What you need to know:
- It’s a story I would like to revisit to drive a simple point home. But I will put a caveat before I proceed any further.
I have previously mentioned, in passing, in this column how several years ago, I attended two public day secondary schools, the first one in Nairobi and the second one in Nakuru, where I was introduced to rugby.
It’s a story I would like to revisit to drive a simple point home. But I will put a caveat before I proceed any further.
This is a story that should probably be told by my senior colleague, Charles Nyende, a retired Kenyan international rugby player, who I must say has an unrivaled in-depth knowledge and vision of the game from his newly attained vintage view on “fifth floor” (my belated congratulations, Sir Charles). Nevertheless, I will strive to recount it in the best possible way.
Back to my school days in Nakuru. It’s around that time that I discovered and fell in love with Nakuru RFC, whose home ground was a stone's throw away from our flat.
At the time, ‘Wanyore’ hadn’t won a single Kenya Cup title, but they were well on their way to eventually breaking the dominance of a clique of Nairobi clubs.
Among these teams was Nondescripts, a side that had a fearsome reputation in the league.
Other than their crisp white jerseys, at the time, Nondies was an almost all-white side, with only a sprinkling of non-Caucasian players. The black players on that Nondies team, for very obvious reasons, were often targeted by fans of the opposing teams. Cooks, cleaners, kitsmen, groundsmen… the poor fellows became the butt of very dirty rugby jokes.
Given that the insults came from black fans, it was a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black, in the real sense of the word.
Now, I’m not sure whether such prejudice from members of one’s own race amounts to racism. But I can only imagine the psychological and emotional damage that these dirty jokes dealt on the poor players.
Thankfully, many years later, you’ll not get to hear any of those gross expletives on the pitch side. The Nondies of old is today an ‘all-black’ side which has since fallen to its lowest depths. The one-time serial Kenya Cup champions, alongside former bigwigs Kenya Harlequin, were relegated from the league in February at the conclusion of the 2021-22 season.
Nondies’ black players may not be the only sportsmen and women that may have been subjected to such racial prejudice in this country.
I don’t have facts to back this one up, but I have a hunch, similar incidents have happened in a sport like cricket which in Kenya is ‘owned’ and run by the Asian community. What more, verbal insults – they call it sledging – is not a sin in cricket.
Apparently, racial prejudice is as old as sports. And it often rears its ugly head without exemption of sporting discipline.
In Europe, some of the top football leagues have lately become notorious for repeated incidents of racial abuse targeting players of colours, especially African players or those who trace their roots to the continent.
Real Madrid’s Brazilian prodigy Vinicius Junior is presently the latest victim of these senseless acts by racist hooligans masquerading as fans, the reason being – wait for this – they feel offended by the little jig he does every time he scores.
It’s depressing how casually these incidents are normally treated by the clubs and league bodies. Atletico Madrid, for instance, in the wake of the Vinicius incident, merely condemned the "unacceptable" chants by a "minority" of their fans.
What nonsense! It’s despicable and stinks to high heaven!