To my MP, Donate Games Kits yes, but Invest Holistically in the Football Sporting Industry

They say there’s politics in football. And football in politics. One can be either a problem or a solution to the other.

Much as I would wish to appreciate my towering beloved MP Hon. Aisha Jumwa Katana, Malindi MP for the good work she has demonstrated in ensuring that sporting talents among our youth are nurtured, I find her gesture of donating games kits quite insignificant to the social and economic trajectory as pertains to the empowerment of the youth in our great Constituency. True, sporting culture has a lot of benefits both at a personal and community level. It helps eliminate destructive idleness among our youth, and there are proven health benefits in sporting activities, sports culture is a form of entertainment by its own standards, and also, it  promotes commercial webs and social cohesion. Sports culture is also an effective tool in creating awareness in the diverse aspects of our social, economic and political themes.

“We are doing the same thing that was done over twenty years ago, and until we change, our boys will not attract any attention outside our villages.” ~John Kai.

But again, wait. Who does football primarily for commercial purposes in Malindi? Absolutely no one. I mean, all through my upbringing inmy hometown of Malindi, perhaps we have no more than three notable local names that ever successfully made it to the National Squad (Harambee Stars). I am informed that John “Baresi” Odhiambo (former Defender for Harambee Stars) at one time played for Alaskan Fc. As a teen, he was brought up in the densely populated Kisumu Ndogo (KD), in the outskirts of Malindi Town.

John Odhiambo lives and works as a Logistics Administrator in New York City in the US, following his successful study scholarship by which he attained a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, and later a Master’s Degree in the same discipline; after a successful tenure with the Harambee Stars squad where he is famed for mesmerizing The Super Eagles back in the nineties. Then we have another name in Anthony Kahindi who made it into the National under 21’s. He hails from Msabaha and currently works at the Port. 

Another featuring name is from the Bora Afya household in Kijiwetanga. Omar Bora Afya is currently out of the country for an international peacekeeping mission. He made it to the Gor Mahia squad and later recruited into Ulinzi Stars where he is yet to feature owing to his current military deployment overseas. It is these legends that my MP should consult for solid sporting opportunities for our youth, instead of impulsively procuring sporting gears for teams which obviously fall below any normal soccer league standards.

In the nineties to early two thousands, major tourism resorts around Malindi and Kilifi used to sponsor local football teams as part of their corporate responsibility. We had Alaskan Fc, The Prisons FC, Zamalek FC, Paradise FC, Mzambarauni FC, Gamma FC, Real Madrid FC, Evergreen FC, Clarks Weavers FC, Black Stars FC, Rocky FC, Coast Boys FC inter-alia. Though none of these outfits made into the national top flight leagues, watching our youth compete for local stardom was such an orgasmic episode. Many are the youth who secured hotel jobs and college sponsorship, and the disciplined forces recruitment through footballing exposure.

In short, football discipline was both entertaining and an income generating activity. However, with the declining Travel & Hospitality industry in Malindi and in the entire Coast Region, competitive football matches have become a thing of the past albeit the occasional tournaments being sponsored by our local leaders during festivals and campaigns.

Apart from High School (inter-school) fixtures, the only time we see serious tournaments in my constituency is during political campaign season where potential candidates want to popularize their agenda to the electorates. And perhaps during the popular local Mfungo Cups (the short period towards ushering in the Muslim Fasting Month). Locally, we term these as “Ligi Za Mikanjuni.” (Non-competitive football leagues). We only follow professional leagues (Kenya Premier League) on TV.

I therefore,sought to know why football in my Constituency looks like an alien game nowadays and I have sampled some responses here below.

“I have seen and played football in Malindi. We had great teams like Alaskan, Starfish, Seamen, Kenya Cashewnuts aka Korosho, Utalii and in all these teams we had great players like Alphan Nasib, Said Kisumu ndogo, Said Bakhashuwein (later became Coach for the Alaskan FC), Kadenge Ringa, Karisa Gogo, Cosmas Kupasi aka Pete, Kitsao Kitunga inter-alia, and because of their lack of exposure despite being very good players, they ended up nowhere. We are doing the same thing that was done over twenty years ago, and until we change, our boys will not attract any attention outside our villages. Vihiga County is sponsoring a team in the Kenya Premier League, same as Kakamega and Kisii, why can’t the same be done by our County? Why can’t we have a stadium of international standards done to improve quality? These tournaments coming up are only fashioned to attract political support but nothing to propel our youths to greater heights of sports. We must wake up now and not later.”  Says John Kai.

Discovering a talent is one thing, and nurturing is another. As expressed by my close friend John Kai, our galaxy of local stars failed to access top flight exposure and as such, their names ended up evaporating in utter oblivion. Were there chances for scouting these village sensations perhaps? Here is another response by Mamuu Mkumbi, former team manager for a local sporting outfit.

“We normally have local leagues under FKF but most of our teams  do not affiliate to these leagues because of the affiliation fees which they cannot afford. It is these leagues which give exposure to the teams and most of the players  playing in the national teams are fetched from these leagues. Interestingly, scouting is done through these leagues. I am saying this because I have been a team manager of team which I made sure played in the FKF League. I started with the sub- branch league then we proceeded to branch league (provincial level). When we reached super provincial, two of my boys were absorbed by the top flight teams. One by Mathare United and the other one by Thika United. The one for Thika United was later recruited by Harambee Stars under 20’s Squad and he is now in Ulinzi squa. We also have another boy from Rabai Constituency who is in AFC Leopards and its through these leagues. The rest is for the boys to defend their respective squad position through consistency, dedication and discipline.”

If we are serious about sports and the enthusiasm it brings about, my MP needs to focus beyond football jerseys and other games kits. We need to drop this simple traditional mentality that each football jerseys donated translates to a vote. We need to convert human talents into sources of revenue. Both for personal sporting career growth and the revival of all our shuttering economic avenues.

We need to install sporting culture as an alternative economic industry in our Constituency. We need to establish adequate soccer academies in our midst and encourage our kids to enroll in-mass. We need our MP wooing sports investors ready to bankroll sporting facilities and collaborating with the County Government of Kilifi to have Malindi Constituency house at least three major stadiums as a long term plan to spur the expansion of sports economy in our Constituency.

I do appreciate her prompt response to get a bus for our local teams and at least solve the local transport challenge for our financially malnourished teams. However, I believe that by creating an autonomous sporting industry, issues of financial constraints for local teams will become history. And the vibrancy of this industry must give us an assurance about the future of our young players so as to build professional teams and make each sporting talent count. I know this cannot be singlehandedly achieved by my MP, but I am sure it is in her power to lobby and mobilize all necessary resources to make this dream a reality.

As she braces herself for the 2022 gubernatorial race in Kilifi, my humble proposal to her is that she devotes to investing holistically in the sporting industry. This will surely lead to opening up of other floodgates of career opportunities for her electorates and the entire nation.

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