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This man, Najib Balala

This Man, Najib Balala

From those early days as a young man, he stood to be conspicuous wherever he went; even as a person he has a very pleasant personality. He is handsome (what the local community called a “natural attractiveness”). From the very beginning he has never been a fundamentalist – he is seen as a moderate, educated and westernised person. Even when other Arabs were being sent to local schools his family took him to Kakamega High School. He later went to Harvard University.

At Kakamega High School, Balala related well with the institution members that were not Muslim. This is not to say that he has not been loyal to his faith. He drives his inspiration from his beads. Balala speaks fluent Luhya and loves chicken. Although his favourite food is Biriani, he has had to go slow on the dish since it is quite fattening. The former Ag. Labour Minister has special praise, almost awe when he speaks about his old school. One cannot mistake his nostalgia. “Kakamega High School taught me to be an independent thinker. To appreciate different cultures and understand that there is no difference in humanity, in diversity.”

Najib Balala is a Monday child. He was born on an early Monday morning at Kikowani in Mombasa at the Mosque.  This explains why he loves Mondays. His father died before he was born having suffered from Leukemia. He has always referred to his mother as a strong woman. “She was only 30 years and never remarried. She protected us (we were six siblings, four boys and two girls). She was a very poor woman. I am very proud of her. Her upbringing is very well cultured. Her honesty is the key to our upbringing,” he  told the writer in a past interview. Balala is the last born of his mother. Being poor and fatherless always inspired him to work hard and change society. He is a down to earth person who drives himself around even though he has access to a driver.

Balala, 45 is a family man and rather proud of his family. “After work, I sit with my children. If I don’t give them time, they will lose personal touch. My timing is unpredictable due to the nature of my political work so I spend quality time with my family,” he said.

He first cut his teeth is politics as Mombasa mayor and later as Mvita Member of Parliament and Minister for Tourism. From the start, his family was against his joining politics and he struggled alone.

His mantra is the need to start developing leadership that is honest and trustworthy and to have a mechanism to block leaders who take advantage of communities because they are more vulnerable and who think they can buy people. His greatest achievement is in the tourism sector where he introduced tourism as part of Corporate Responsibility and turned the economic sector around. He has never ceased to be a darling of the media since he always gives interviews without a fuss and always picks his calls even in the middle of a meeting.

He is highly respected within the Muslim community and never misses a function at the Mosque. Balala is accepted among Muslims who are rich, poor and middle class and by non-Muslims who are also of the same status. He is also said to be a darling with women who are the majority voters at the Coast. Before his sacking a few days ago, he was a bossom buddy of Kenya’s Prime Minister, Raila Odinga until recently when they started following different political paths. He once described Raila as the only person who seemed to fight for the rights of Muslims.

Excerpt from a past interview.  Copyright Omwa Ombara.

 

 

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We are soccer animals: politics of Kenyan football 3

As millions of Kenyans continue to eat, breathe, sleep and dream international football, all is not well at home and there is little to show for it.

“I have been in football since the age of 14. We are full of football. We are born there to develop it because we are soccer animals. We are not in football for individual business of going to Parliament. I am talking about footballers!” Claims Patrick Naggi, Technical Director, Kenya Football Limited
Naggi is passionate about football but he feels Kenyan football is not headed in the right direction. There is a lack of youth programmes in the Premier Leagues. Each club in the premier league should have its Nursery, says Naggi.
According to Naggi, football is a living organism. It grows. The football team ages. A healthy team component comprises under 21 players who are the players of tomorrow, nurturing talent. Next are the 22-27s who are at their peak performance level, playing today. Those aged 28-32 are the players of yesterday, at their decline phase. “Our national players are at the decline phase,” says Naggi.

Fifteen percent of Players of tomorrow (18-21) should be in the team. Players of today should be 60 percent while the 27-35s should form the 25 percent.  As these players are aging, they develop nil commitment to club, more commitment to family and even greater commitment to injuries. Football is a dynamic organism. It grows. It ages.  That is not a healthy team. There is the need for each club to have its own programme to fill into the main team.

Over 40 percent of declining game trouble are politicians. They are troubleshooters. They bring into football the politics of, “You will lose, we own the team organiser and manager” and incite the players. When the players lose their focus, they become trouble shooters too. Dissolving a four-year well  nurtured team and sacking the coach overnight on television just because a team has lost a game is distrastous.  It destroys the foundation upon which a team is built.

