Category Archives: In the news

Simiyu’s quest to change the soul of Kenya Sevens

The national sevens rugby team head coach Innocent Simiyu gets a second bite of the cherry and a chance to right the ship after a torrid first year as the head coach.

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Speaking at the team’s pre-season training session at the RFUEA grounds, Simiyu cut the image of a man at ease with his challenge and one who has the respect of his charges ahead of what will be a tough and long season.

“It was not all doom and gloom last season. We exposed several young players. I was happy with our expansive game. Into the new season it is time for the foundation we laid last season to now flourish.”

Pundits have questioned whether he is his own man or a merely lackey of the Union. Simiyu may not have the large-than-life personalities of Benjamin Ayimba or Mike Friday but in his unassuming, professorial nature there is steel that shines through.

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“Biggest thing I want to do is to improve the Kenyan rugby player. When a player is dropped from Shujaa, he drops in life. If we can improve the player such that they can improve their life for good and also when they stop playing they still contribute to the Kenya sevens eco-system then I shall have achieved something. Player is key. Changing the culture and creating purpose is the way.”

Having covered the team for close to half a decade at close range I was intrigued as to what change in culture meant for the former Impala RFC captain and coach.

“Culture is how Kenya Sevens team behaves, operates and interacts with society. We have to change that. Purpose is who we are and why are we here. If cam get clarity on that then there is sustainability in what we are doing.”

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The national sevens rugby team last season struggled in the World Rugby series blowing hot and cold before finishing 12th with a mere 63 points. Many questioned the ability of Simiyu who despite being a top rugby player in his day had little experience as a coach.

“There will always be doubting Thomases. It is life. For us key is to improve the player, play better, develop the game and off course win. Yes, we understand the expectations of Kenyans who want us to win everything.”

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In his first season coach Simuyu despite a target of 10 points a leg, only led Shujaa to 2 main cup quarterfinals in the 10 legs of the series. He cited a poor pre-season for the team’s dismal run. This season he has had the luxury of starting early and not spend most of the season firefighting. With 12 players in camp ‘Namcos’ asserts that training has been good and that he has had 100 percent attendance.

“Quite excited. Wish we keep the momentum and energy that we have started with. I have a feeling that things will be very good this season.”

Simiyu only had Team Manager Eric Ong’weno in his technical bench for most of the season after Strength and Conditioning coach Ian Gibbons resigned early on. Ahead of the 2017/2018 season Kenya Rugby Union has promoted performance analyst William Webster to assistant coach and rehired Geoffrey Kimani as the strength and conditioning coach.

“It is reliving. I was quite lonely. It is lovely that we have a full set of management. Kim has hit the ground running. He is in familiar grounds and we are happy to have him back. As for Will, he is good in analysis and this relives the pressure on me to focus on tactics.”

Shujaa have a busy season ahead with the World Sevens Series starting in December in Dubai, the Commonwealth Games in Perth Australia in April 2018 and the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Fransisco USA in July 2018. This means a happy, committed and settled squad is key and areas like contracts, health insurance have to be sorted out early.

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“Contracts have been given. The players are to read then sign. The contracts are better and all the benefits are there. It is one of the best packages given. We have improved what we are offering because it is going to be a tough season. The players will tackle 16 tournaments and we require 100 percent commitment so we must compensate them.”

Last season Simiyu fell short of his 10 points per leg goal and this season he has a different outlook in as far as goal-setting.

“As management we shall be player-centric. It is not about us but about the players. Process of goal-setting is bottom up. Players set individual targets, then we set team targets. So they have the developmental forms to fill then we take it from there.”

The national sevens circuit kicked off with the Driftwood leg in Mombasa and will conclude with the Dala Sevens in Kisumu five legs later. The circuit curtain rises for the Safari Sevens which is scheduled to be held in early November while also on paper being a chance for the technical bench to pick new players.

“There is a selection committee of 5 checking out the players in the circuit. We want all the players to show what they have got. We have the core 12 in training then we pick 28 from circuit to make 40 then we whittle down to around 30. Even the 12 have to play a minimum of 2 legs. It is not a surety that they will be in the team, they have to prove themselves. They are on probation.”

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For many coaches it is winning that is the bottom-line but for Simiyu there is seemingly a desire to build a legacy that can withstand the test of time at Kenya Sevens. Given that the team has had five coaches in five years ‘Namcos’ will have to deliver results on the pitch to be given time to build the culture that he envisions.

GOD BLESS KENYA!

(transcribed from an interview with Innocent Simiyu on 5th August at RFUEA grounds)

PS: All images courtesy of Google.

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The Wanjiku Phenomenon

The Member of County Assembly (MCA) post has attracted a huge amount of aspirants and it is proving to be the most fatal of seats one can go for in the 2017 General Election.

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This is surprising given that according to the Kenyan constitution the MCA seat is practically that of a diligent public-spirited person in a ward who basically acts as a linkage between the public and county government.

