September a truly proud month for Kenyan sports

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BY DAVID ONJILI

D

espite the recent revelations that Treasury holds close to Sh8 billion from betting companies, the Sports ministry is broke.

The upgrading of Nyayo National Stadium that was to be completed in June 2018 has stalled.  Contractors are owed more than Sh400 million.

But all is not gloom.

The country did have its fair share of sporting glory in the month of September; this is despite being plunged into mourning with the demise of sprinter Nicholas Bett, which occurred in Nandi County on August 8 2018 in a road accident. Glowing tributes were paid to the runner who won the 400m hurdles during the IAAF World Championships in China in 2015.

Eliud Kipchoge

Kenyans on September 18 were glued to their television screens joining millions across the globe as the greatest marathoner of the modern era, Eliud Kipchoge sought to break the Berlin Marathon world record. And after a 2 hour 1 minute and 39 seconds, Eliud crossed the tape to set the new world record smashing his previous best time and that of fellow compatriot Dennis.

The 30-year-old athlete now has won ten of the eleven marathons races he has competed in.

What’s even incredible is the fact that this year, he beat Mo Farah amongst other elite athletes to capture the London marathon.

Ghana silenced

The pain and agony many of those who support the Kenyan national football team Harambee Stars is understandable. They are a very inconsistent unit; they last qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations in 2004 in Tunisia, when a wonder goal by Dennis Oliech against Cape Verde secured the spot. Since then, it has been gloom. The fans were thus and rightly so skeptical as to whether they could beat Ghana in an Africa Cup of Nations 2019 Group F tie.

Matters had been complicated by the fact that dependable captain and Tottenham Hotspurs midfielder Victor Mugubi Wanyama was ruled out by a niggling knee injury. Deputy captain David ‘Calabar’ Owino, too, was out due to injury. Harambee Stars had also lost their first round group game to Sierra Leone and were coming up against Ghana who had trounced Ethiopia by five goals in the first round game. The Black Stars had jetted in the country buoyant of a victory led by their coach Kwesi Appiah – AFC Wimbledon, and his star-studded side of Christian Atsu – Newcastle United, Kwadwo Asamoah – Inter Mlilan and Thomas Partey – Atlético Madrid.

In a David versus Goliath contest at the Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani, nobody expected that a ten man Harambee Stars, after the red carding of defender Joash Onyango would stand tall to claim maximum points and win by a solitary goal courtesy of an own goal from Nicholas Opoku. The result threw the Group F which also features Ethiopia and Sierra Leone wide open as all the teams now have three points from two games with Ghana leading on goal difference followed by Kenya and Sierra Leone. Ethiopia who host Harambee Stars next in Addis Ababa on October 10, are last.

While the country revels in this, the national team coach, Frenchman Sebastian Migne has raised valid concerns; the team at this moment needs financial support from football stakeholders and the fans. In the latest released FIFA rankings, Harambee Stars climbed 22 places to 107 on the back of the win against Ghana too.

World Boxing Council (WBC) title

What’s ironic about this night fight was the fact that her elder brother, Musa Mohammed had just captained the national men’s soccer side Harambee Stars to a victory over Ghana a few hours to the fight and now the night belonged to Fatuma Zarika to complete an evening of double glory to the family. She had a fight to retain her World Boxing Council (WBC) title bout against 20 –year-old Yamileth Mercado of Mexico.

Before a charged crowd at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC), Fatuma retained her title in a nail biting final which was decided on points. She garnered 290 points against 280 for Mercado.

The fight, the crowds and the passion reminded many Kenyans of the days when Conjestina Achieng would wow fans with her boxing skills in the ring. Many fans left the venue undecided, because the Mexican, Mercado did give a great account of herself and took the fight to Zarika. What was lost amongst them is that boxing points are awarded when punches land in specific body areas. The unanimous decision of the coaches though narrow, is testament to Zarika’s tactics, which won her the bout.