Unforgiving

“Football is a very unforgiving game. When you are at your peak, everyone loves you and wants a piece of you. When you lose, you lose alone.”Observes Naggi.

These are the hard facts and the painful reality that soccer animals must contend with. The lifeline of a player is between 18 and 12 years because that is the much the body can give. The danger is that Kenya picks her footballers at the age of 18 (add 12 years to this) and you get 30 years.

When you hit 32 years as a footballer you become a luggage to the rest of the team. At 34, you are a heavy luggage, you are married and have children who are six to ten years old…you are redundant.

Education

As they play, they should be doing external courses. Tomorrow will come and find you unprepared. They must be prepared for retirement. They should be turned into coaches or into managers so that when they become baggage to the team, they do not feel left out.

Thanks to the County system expected from the promulgated Constitution, talented soccer players will be recruited from the community teams. That is the life span of a player and that is how sad it is for players who want to cling to the team despite their sell-by date. CAF, the 53-member governing body of African Football founded in 1957,  has a way forward. Since 2009, the Confederation of African Football came up with a master plan for coaches in Africa. “By 2013, no Coach will be allowed to coach a club in Africa without CAF certification. Just like in UEFA (the Union of European Football Association), nobody can coach in Europe without an UEFA certificate. The same applies in Asian Football Confederation where one cannot coach in Asia without an ASC certificate.

Which way, Kenya?

In 2012, Kenya had a Level C, CAF course. This involved premier League coaches.Between September 5 and September 16, 2011, CAF was expected to undertake Level B training of 42 participants , two of whom were women: The highly experienced women coaches were Florence Adhiambo, a CAF coach instructor and Jacqueline Mwangi, USA graduate coach, currently coaching at the International School of Kenya.

Training

It goes for 120 hours with a minimum eight hours a day.  The rigorous training involves practicals, theory, psychology, sports injury, diet, Public Realtions and general management and exams. There are two certificates upon graduation. Certificate of Participation and Certificate of Merit. Failure to pass the training simply means you do not move to the next level. The structure: Professional Level A/B/C. Level D grassroots. Local Certification C-B-A. This aims towards professionalisation of coaching in Africa. This will result in better pay packages for coaches in future.

All soccer animals should participate in developing Kenyan football to professional levels by engaging in positive euphoria, discouraging politicians from using football as a stepping stone to their careers and supporting local matches. It is not just about singing, dancing, flocking large screens and wearing International Tee-shirts. It is about getting it right. The struggle continues.

The Serialisation of The Politics of Kenyan Football continues.

 


Am A Hopeless Facebook Addict

I am a hopless facebook addict in desperate need of rehabilitation. And I need a facebook doctor to save me lest I perish. I have become such a hopeless wreck that if nobody helps me, I might get locked up in a facebook institution.

I am usually the first one to get into facebook in the morning and the last to leave at night. Sometimes I fall asleep on the laptop only to wake up and continue with this facebook business. This addiction of mine has turned me into a lurker and when my friends have gone to sleep, I sneak into their pages and profiles and read everything…everything I need to know about them. I started feeling I needed help when I discovered that sometimes I am on facebook alone at 1 am with no one to chat with.

Facebook impresses me, I must admit. Never in my life have I had so many friends. It is not easy to make friends, you know, especially for a shy person like me. Can you believe it? I have 499 friends although to tell the truth, I only communicate with three or four daily. And only one or two, sometimes respond to my posts. This makes me so miserable and when this happens I tell myself, “I have no friends. I have no friends at all!” I have only had two sincere friends in my life and this facebook thing had given me great hopes to have so many friends.

Some of my friends are so popular that whenever they post something, over 50 people respond at once. This makes me so jealous that I feel like erasing their posts. So, to contain my jealousy, I sign out immediately. But because of my addiction, I am soon back on facebook again to monitor if the comments are going up. I get consolation from a blog I read recently that people who are popular on facebook are not normal.

My facebook addiction is pathetic. There are times I thought I would instil some discipline on myself. I deleted 200 friends from my post, hoping to retain 50. But the more friends I deleted, the more friend requests I accepted and now I have 499 friends. Some people have over 1000 friends and this makes me so jealous.

My addiction has been progressing over the years. After blocking some of my friends from the Friends’ list, I soon started asking them to be my friends again. Some fellow facebook addicts understood my condition and agreed to be friends with me again. But some dimissed me with the contempt I deserve and I have been begging them to take me back on facebook.