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However the perks which include a salary in the neighborhood of half a million shilling, a potential to hold a governor at ransom and the possibility of running the unconstitutional ward development fund has brought out the savage and greed in Kenyans.

An MCA ticket is seemingly a chance to get a lot of money for doing basically nothing.

This captures the essence of a Kenyan’s quest for public office.

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This post is inspired by a conversation between radio presenters Nderitu Waihura and Professor Ngugi wa Njoroge on their show Gukera on Inooro FM on the night of May 22 2017.

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Nderitu began the show by alluding to a conversation that had taken place earlier on Inooro TV’s show Kimuri which he co-hosts with Michael Njenga. The show had included former and aspiring MPs among them Lewis Nguyai, a former MP for Kikuyu. The show had focused on the life of an MP in relation to a Kenyan voter.

Nguyai had stated that given his Kikuyu constituency was near, when he was an MP he would be in his constituency office 4 times a week and every time he would be there he would be forced to give voters forty thousand which would translate to one hundred and sixty thousand a week and then to six hundred and forty thousand a month. At times this would see him take home only twenty thousand a month from his salary.

Another former MP Jeremaih Kioni stated that he often adviced young people getting into politics and intent on staying on the straight and narrow that they surely had found a sure route to poverty.

Based on these politicians’ comments, the two hosts began dissecting the Kenyan voter: ‘Wanjiku’.

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It appears that Wanjiku does not care about a leader who provides an oversight role on the government, does not care about a leader who passes good laws or a leader who is honest and stays on the straight and narrow.

Wanjiku’s view on leadership is money. Following towards her. Why does Wanjiku presume that a leader is an ATM bank? Why does Wanjiku presume that a leader gets into leadership for their own enrichment and thus they should milk the leader dry before voting for them? How is it that a leader is expected to pay maternity fees, funeral costs, school fees, etc? Who even knows why exactly does Wanjiku vote? Who benefits from Wanjiku’s uninformed voting?

We are currently on the eleventh parliament and from the first parliament voters have been conditioned or have conditioned themselves that a leader is as good as the money they give and imagine the damage done over the years.

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Professor Njoroge then gave a story of a donkey. The donkey was tethered and well-fed and a lion was salivating at the donkey. The lion then sent a hare to tell the donkey how much he loved her and wanted to be with her. The donkey despite knowing the perils of a lion agreed to be wooed. Once the donkey was in the lion’s den the lion went for the donkey’s neck but somehow the donkey managed to run away. So the lion once again sent the hare to tell the donkey that the lion was not seeking to bite the neck but rather it wanted to hug the donkey due to love. The donkey bought the story and returned to the lion’s den and shortly thereafter the lion tore it apart. The hare which was present then ate the heart and the liver which are soft and sweet. Once the lion had struggled with the tough donkey’s meat it sought to eat the soft heart and liver but found they were missing. Upon asking the hare, the hare said that the donkey had not had a heart or a brain because if it did there was no way it would have accepted to go back to the lion’s den.

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The two contended that Wanjiku like the donkey was quite stupid and every five years accepted the lies on offer from both sides of the political divide and every five years was lied to without fail but still went back for the lies.

A case in point is the maize story. The opposition had made it a campaign tool not because they cared for Wanjiku but because it would help them push their vehicle to Statehouse.  As for the government their solution to the maize puzzle was not to ensure that Wanjiku had affordable food and to ensure that it would not happen again but rather to mint money and to deflate the opposition’s momentum.

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Currently there was no 90 bob maize available on the shelf but that was not what Wanjiku cared for. Wanjiku was more interested in if their MCA, MP, Govenor, Presidential candidate had submitted their papers to the IEBC, whether or not independent candidates were good or bad and other political issues of the day. For both Jubilee and NASA Wanjiku’s their hunger can be seemingly be postponed until after elections.

Clearly Wanjiku is deserving of a PhD thesis as a phenomena.

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The two also spoke of how right now ‘everyone’ knows that for you to get public office all you need is money, it does not matter where you got the money from. Once you have acquired money from legal or illegal means then no one can touch you, you can hire lawyers to frustrate the legal system and Wanjiku will cheer you and brand you a hero or heroine for being the ‘true Kenyan’ who is a hustler.

Then Nderitu, sought to look at Wanjiku away from the political prism: Wanjiku in a matatu.

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When Wanjiku is in a matatu in the morning or in the evening they are a cheering squad to a bad matatu driver. They are very happy when the matatu driver breaks all laws and gets them from point A to B in shortest time possible. However, if Wanjiku is driving then they are very much against matatus and they see how reckless and law-breaking matatus are.

From the perspective of Wanjiku in a matatu and away from matatu clearly Wanjiku is her leaders and her leaders are Wanjiku.  Everyone is seeking for their chance to eat and they only complain about eating when they are not doing the eating.

Little wonder President Uhuru Kenyatta famously once asked…”sasa mnataka ni fanye nini jameni?”

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At the end of the conversation the agreement was that the value system in Kenya is broken but no one has any idea how to fix it.

