By: ABIGAIL ARUNGA
Against all odds, our Harambee Stars team finally got to Cape Verde. If you watched the match, you could see that the team was tired.
Stars supporters were trying to keep their spirits up, saying that in the past, the team had triumphed over terrible conditions and gone on to win matches they were playing.
There was outrage on social media when the fans first found out about players’ unpaid allowances from previous matches. The players weren’t refusing to go for just one match, but several.
On top of that, information came to light that a flight was turned down in favour of the disorganization of travel that was the day of the Cape Verde match.
Sports are not just a physical endeavour. Physical activity needs mental capacity to match it.
After the hassle of fighting for money from matches they had already played, uncomfortable and unclear travel plans, an eight-hour flight that landed in Cape Verde an hour before the match of course the Stars were not going to shine.
Of course we lost the match.
INADEQUACIES IN SPORTS
This points to unfair inadequacies in Kenyan sports that have been going on for as long as Kenyans have been doing well in the field. Joe Kadenge, veteran legendary football player, was quoted in Nairobi News saying he doesn’t understand why we are still wrangling over issues from decades ago.
Which brings me to ask: What really, is the future, and the point, of sports in Kenya?
There is an entire ministry and additional organizations supposedly dedicated to ensuring that the playing field is fair, and yet, our stars languish in squalor.
In fact, it would not be a reach to say that Kenya treats its war heroes exactly the same way it treats its sports legends.
Look at the families of the Kapenguria Six. Where are most of them today?
Then look at Conjestina. Draw the parallels – Conjestina’s boxing days are over, and it is like they never even happened. Every so often, we hold an “I Stand With Conjestina” hashtag or campaign, because it is clear no one else is standing with her.
With the Harambee Stars, there has to be national uproar before allowances are settled. But what are they supposed to do? Most of these players do not have other jobs. This is their sole career. They have families to support. What are they supposed to do?
This is basically modern-day slavery.
And it isn’t just football. The Commonwealth Youth Games that took place earlier this year almost wouldn’t have happened if the Kenyan team had not been supported by Oxygen8 East Africa. The company, which runs the Lotto, donated Sh5.2 million to cover “air tickets, upkeep and allowances”.
Without air tickets, allowances and upkeep, how was the Kenya Team going to even get to the event in the first place?
Our rugby team just qualified for the Olympics in Rio – as we knew they would, because with the likes of Dennis Ombachi, Oscar Ouma and Billy the Big Kid Odhiambo, no one else had a chance.
But even with such sterling athletes, our sports organizations still refuse to step up. Please note that many of these rugby players have to have other jobs. They’re still playing purely out of love for the game.
Remember when the Kenya team also went on strike because of lack of pay and contract confusion? And it isn’t the first time. There have been at least three strikes in the last three years.
When athletes don’t get paid, they move to other countries for sponsorship, and we castigate them for their lack of patriotism. But I would do the same thing. I can be Kenyan in my heart but something else in my wallet.
We cannot keep treating our star players this way. It is abominable and will lead to a complete will lead to a complete collapse in our systems, and we will have no one left to fly, or who even wants to fly, our flag.
SOURCE: DAILY NATION