Some of the friends on facebook are very intelligent and well read. The more I read their posts , the wiser I become. Some are quite thick skinned and obnoxious. Quite a number live in their own world and only talk to themselves. Some are sober and some are wild. Some friends make me laugh, some make me cry. Like my poet friend who after posting every comment accompanies it with an adjecture,”only poets understand what I mean”. This makes tears of laughter roll down my eyes. Some friends, however suffer from verbal diarrhoea and this puts me off. Some are patronising, some condescending and some act as if they know everything. Yet some are so humble.

There are names that facinate me on facebook, especially the fake ones. Kenyans are very creative with names. Sometimes I spend the whole night just reading everybody’s name and trying to work out what they mean.

Who will treat this facebook addiction of mine? Sometimes, I read very annoying comments and I promise myself I will never go back to facebook again. Some comments are so demeaning, some tribalistic and some very vulgar. I have received love requests and job requests. I have received in-boxes for one night stands.

The group of friends I hate most are the political sycophants that encourage tribalism on facebook. They pretend that their tribal leaders are better than others, forgetting that one man’s meat is another man’s poison. So I do not understand why I still read their nonsense. Addiction is a bad thing, it makes one do things one hates.

I have once unsubscribed from facebook. But I got so lonely after that. I missed my friends. I felt left out of the facebook family. And very soon, as you might guess, I was back again, filling in my details and rejoining the facebook community. So when people say they are leaving facebook and wish everyone goodbye, only to surface a few days later, I truly understand. That is a fellow addict and the sooner I make friends with them, the faster I will be in good company.

Facebook is nice. If you miss one friend you can always talk to another. It is not like a mobile phone where some friends refuse to pick calls, others fail to return calls while others ignore your smses. I can communicate with strangers and still feel fulfilled.

Facebook has been kind to me though. Without facebook I would be jobless. Kind friends on facebook give me work and pay me for it and that is how I manage to pay my rent.

Facebook doctor, can you hear me?

A satire copyright Omwa Ombara, 2012


My daughters-in-law are a thorn in my flesh

Christopher Awuor is furious. At 75, he had envisaged a quiet retirement. At no time in his wildest dream had he imagined this kind of noise and  the intrigues going on in his home.

His son, Charles, 30, has just married a second wife  – an elderly woman of 45. Second wife arrived a week ago with three children on a motorbike. First Wife, 26, left for her parents’ home a year ago after a domestic fight that saw her pack and leave with her four children. But a day after Second Wife arrived, First Wife dropped her own children too inside the compound, in the middle of Awuor’s sitting room, got back on the motorbike and headed to Heaven Knows Where.

Now Awuor finds himself in a noisy house full of kids. His wife Nereah, 65, has become a mother again.

“My wife and I are not ready to take care of seven babies. We had eight children, all grown up now. They have left the nest. Our five daughters are well married and my three sons have married and settled down with their families too. The problem is this last born son of mine and his wives. They have made our lives miserable.”

Awuor believes that Charles only married Second Wife to discipline First Wife and not because of love. He suspects that Charles was advised by some of his friends on how to tame a wife. “First Wife has been a difficult woman, always spoiling for a fight and packing her clothes. Everyday, after a minor misunderstanding, she packs  her clothes and the children’s clothes too and threatens to leave my son and go back to her parents.  She often leaves for her parents home around Kisumu Airport but comes back a few days later. The children now know that when daddy and mummy quarrel, it is time for them to start packing their little clothes too. It is so pathetic that it breaks my heart.  Oh! I am so fed up with this packing business!” Awuor laments as he covers his face with both hands.” “This daughter-in-law walks in and out of my son’s house as if it is a lodging.”

Awuor lives in the same compound as Charles. Charles is the last born son and according to Luo tradition he has to stay in the same compound with his parents to take care of them. “I see all these happenings from my house, 50 metres away and it breaks my heart,” he repeats several times during the interview.

“The other day, First Wife came out of her hut carrying a picture and screaming. She ran towards my house, wailing and I came out thinking someone had died…probably my son Charles. We had guests that afternoon. As she approached my house, I could hear the words clearly. “Its Charles, Charles has taken a picture with another woman. I have found this picture in his suitcase. Look at this picture. Charles is unfaithful to me….Uwi! Uwi!” She wailed loudly as she tore the alleged picture in pieces and threw it at Charles and the visitors. The pieces fell on the soup that the guests were eating. The next second, First Wife, fell on Charles and started boxing and kicking him! Charles fought back but First Wife beat him up thoroughly. By then the crowd of villagers who had come to watch the show separated them. I went into my room. I could not stand the embarassment.”Awuor recalls.

