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!