Why We Must Tap into the Unifying Power of Sports

Last Sun­day, Octo­ber 30th, about 10,000 vir­tu­al and phys­i­cal run­ners proved that there is more that unites us than divides us when they par­tic­i­pat­ed in the 2022 Stan­dard Char­tered Nairo­bi Marathon. I was among these run­ners. Even though we belonged to dif­fer­ent nation­al­i­ties, tribes, back­grounds, age groups or reli­gions, we were all unit­ed in a com­mon quest to run togeth­er for com­mon good.

Where­as Elias Kem­boi and Sheila Chep­koech emerged as win­ners in the male and female cat­e­gories of the annu­al marathon, we were all win­ners of the marathon’s col­lec­tive social mis­sion and indi­vid­ual tar­gets. Per­son­al­ly, my goal was to fin­ish the entire marathon, and I had 53 rea­sons to do so. Hav­ing turned 53 last Sep­tem­ber, I want­ed to remind both myself and the world that age should nev­er hold us back from pur­su­ing our dreams. Dri­ven by this crav­ing, I was able to com­plete the full marathon.

Such is the lim­it­less pow­er of sports to uni­fy and inspire.

Bare­ly two months after a very com­pet­i­tive and divi­sive elec­tions, we need to tap into sports to unite our coun­try and boost our econ­o­my. In this regard, my friend Ababu Namwam­ba the Cab­i­net sec­re­tary for Youth Affairs, Sports and the Arts has one of the most imper­a­tive jobs. Last Fri­day 4th Novem­ber, he re-instat­ed the dis­band­ed Foot­ball Kenya Fed­er­a­tion’s Nation­al Exec­u­tive Com­mit­tee and Sec­re­tari­at. In doing so, he heed­ed Fifa’s demands and took the first major steps for the sus­pen­sion of Kenya’s foot­ball to be lifted.

In 1998, I got a first­hand taste of football’s immense social pow­er when I was elect­ed trea­sur­er of AFC Leop­ards. In the course of the year, I wit­nessed the amaz­ing uni­ty of AFC Leop­ards’ mas­sive fan base from west­ern Kenya. This uni­ty and pas­sion cat­a­pult­ed Ing­we to clinch their tenth Pre­mier League title that sea­son. Sim­i­lar uni­ty was also evi­dent amongst Gor Mahia’s equal­ly pow­er­ful fan base from the then Nyan­za province. Its no won­der that Gor Mahia has won the high­est num­ber of Pre­mier League titles in Kenya.

Pres­i­dent Ruto’s admin­is­tra­tion needs to ensure the flour­ish of Kenyan foot­ball and sports gen­er­al­ly. I sug­gest that this be done for the sake of uni­ty in our coun­try and the growth of our econ­o­my. Imag­ine if Kenya had qual­i­fied for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. There would be con­sid­er­ably less divi­sion in the coun­try at the moment. Thank­ful­ly, we have a chance to reengi­neer foot­ball in the coun­try so that young tal­ent can be ful­ly nur­tured. If we do so, there is no rea­son why we shouldn’t qual­i­fy the 2026 FIFA World Cup in North Amer­i­ca. That would be the per­fect anti­dote for the divi­sion that is bound to rear up its ugly head one year before the next Gen­er­al Elections.

Dur­ing the 1995 Rug­by World Cup, Nel­son Man­dela used Rug­by to uni­fy a racial­ly divid­ed South Africa. To the rest of the world, these games were just anoth­er World Cup. But to Man­dela, the games were an oppor­tu­ni­ty to nur­ture and cement uni­ty in his rain­bow nation.

Last month, Kenyans tast­ed the uni­fy­ing pow­er of sports when Eli­ud Kip­choge won the Berlin Marathon and set a new world record. For the two hours that his gold­en feet were rac­ing through Berlin, there was no Azimio or Kenya Kwan­za. Rather, Kenyans of every tribe and polit­i­cal affil­i­a­tion were cheer­ing their very own fel­low Kenyan.

Sports doesn’t just cat­alyze uni­ty; it also spurs eco­nom­ic growth. Indeed, the Sports Min­istry should be run from an eco­nom­ic stand­point because it can deliv­er unprece­dent­ed eco­nom­ic growth to the country.

Bay­ern Munich, Bundesliga’s pre­dom­i­nant club is worth almost Shs700 Bil­lion. How can we raise our stan­dards to com­pete with such teams?

The Ruto Admin­is­tra­tion must enact poli­cies that will trans­form sport­ing clubs in Kenya into eco­nom­ic jug­ger­nauts and employ­ment pow­er­hous­es.  Think green, act green!

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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