Therefore we shall keep performing democracy every five years but never addressing our root problem.

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Food for thought…

GOD BLESS KENYA.

There is a perception that vernacular radio do more harm than good by just blowing the trumpet for the tribal lords but seemingly sometimes they also pause and smell the coffee.

A lovely touch was playing Eric Wainaina’s Nchi ya watu wadogo song as well as in the famous quotes segment playing a timely sound bite of Tanzania’s First President Julius Nyerere.

PS: All images courtesy of Google.

 


#ConversationWith: Faith Muturi-Ngugi

After 4 years of hosting NTV’s Sunday morning gospel show Crossover101, Faith Muturi-Ngugi has called it quits.

ModerateKenyan chatted with her just minutes after she hosted her final show.

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ModerateKenyan: You just hosted you last show. How do you feel.

Faith: Overwhelmed.  So so overwhelmed by the love everyone has shown me. We have really journeyed together. First the feedback got me to tears. You realize you have formed a relationship with people. Shocked by the way the crew and my family planned the final surprise of having my family show up on my final show. My hubby dropped me in the morning and did not say anything. Imagine my surprise at him walking in to the set. It has taught me the importance of finishing well. I resigned in May but stayed on till end of July to ensure a smooth transition happens. Glad I stayed.

ModerateKenyan: Why are you leaving is what everyone is asking.

Faith: I am leaving because it is time. . No I am not trying to be deep, I just feel that it is time.  Life has seasons. My season at Crossover is over.

ModerateKenyan: Let’s go back to the beginning. How did you start.

Faith: I had wanted to be on TV six years ago but one of the TV stations rejected me saying I was not cut out for TV. Then four years ago a pal told me Crossover were looking for a host. Imagine they had already finished doing screen tests and even shortlisted but I showed up and they liked me. I did a screen test on Saturday 5pm and was on air on Sunday morning and the rest is history. Goes to show that when God opens a door, He really does open the door.

ModerateKenyan: How was your first Crossover show.

Faith: Wow! Not sure I should say this. I had never watched Crossover but I obviously could not say that at the interview. Had also never met DJ Mo or Sadic so did not know who was who (laughs). Why did you not google you ask? Well, my internet was flaky so could not Google. I was a Psychology major and had no clue about broadcast. It may seem like I was totally flying blind but I was not. I had been doing youth ministry for four years, 5 days a week, 9 high schools a week and I did not know it then but that was my education for TV hosting.

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ModerateKenyan: Co-hosting with DJ Mo.

Faith: When I started we were two hosts, two DJs. Learnt a lot from Allan T and Sadic. Then they left and it was just Mo and I.  We have amazing chemistry and bring out the best in each other. I feel that I am a better everything because of Mo. We have moved from being just colleagues to great friends who have each other’s backs. We are also great family friends now. It took him so long to accept that I am leaving. (sigh)

ModerateKenyan: Shows that stand out.

Faith: Honouring Kaberere. That was very very emotional. (pauses for a awhile). We also did a throw back show and dressed like 70s guys, then there was a reggae show (laughs). The first show also stands out. The theme was forgiveness and the impact was phenomenal. It is hard to pick a show but trust me all the laughing and dancing on Crossover has a HUGE impact.

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ModerateKenyan: Has Crossover gone too far towards secular.

Faith: I came into the show as the deep one given that I am a pastor’s daughter but I have changed. Some songs I cannot sing along too and I do not understand but the youth relate totally with the songs and the musicians. I do outreach in the slums and I ask the gospel artistes to come perform. When we go by ourselves they do not listen but when a musician they love sings first then we talk after they listen to us totally. Through the music, which may seem secular we are able to change lives. The Bible says we shall know them by their fruits. It is easy to judge and not understand and call it going to far but Crossover is changing lives through what works in this generation.

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ModerateKenyan: How have you changed.

Faith: Ha ha. My look has changed. No, seriously, yes I have changed a lot. I am more conscious of the audience. I have moved from I know everything and the Bible is in my head and wanting to preach to seeking to connect and reach my audience at their level. Preaching at folk does not help anyone. Jesus used parables and really got the message home.

ModerateKenyan: The look.

Faith: Hahahaha. Let us just say many many many people have worked hard to get me here. It is still a work in progress but I am glad I have found my style. Dressing curvy me is not easy but I am now able to express my values, personality and still be trendy.

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ModerateKenyan: The curves.

Faith: You know my pal sent me a screenshot. Ati if you google Faith Muturi there is an option for Faith Muturi hips. (laughs and laughs and laughs) The curves have enabled us to push the Gospel. If someone watched Crossover because of the curves and stayed on longer and got ministered to then I am grateful. I have also shown that you can be curvaceous yet decent and with values.

ModerateKenyan: Baby bump. Congratulations.

Faith: Thank you. We are 5 months. It has been an amazing journey. I am blessed.

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ModerateKenyan: Boy or girl:

Faith: (rubs her belly) Hmmmmm. I shall tell you in the next interview. (smiles and winks) There is another interview, no? (laughs)

ModerateKenyan: Did pregnancy influence your decision to leave?

