What you need to know:
- Last weekend, for instance, Nakuru County hosted the Sports Personality of the Year Awards in Naivasha after the annual gala shifted from previous hosts Mombasa County.
- During Saturday’s gala at the Lake Naivasha Resort, Kakamega County put in a bid (through sports executive Kassim Were Ali) to host next year’s ceremony with Governor Wycliffe Ambetsa Oparanya – a former AFC Leopards official – eager to market his county’s sports offerings.
Devolution is probably the best thing to have happened to Kenya since independence.
The empowering of grassroots institutions has injected pace in development on various fronts, with well managed counties celebrating progress.
Sport too has reaped handsomely.
Some counties have already put up sports academies and camps, with Bomet and Bungoma leading the way in completing such facilities from scratch.
Kericho too has done quite a bit, including laying a synthetic running track at the Green Stadium.
Governors in various counties have also shown support for sport and county assemblies that appreciate the importance of sport have gone one further by passing enabling legislation.
It’s reassuring to see contractors at Eldoret’s Kipchoge Keino Stadium resort to 24-hour construction work after a tongue-lashing from Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed and Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago.
Hopefully, the stadium will be ready in time to host the Olympic trials in June and help excite the Eldoret economy.
Counties that have erstwhile been quiet have revamped sports activities with long-term plans to keep talent firmly on the rails to success.
Last weekend, for instance, Nyeri County celebrated the regional football league’s kick-off with the derby clash between Marafiki FC and Karatina Homeboyz which Marafiki won 2-0 at the Karatina Stadium.
There has been a revival of football in Nyeri with Governor Mutahi Kahiga - a sports administrator in his other life – helping finance some of the clubs in various ways, including paying their league subscription fees.
Governor Kahiga is among scores of fans who regularly attend Marafiki FC’s home matches at the Kinunga Stadium.
Marafiki FC is a community team financed through gate collections and regular fund-raisers by the local community.
Along with Rwaria FC, Marafiki have transformed Nyeri weekends with families taking time off to socialise at their home games where gate takings of approximately Sh70,000 per match get into the increasingly popular Marafiki FC’s accounts.
Marafiki’s coach Joseph Kabuga sees a bright future for the team, and Nyeri football in general, with plans afoot to set up a Marafiki FC academy.
Our company team, Nation FC, looks forward to visiting Nyeri soon for a friendly match with Marafiki as we build up to our FKF Betway Cup’s round of 32 fixture against Bungoma Super Stars to be played on the weekend of April 17 and 18.
As part of our team’s ambition to visit all 47 counties, we have so far toured 12 counties and experienced first-hand the level of sports development at the counties, from the refurbishment of the Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega and Gusii Stadium in Kisii to the turf pitches of Mombasa and Kiambu counties.
That the Bukhungu Stadium’s revamp has entered phase two is quite something, and will offer options for Kenya’s hosting of international competitions.
Ideally, we need stadiums in various locations, especially at high altitude and sea level which will hand us various advantages.
If Harambee Stars would, say, host a home match against Egypt at 2,400 metres in Elgeyo Marakwet County, the “Pharaohs” would certainly struggle to cope with the conditions that would favour home team experience.
Conversely, if the Stars were to host Ethiopia in Mombasa, the “Walias”, who thrive at high altitude, would most probably be disadvantaged and struggle to cope with the sea level heat and humidity of the Kenyan coast.
Well-prepared counties are enjoying the sporting boom, with, for instance, Taita Taveta County celebrating Premier League football after Sofapaka FC adopted the Wundanyi Stadium as their homeground and Kericho too are embracing the top flight after Ulinzi Stars relocated to the Kericho Green Stadium as their traditional Afraha homeground is closed for renovations.
The rotation of key sports events around the counties is another positive development that will help counties nurture sports potential and boost local economies.
Last weekend, for instance, Nakuru County hosted the Sports Personality of the Year Awards in Naivasha after the annual gala shifted from previous hosts Mombasa County.
During Saturday’s gala at the Lake Naivasha Resort, Kakamega County put in a bid (through sports executive Kassim Were Ali) to host next year’s ceremony with Governor Wycliffe Ambetsa Oparanya – a former AFC Leopards official – eager to market his county’s sports offerings.
(How I wish my county of Nyamira, where the dearth of sports is a huge worry, would even bid for a Nyanza regional ajua or arm-wrestling competition!)
The onus is on counties to now vote more funds for sports development as this will translate to additional revenues to the devolved units from sports tourism inflows.
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My congratulations go out to Kenya’s national basketball team for their sensational victory over Angola in Yaounde at the weekend.
Tyler Okari’s buzzer-beater for the “Morans” underscored the talent we have in the sport whose potential we extremely underestimate.
Credit goes to the players and technical bench led by coach Elizabeth Mills, her assistant Gaya Sadat, team manager Mercine Milimu and Kenya Basketball Federation President Paul Otula for putting together the winning outfit.
Not to forget the support from the government, through Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, Principal Secretary Joe Okudo, and the National Team Management Board for carefully crafting the path to victory in the Afrobasket qualifiers.
We hope the ground-breaking win will translate to more vibrant domestic leagues and spur corporate interest in the game.