Sports is key, striking Kenyan PSV crews showed us

Matatu operators in Nyeri town keep themselves occupied skipping rope on July 12, 2023 during the strike over the new regulations set out by the Ministry of Transport.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Sports development may be the economic cornerstone of our country.

An observant visitor from another world would surely find Kenya today a troubled place – choking taxes, runaway corruption, frequent anti-government protests, inflation, inequality, unemployment and many other challenges tied together with the ribbon of despair.  

But if they would have been passing by Nanyuki and Nyeri bus stops on Wednesday, they would have witnessed a rather different dimension of this national disjunction. Here, amid the chaos and bedlam ongoing across the country, and amid the frustrations they surely must have been facing internally from losing precious money making time, PSV drivers and conductors turned the bus park into a multipurpose playground.

They were skipping rope, playing football and volleyballs and, had the cameras not arrived too early, I am certain some would have begun doing cartwheels. But I digress.

Few protests in Kenya have conjured up a feel good factor this good. It was heart warming to see the videos of the young men and women in such abundant joy, gleefully recreating childhood moments and reminding their bodies what it was like to be five, which is perhaps why the videos went viral.

Some of those watching thought of it as just a case of deeply unwise, questionable behaviour, a silly overhang of a pleasant (or unpleasant) childhood, while others concluded that was boredom at work.

I found that scenario an elaborate demonstration of the importance of sports in society. The PSV operators knew that they would lose quite a bit of the day’s earnings that day, but see the joy in their faces.

They could have chosen to stay inside their vehicles, or return home to wallow in misery and I’m sure some contemplated this, but when the balls, skipping ropes and volleyball nets arrived? Everything changed! Despair time turned into game time.

In that moment of anxiety and hopelessness, they turned to the one thing that is both stimulant and pacifier. The only other thing that can shore up your endorphins and leave you smiling amid chaos that is not a pill, a powder or some happy juice.

It left me thinking, with the right guidance, mentorship and support earlier in their lives, how many of those men and women would have been millionaires, representing the country in various international tournaments.

How many of them would have been top footballers in the local leagues or even abroad, but they didn’t have access to a football pitch while they were in primary and secondary school?

The picture of those individuals playing in a bus park drives home the importance of sports activities in all cadres of life, and emphasises its benefits in building cohesion, championing for mental health and mitigating drug and substance abuse.

Sports development may be the economic cornerstone of our country. Yet with every passing year, with every passing political administration, our leaders refuse to play their part in nurturing talent, and let’s be realistic.

With the current financial quagmire Kenya is in at the moment, few decision makers will give the building sports infrastructure a serious thought. That is likely to be carried forward to the next campaigns. As usual.

Anyway, can the Matatu Owners Association organise an annual sports day where its members can showcase their prowess in various disciplines? I will certainly come to watch!