The crowd, he says, held a Kangaroo court and agreed that First Wife was unreasonable and must return to her parents. Has Charles paid the dowry? No! Then she is not even a wife here. Let her go and find another husband to wrestle.  Other issues came out at the Kangaroo court. Charles confessed in a moment of anger that First Wife was already married somewhere for two years with one child before they met at a local bar where she served as a Bar-maid.  The child died after which the husband chased her away. “When I married her, she had no children. So as bad as she is, the four children she has are mine. But I don’t want her. Let her go with the children. I don’t care.” Charles said firmly. Before the Kangaroo court was over, First Wife got up, held her arms akimbo and laughed contemptuously at the crowd. “Ha ha ha ha ha Auuuu! Let me pack my clothes. Who told you I wanted to stay in this useless, poor, ugly home of yours. I am leaving now. Now!” She announced threateningly as the crowd moved back, aghast.

In a voice tired and heavy with the weight of this thorn in his flesh, Awuor continues. “First Wife took the children, packed clothes in five minutes and left. It was getting late and I was worried that she could be bitten by a snake or attacked by a Hyena, or even raped along the railway line,” recalls a sad Awuor.  “I begged her to stay the night and leave early in the morning but she was totally out of control. He verbal diarrhoea was untenable. She raged like a wounded bull, like a woman visited by wild angry spirits. Oh this woman, she has no respect for me! She abused me. She told me I had produced a useless son like me. Anyway, I insisted that my son must escort her to her grandmother’s home a few kilometres from us so the children could be safe.”

Awuor then laughs bitterly. “Do you know what happened? First Wife abused Charles so badly on the way that he could not take it anymore. He abandoned her with the children on the railway line, next to the wild sugarcane plantations and came home. My son is weak. He was afraid my-daughter-in-law would strangle him and he would be found dead on the railway line.” Admits Awuor.

“First Wife has been away for one and a half years.  I thought she was gone for good because we have not heard from her since she left. Her people have never been in touch.

“Last week Charles brought home a wife, a new wife. She was not all that new because she had three children aged Eight, Six and Four. My wife and I just saw a well-built woman and three children well packed in a motorbike arriving home at Sunset. The motorbikes are popularly known as Peng by the locals. Charles was besides himself with joy.  He ran towards the Peng, hugged Second Wife, lifted the children and introduced the new family to his mother and I. “This is my new wife and my new family. They will be staying at First Wife’s House.” He said. Culture allows a second wife to stay in the first wife’s house.

“What if the first wife comes back?” I asked Charles. His mother was uncomfortable with this arrangement too. “Look at the wife I have brought you, Dad. Look at how well built she is! This is not the kind of woman to throw out easily!” Charles said proudly as Second Wife nodded confidently. “Do not worry about First Wife daddy. I will sort her out if she tries anything tricky.” Second wife said quietly. “She sounds dangerous too like First Wife and I am worried that First Wife and Second Wife, might kill each other. I foresee a mighty war of wives looming over my homestead.  I foresee them ganging up one time and beating my son Charles. Oh! How I hate these fights.”Awuor reflected.

“But as Second’s wife’s children were just getting to bond with their grandmother the following morning, another Peng arrived carrying First Wife and her four children. First Wife did not greet anybody. She carried the children and dumped them in my house with their packed clothes.”

“Here is your property,” she shouted as she jumped on the Peng and ordered the Peng driver to leave. “Stupid people, stupid home, stupid children, stupid husband, stupid father-law, stupid mother-in-law!” She shouted as the Peng disappeared with her into the dusty distance, far beyond the railway lines.

“Before she attends to her household chores like going down the river to fetch water and to the forest to collect firewood, Second wife dumps her children at my house. My wife has taken in Charles’ four children into my house too. Everywhere it is children. And now in my old age, I have become a baby-sitter. I wash my son’s four children and other people’s children too. I feed them with porridge, they are all under eight years old. I dress the ones in Nursery School and Class One in the morning but these children of Second Wife are survivors and already know their way to School.”