Faith: Since last Year I have felt it is time to leave. This was before expecting. So leaving was going to happen but pregnancy played a part. Ladies have worked in the media while pregnant and it should not matter only that for me I have a lot on my plate. I am a corporate trainer with over ten years experience; I do the Simama Outreach program where last year we had over 3,000 youth. Now add baby and husband then Crossover. Something has gotta give.

ModerateKenyan: Will you make a return to our screens?

Faith: (smiles) Watch this space.

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GOD BLESS KENYA!


Mchele with a twist

This is a story  I overheard at a pub in Nairobi about a story of a story told by a guy to his boys as a warning.

A guy probably in his 40s was seated behind me and I could not help but overhear as he regaled his date on the escapades of his boy, ‘Alex’ who was mchele’d in the most unique way.

‘Kuwekewa mchele’ or being ‘mchele’d’ which is a common occurrence in pubs in Nairobi refers to the lacing of a man’s drinks by a lady with the intention of making said man unconscious and then robbing him. The drugs used are the size of a rice grain hence the name mchele which is rice is Kiswahili.

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‘Alex’ having heard of mchele situations was super vigilant when in pubs especially by himself but despite the vigilance ‘Alex’ was outwitted by a mchele lady.

A random week day saw him conclude a meeting at 10pm in the Central Business District. He then passed through Sanford (Nairobi’s mecca for late-night fast food) on Moi Aveneue for fries and chicken. After he was full and with an empty house awaiting him, ‘Alex’ then had the introspect not so clever thought of checking into a pub and having one for the road as a night cap.

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One for the road, led to two as it usually does and shortly a lady with an ample bosom and a low cut top joined him. ‘Alex’ entertained her in conversation while still being very vigilant; drinking from the bottle, buying a new drink after a visit to the gents as well as taking water in between the alcohol to stay sober.

A pleasant evening was enjoyed but being a week night ‘Alex’ finally decided it was a wrap and sought to leave. The lady then said she had also had had enough and would grab a cab. Since she had not finished her drink ‘Alex’ being the gentleman waited for her.

Having shared the evening the two then felt the need to say goodbye in a more intimate fashion. An intense make-out session ensured but our ‘Alex’ still had his wits about him as he was wary of being ‘mchele’d.

As Eneke the bird says in Chinua Acheba’s Things Fall Apart, since men have learned to shoot without missing, he has learned to fly without perching. As men in Nairobi have learned how to avoid the snares laid by the mchele ladies, the ladies have learned new ticks.

The last thing ‘Alex’ remembers of the make-out session was suckling on a breast.

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‘Alex’ woke up the next day on a pavement outside of the pub, robbed of all his valuables and aptly chastised for thinking he could outwit the mchele ladies.

In retrospect he reckoned that he had been totally vigilant and that the lady must have seen him ogle at her boobs, spotted a weakness, laid the bait on her breasts and then waited for ‘Alex’ to be a ‘thirsty’ man and BOOM.

Interestingly, ‘Alex’ had no hard feelings for the mchele lady saying that she was really nice conversation, the make out session was brilliant and she had a good heart since she even left him twenty shillings as bus fare home.

I could not help but really laugh at poor ‘Alex’ but in the laughter also picked my lesson on the latest tricks of the mchele ladies of Nairobi.

The overheard story may have been made up by a 40-something-year old man attempting  humor for his date or it may be a true story. Either way, forewarned is forearmed :-).

As my boys say, hii ni town!

GOD BLESS KENYA!


Inside the Kenya Anti-Doping Act 2016

The extent to which the Kenya Anti-Doping Act of 2016 which was passed by parliament and signed into law by the President differed from the version approved by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is startling.

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Contrary to what the government termed as minor questions by WADA as to the reason for Kenya being declared non-compliant by WADA a total of 24 queries were raised by WADA in regards to the Act in a document that I have seen.

For instance, Section 3 (b) which indicated to whom the act applies to has provisions which narrow the scope of the Act to only focus on athletes instead of ALL sports women and men.

Part VI of the Act that tackled General Provisions and which is at the core of the Act was found to have been severely mutilated. Removed were the parts binding all sports people to the anti-doping rules, the making compliance to anti-doping rules a requirement to participation in sports in Kenya and the requirement for cooperation with Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK) by all sportspeople.

WADA also had in issue with Section 26 (k) which terms unlawful stocking, distribution, transporting, selling or dealing in prohibited substances as prohibited activities in the Act. WADA does NOT consider this an anti-doping violation.

WADA is also uncomfortable with the lack of clarity in Section 42 (6) on how anti-doping violations would be handled.

Section 30 (4) which gives powers to an anti-doping compliance officer to arrest, search and detain a suspect for 24 hours was found to take Kenyan anti-doping officials into foray of criminal and prosecution procedures.

WADA took issue with a recommendation in Section 37 (2) that ADAK would annually submit a report to the Cabinet Secretary of Sports. The WADA code is transparent and so it would want public publication of the report and a copy given to WADA.

