you eventually meet the big man, it is days to the tournament. You cajole the big man. You have widely publicised the tournament and, unaware of the difficulties you are facing while sourcing for funding, teams are looking forward to it. On bended knees, you plead once more with big man to sponsor the youth tournament upon which he tells you to give him time to think about the request.
You are gutted because the big man’s office has a sports kitty but you suppress your anger. Finally, the big man gives you a firm promise that he will sponsor the tournament but as ‘Polosa’ found out, he can pull out on the material day without notice.
If he honours his promise, it will be out of a desire to make political gain out of the event rather than to promote sporting activities. He will arrive in a big convoy and occupy the whole dais. During prize-giving, he will give a long boring speech and make sure the cameras capture him shaking hands with players. Lets keep vested interests out of sports.