“Charles will not take First Wife’s two children to school although they have reached school-going age. He says it is a way of disciplining their mother. This makes me feel very bad because the children are innocent. So innocent! He has lived with their mother on and off for the past ten years and despite her frequent packings, they deserve better treatment. They know no other home. He must take all the children to school. My son is weak, but he must take responsibility for his children He must not use them as a tool in this war of wives. I have warned Charles that I will report him to the chief.  Oh! These daughters-in-law of mine. They are a thorn in my flesh.”


The politics of Kenyan football (Part Two)

Government refuses to follow protocol

Worldwide, Football Kenya Limited (FKL) is the recognised body by FIFA . In terms of hierachy, we have FIFA followed  by CAF, then the National Association which is equivalent to Governments all over the world (KFF).

It is important for the Ministries of Education, Youth and Sports and Health to be involved in football issues in this country, with FKL at the centre of it all as the broker party. Yet the Government does not want to follow protocol. FIFA has its own laws and Government. FIFA has its own established rules. FIFA is the biggest Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) in the world with 208 members. This impunity has cost FKL dearly.

Fifa Rules

According to FIFA rules the age bracket for football players should be as follows from grassroots: 6-8, 8-10, 11-12 and 13-14.  Each group plays between itself because of different muscular/mental format Each age group has its own modulation of Governance.  FIFA insists on teacher coaches because they know how to handle different age groups. They understand the psychology of the children and will help them adapt. Thus it is important for the Ministry of Education can pass this knowledge down to the teachers.

My job is to churn out coaches.  If we can have 30/40 teachers during Easter holidays, it will not coast more than KShs 200,000 to coach and develop teachers in the ratio of 2 males to 1 female. This would give a general balance of 40 men to 20 women.” says Patrick N. Naggi, chairman Football Kenya Limited (FKL)

Women football comes of age

Women football has come of age; women to women and men to men. Which man will ever stand the inner part of a woman?  When a woman says, she cannot make it for a 100-metre race because of her menses. A man will just have to understand. At the crest, there will be a man to maintain focus, to ensure as a figurehead all is working.

Naggi explains: “We have a group of coaching instructors through qualifications and track records. Look at teams such as Brazil, Japan, Hungary. Disfiguring a four-year plan and changing coaches overnight is just not the done thing.”

Politicians killing football

The politicians think they are doing a good job, but they are simply killing football. Every change must be gradual and there must be a grey phase  – induction and handing over. A team like Congo United has had almost four new coaches.

At the moment, Tanzania/Uganda has very sound youth programmes. Rwanda, the cry baby of yesterday has seven pitches done by FIFA, free of charge as Kenya continues playing politics.

Nepotism

“The Goal Project” is funding programmes for 3rd world to help them come up with their world counterparts. In 1974, Zaire represented Africa in the World Cup. They were beaten 10-0. Meridian partner Kenya-Holland wanted to invest in national football. But we lost Holland to Mathare United in 2000. We lost a partner. The conequence?  Lack of funding and exposure to rehabilitate the youth in the area.

Poor Pitch

FIFA has realised the number one challenge in Africa, is poor pitch conditions. It is high time the Government offered the piece of land which it could co-own with the local Federation and FIFA.

Phase One, would be to develop a hostel (kitchen, dining room, lecture hall/sleeping quarters) fully equipped. Phase Two would be funding of the block; they give the Association money to build. In Phase Three, the funds would be invested in artificial pitches, at least two; a training pitch and the Main Stadium.

No reason

There is no reason why Harambee Stars stay in Hotels. We as Kenya never got to the third phase because of Non-co-operation of Government. The Government has consistently disregarded FIFA and failed to recognise it as the Supreme football body.

Phase Four is the development of  a National Stadium such as the City Stadium. FIFA came in, gave funds, developed pitch to elevate the pitch standard. “The Stadium is always full during matches. The City Council should have elevated the status to build a perimeter wall across the entire site.  The inner stadium wall should have been raised to about 15 feet and offices and stalls erected. It would have generated a lot of income. The hawkers should have moved into the car park and paid rent. People could use buses to town,” says Naggi.

Government wants to eat

But it seems like the Government only wants to eat; they do not want to develop. That is why this country is where it is.

Part 3: Who is this Patrick Naggi and what secret things has he done when he was a footballer? To be continued. Look out for the Sports Features page.

Copyright Omwa Ombara 2012.