Section 7 (1) which laid out the functions of ADAK was found to have severely whittled down the functions of ADAK. WADA is for an ADAK that is totally independent.

Section 15 which tackled the conduct, regulation and powers of the ADAK board raised eyebrows with WADA. The board is top-heavy with government officials and political appointees. In the Schedule of the Act WADA once again took exception with the sweeping powers given to the ADAK board.

Section 23 (1) that established the Therapeutic Use Exception Committee was found to be altered from the final version approved by WADA.

Section 24 (2 & 3) that gives guidelines on Therapeutic Use Exception was found to have been modified and clarity lost.

WADA sought clarity in Section 31 (1) on whether the tribunal for dispute resolution would be before or after court process and what the disciplinary procedure would be.

Section 27 (6a) had a surprise reference to the Athlete Testing Programme which WADA sought clarification for as it was not in the definitions.

Section one alone of the bill had 10 comments with WADA questioning the deletion words or changes in phrasing. WADA questions were – Clarify how “prohibited activity” can be defined and why this replaced “anti-doping rule violation? Clarify whether a healthcare practitioner would fall under Athlete Support Personnel or there is a distinction?

The definitions of “national level athlete”, “out-of-competition testing”, “prohibited association”, “trafficking” were changed compared to final version approved by WADA.

All in all quite starling how the government managed to submit a law with SO SO many errors and put at risk the Olympics dreams of all Kenyan sportspeople.

This kind of incompetence needs to be punished by the President.

 

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Now to salvage the situation, the Kenyan government delegation led by Cabinet Secretary Foreign Affairs Amina Mohammed and the Cabinet Secretary Sports, Arts and Culture Hassan Wario met with World Anti-Doping Agency officials led by WADA Director General David Howman for day long deliberations in Montreal Canada on Tuesday 18th May.

The road map agreed with the government of Kenya and WADA will see adoption of the amendments to the Act, presentation of the amended clauses to parliament followed by presidential assent. Thereafter the amended bill will be presented to WADA where the WADA compliance committee will review and give approval.

While this process is on-going Kenyan athletes will be allowed to participate in international sport and Kenya will have representation at the Rio Olympics.

GOD BLESS KENYA!

 


Of fairy tales coming true

On Sunday 1st of May 2016 the eyes of many football fans in the world were fixed on Old Trafford to see if Leicester’s fairy tale would reach its climax at the Theater of Dreams.

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A win and the 5000/1 underdogs at the start of the season would be crowned EPL champions at the home of the twenty time champions.

I had a front row seat to witness this unlikely spectacle and I was living a fairy tale.

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Walking in Manchester on match day was akin to Nairobi on Mashemeji derby day. Fans decked in their club’s colors, singing and chanting. The visiting Leicester fans were the noisier and livelier.

In the tram to Old Trafford, chatted with 50 year old Steve. For 43 years, he had been going to Old Trafford. Began with his dad and never stopped. Tradition inculcated. Steve bleeds Red for Manchester United and his passion is life and death.

Outside the Old Trafford tram station met Denise. A Leicester City season ticket holder who despite living in Dubai had attended all but two home games. She is the embodiment of the Leicester roots that had sprouted the fairy tale that had captured the world’s imagination.

Walking towards Old Trafford with the thousands of fans was like making a pilgrimage. Stalls selling merchandise, open trucks offering fast food and beer on the go, hawkers calling out for their wares, fans singing all made one forgot the freezing rainy weather.

Several searches and into the stadium I went. “This is it! This is it!’ was the mantra I continually chanted under my breath as I searched for my seat.

I could not stop shaking. Perhaps due to the biting cold but mostly due to the overwhelming sense of occasion.

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Seeing the teams warm up, seeing at close range the players I had only ever seen on TV so close was exhilarating.

The teams then went back to the changing rooms and I settled back on my seat watching the stadium fill up.

A few minutes before 4 and the teams lined up at the tunnel to walk into the stadium. The atmosphere was electric with 75,275 fans attending the historical match and the noise levels hitting a crescendo.

As the teams began their walk into the stadium, the announcer said “Ladies and Gentleman, Welcome to the Theater of Dreams, Manchester United and Leicester City.”

I screamed. The fan next to me screamed. Everyone screamed. I have never heard so much stadium noise. Words cannot do justice to the atmosphere at Old Trafford. You have to experience it to understand.

Antony Martial’s early goal got me flying off my seat. Wes Morgan’s headed equalizer and the unbridled joy of the 3,000 traveling Leicester fans was a sight to behold. The first 45 minutes flew past breathlessly. In the second half the pace was less frantic but the drama was still as intense. The second 45 minutes were topped off with a red card for Leicester and penalty denied for Manchester United.

The match ended 1-1. An apt result for the player’s endeavors on the pitch and in my mind as a Manchester United fan as well as a Friend of Leicester.

Leicester players walked across the pitch to acknowledge their fans. Manchester United fans gave Leicester players and fans a standing ovation. I marveled at the delightful touching moment of sporting camaraderie.

Outside the stadium, Leicester fans were in great cheer. They may not have bagged the three points to win the title but they had got a point and anything other than a Spurs win the following day and their team would be champions.

So they sung and sung and sung. In praise of coach Claudio Ranieri, in praise of Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez.

“We are going on a European tour..European tour..European tour” was chanted repeatedly.

Amidst the boisterous traveling Leicester fans were Kenyans and Burundians. Surprisingly. I talked to them in Kiswahili and they spoke of their over ten years support for Leicester and the delight of seeing them almost be champions of England. One of the Kenyan gentlemen again from Mombasa proudly informed me that he was the barber for Mahrez and showed me pictures to prove it. Fairy tale things.

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This is a story about fairytales. Watching the game in person was the furthest thing on my mind when I sat watching Leicester City’s 4-nil win over Swansea on Sunday April 24th.

“Ulloa again. 3-0. Three points seemingly bagged without Vardy. 8 points ahead with 3 games to go. Your move Spurs. #FriendsOfLeicester

Is what I tweeted after Leonardo Ulloa scored the third goal in that match.

“Next Sunday – Man Utd v Leicester. Teren. Top 4 chase v Title chase. #FriendsOfLeicester tings will be tested :-).”

Was my follow-up tweet.

What I meant was that my decade’s long love and support for Manchester United would be tested by my season long love of at that point runaway league leaders Leicester City.

Manchester United after a topsy-turvy season were somehow still in contention for a top four finish in the English Premier League and a chance to play in Europe. A minor fairy tale given the nature of the season with manager Louis Van Gaal in charge.

However the bigger fairy tale was the almost being relegated to top of the table exploits by Leicester City. A collection of castaways, journeymen, and nobody’s who had somehow not only managed to escape relegation but to everyone’s shock sat atop of the English Premier League.

Imagine my joy when the following day, Monday, I learnt of an opportunity to travel to the United Kingdom to watch the Manchester United versus Leicester City game at the Old Trafford.

But there was a twist to my taste of a fairy tale experience. I needed a UK visa urgently. Tuesday was spent filing and dropping the application while Wednesday and Thursday were spent praying, crossing my fingers and refreshing my email.

An email from the visa processing office on Thursday had me running across town to Westlands to get the results which to my eternal delight were positive. My joy knew no bounds. My fairytale was on track.

Lift off from JKIA was Friday lunchtime. Touchdown in cold and rainy Manchester was Saturday morning.

The tickets availed required dressing up and thus a trip to Primark to suit-up was the first order of business. Three hours, two carry-ons bags and a MacDonald’s detour later I was back in my hotel room.

A quick shower and out I went to navigate Manchester. First port of call was the mecca for many a football fans. Old Trafford. A stadium and museum tour were the goal. Got myself to the tram station after several wrong turns, managed to buy a tram ticket from the automated machine and I was on my way.

Three stops later I alighted at the Old Trafford station. Purposeful strides. Heart beating faster. Mind on overdrive. Imagine my shock when the first signage I saw was Emirates. Did a double take and realized that this was the Manchester Cricket Grounds. Sharp intake of breathe and off I went again. Couple of minutes later and I was at the Sir Matt Busby Way. A motley of fast food joints and a pub aptly named Trafford were begging to be sampled but I had my eyes on the ball.

And then finally there it was. Old Trafford. In its magnificent imperious splendor. The Theater of Dreams. I was in dreamland. Spine tingling. Mouth agape. Hands on my head. Heard myself chant Oh My God repeatedly. Sat on a bench to steady my shaking legs. This was it. This was my fairytale come true.

After halfway composing myself I made my way in. Stewards in the black uniforms and bright yellow reflector coats stood at the entrance standing between me and my goal.

With thousands of fans in Manchester for the historic game to my horror the stadium and museum tour was sold out. I was in shock. So near yet so near. Fairytale was turning to night mare.

As I stood there for who knows how long to catch my bearings a steward brought the news that there was an opening for a 30 minute tour. Oh joy! I jumped on the opportunity faster than Bolt at the Olympics.

Started with the museum tour which was orgasmic. The trophy room is overflowing. The memorabilia from Keane, Cantona, Schmeical, Giggs playing days was a marvel to behold. The video reliving the 1999 UEFA champions’ league final win gave me goose bumps. Seeing the three trophies from the treble year as well as the three jerseys from each of the treble season competitions brought so much pride.

Then was the stadium tour. Walking in and reading the “You are now entering the Theater of Dreams” sign on the wall almost made my heart stop. Short flight of stadium and bathed in glorious sunlight was the stands and pitch.

Standing at the Sir Alex Ferguson stand, facing the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand with the Stretford End on my left. A sea of red folded up seats. The pitch in impeccable condition. Sensory overload as an old gent gave us a speech on the different stands and cracked us up with dry British humor. Time stood still as I absorbed all these then flew as the old gent abruptly announced it was time to leave.

Traced my steps back to the museum and relived the memories. Then finally grudgingly walked out of the stadium.

 

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As I sought to say thank you to the stewards who had given my dream life and to ask for directions to the merchandise shop another fairytale experience awaited me.

“Habari yako” asked one of the stewards. Kiswahili at Old Trafford was surreal. “Mzuri,” followed by “Ala, hutoka wapi wewe?” Was my reply once I got over my shock.  “Wewe wafikiri natoka wapi? Huko huko utokako” was the swift reply.

With the ice broken we chatted for 15 minutes. Mohammed from Mombasa left Kenya close to thirty years ago to study in the UK. For 25 years he has worked at Old Trafford in his own words, kutafuta rizik. When I marveled at the fact that he must have seen all the Manchester Legends up close, his reply was simply, wanatalanta…lakini si ni binadamu tu…What was a magical dreamy experience to many was routine day’s work to others. Grounded me.

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Different from Kenya where the full buffet of EPL matches is on offer to football fans, in the UK very few pubs show the games. So when I walked into Trafford Pub run by Stacy and Sarah and found the Arsenal Norwich game on-going I pulled a seat and soaked up the British pub experience.

Still walking on cloud nine I made my way back to the hotel with a spring on my step.

The title deciding Chelsea versus Tottenham game would find me 30,000 feet in the air as I traveled back home on Monday night.

Having watched a game at the Old Trafford I now broke new ground. One of my traveling companions streamed the game on the plane and my fairy tale continued as I watched Spurs throw away a 2-nil lead at the break to draw with Chelsea.

Eden Hazard’s beautiful equalizer was met by loud cheers and the final whistle and the ensuing brawl by high fives.

Incredibly Leicester were champions of England.

A fitting end to an incredible UK tour that was the stuff of fairy tales.

GOD BLESS KENYA!

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PS: This trip was part of a promotion by gaming platform mCHEZA to reward its customers by giving them fully paid for VIP trips for European live match experiences. Other games lined up for the lucky winners are the UEFA Europa league 2016 finals on May 18th and the UEFA Champions League Finals on May 28th.


Talking Women with KikeTele

The 2016 International Women’s Day theme is ‘Pledge For Parity’ .

On the eve of the International Women’s Day KikeTele held an event, ‘Women Game Changers’.

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These are my notes from the event.

First impressions:

Full auditorium.
Mixed audience.

Afro print aplenty.
Moderator introduces panel reading from a paper. Shouldn’t panelist introduce themselves?

****

Saida Ali Mohamed (Consultant -Feminist analysis and women’s rights) opening:

What are the reasons for cultural practice’s
Context of pain as an African woman
Decision making at community level – household & community level

Dr. Faith Mwangi-Powell (Country Director for the University Research Company, Kenya) opening:

As a mother moved
Big up to Lightbox for aiding community telling story
It’s until community says no
Matter of choice – how can they be empowered to make choice
Dialogues with community – when you know why then your what changes
Convos shouldn’t happen at this table they should happen at village level
Let girls dream
FGM is an issue for global concern

Kennedy Otina (Coordinator Men to Men FEMNET) opening:

At times you wonder if you are doing anything
What happens if my daughter gets married in Samburu
(ModerateKenyan aside – Should it matter it’s your daughter/sister?)
FGM is impunity. Extreme patriarchy. Men deciding on women sexuality.
Power relations???
60 year old man marrying 12 year old – the men are weak, girl are red-blooded, (!!!!)

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(ModerateKenyan aside – Rambling thoughts galore)
(My friend  seated next to me – Do you want me to write my thoughts?

It’s really rich of him to talk about patriarchy and then go ham on the ‘our daughter’ nonsense)

What are we not doing?

Saida Ali Mohamed (Consultant -Feminist analysis and women’s rights)

Let’s talk about the silence, agency, power.
What are the practice’s impact on women
FGM confers ‘womanhood, respect, status’ in community
Understand nuances not to validate but for clarity and effective approaches to deal

Dr. Faith Mwangi-Powell

When you understand the why you get the what
Not every culture is bad

(ModerateKenyan aside – Can we give alternatives?)

Amref is already giving alternates  – everything but the cut
Tell community about danger of FGM health wise
Not big stick but education of community is best
Narrative is changing
Create solutions with community

How have you addressed power issues

Dr. Faith Mwangi-Powell (Country Director for the University Research Company, Kenya)

Men pretend to know everything
Men pass buck
Power is in favour of men
Laws are hindered by enforcers who are part of community who turn a blind eye – chiefs come from same community that perpetuates.

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***

Notes exchanged between ModerateKenyan and a friend:

ModerateKenyan  – NTV’S Rose Wangui recently did a story on morans who have stopped FGM. Chief Moran leading campaign. Anticut warriors.

My friend  seated next to me – But do they have an NGO that knows how to use buzzwords?

ModerateKenyan  – Hahaha! Wish she was here. She has done stories on Northern Kenya for a decade plus.

My friend  seated next to me – I’d love to meet her… She sounds interesting.

ModerateKenyan Actually her story on beading was the first one to lift the veil

My friend  seated next to me – Write a blog post!!!

ModerateKenyan – Tutaona.

***

Question time:

(ModerateKenyan aside – Reveals the many NGOs in Kenya – many in audience who stood to ask represented an NGO)
NGO talk is grating
The Girlchild vs boychild question came up
A question on what of communities who do FGM in hospital, in modern space to fulfill rite? NGOs have concentrated in the so-called marginalized areas but anecdotal evidence shows FGM happens in suburbia Nairobi.

Panel response:

Saida Ali Mohamed (Consultant -Feminist analysis and women’s rights)

Role for broader sexuality conversation for boys and girls
Crude abortion – should safe abortion be possible
Safe spaces for girls availability
Have sex. Do not get PG. How now?
Autonomy of woman body in context of societal

Dr. Faith Mwangi-Powell

Medicalization of FGM has to be checked. Doctors, nurses arrested.

Kennedy Otina (Coordinator Men to Men FEMNET)

What are the numbers to support  boychild neglect
Human rights are gender blind
Men are jobless and still want to be powerful. Confusion.
Bringing forth a new generation of men
If we empower women it doesn’t mean that men are dis-empowered

More question time:

A Samburu warrior stood up and made a commitment that he will marry chic who ain’t  cut
Same warrior asked Is there alternative to ‘fight against FGM’ – breakage of family/society, alienation of girl child have long-lasting impact

(ModerateKenyan – felt this was the crux. A shoewearer who could have provided great insight and also moved conversation from NGO-speak to real talk. Shame time run out and moderator ended discussion.)

Panel concluding remarks:

Saida – s/o to Samburu girls in audience
Dr. Mwangi-Powell – tell someone about dangers of FGM
Ken – men shout it that you are against it

*****

Felt the conversation ended abruptly.

Wanted to talk to the Samburu girls in the audience and hear their voice.

Wanted to talk to the Samburu warrior going against the age-old cultures also wanted to engage him on how he thinks the fight against FGM should be tackled.

Got thinking as a communicator why the FGM campaign is taking so long to reach the audience. Is culture chipped away slowly or at once? Are the works that have been done in last 20 years and that are being done now chipping away at the roots of FGM and results will come soon?

Got challenged as a man to check my privilege which sometimes is subconsious.

****

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Mwende Ngao who was moderating second panel began with spoken word

Politics of Womanhood – Women belong to every one apart from themselves
Kesho it’s international women day – pledge for parity
Parity is 117 years away – It’s serious.

Talk would centre on – Women artistes – portrayal of women in art

Moderator introduces panelists. Reading from phone. Why not let panel intro themselves?

Aleya Kassam (writer)

Began by saying ‘Such a chaste audience’
She read a blog post – brilliant vivid writing. Huge applause at the end.
Conversation on Aleya’s writing with moderator
Astounding how women are writing in plenty but are invisible

Moderator did question and answer instead of conversation
Also zero involvement with rest of audience/panel

As Monitah set up moderator read another spoken word piece

Monitah (musician)

Sang 3 songs
She looked she was enjoying herself a lot
She was being herself
Moderator – How do you deal with non-mainstream tag? Monitah –  I do my music, I am me, That’s bottomline
Moderator – Challenge as a woman in media? Monitah – being hit on, want more women at the top
Moderator – Plans for your album? Monitah – working on it, follow me on social
Moderator – Arts place in society? Monitah – it’s key to give folk something to think about. Plant seed.

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Question time:

Is there a point to your art

(ModerateKenyan aside -this question GRATES!)

*****

My friend, her friend and I had to leave at this juncture for various reasons.

As we left we chatted on the almost two hours spent at the event.

Authentic talk vs Talk for pay.

Heard one talk, heard all talks until it sounds hollow.

Whether one should have standards or whether one should accept standards do not pay bills and accept to be a mouthpiece for something they may not be very passionate about.

Additionally whether the talks really help or they are an echo chamber. No divergent views expressed.

I have talked about Talking Shops in Nairobi before.

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An aside from the conversation was self-publishing and the perils. With the bigger picture becoming  whether as a friend one should harshly critique a friend’s creation or one should be ‘supportive’.

You read things or listen to songs and ask doesn’t the creator have friends? What if the friends are too timid to share harsh truths?

So my appeal as a creator is if something is good PRAISE it and if something is mediocre BASH it.

Moreso if it is done by a friend. Only way for our creativity to grow.

******

Our exit conversation also tackled:

Afro print and Afro-centric wear which have become the uniform for creatives. Note to all ourselves: do not jump onto bandwagon 🙂

Moderating is HARD. Curious: Who is your favorite moderator?

*****

March 8 is International Women’s Day.

I gotta say:

Women are AWESOME!

I CELEBRATE all the women in my life.

Thank you all for being a BLESSING.

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GOD BLESS KENYA!


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