By LUKOYE ATWOLI
Sunday Nation 13 September 2009
Perusing through the sports pages of our dailies, one may be forgiven for thinking that Kenya is a nation of the most unlucky people in the world.
Before any major tournament, there is plenty of hype despite the fact that very little advance preparation is done or even contemplated. After the inevitable heavy thrashing, there are recriminations and protests, as though the very best team we had lost by some unlucky happenstance.
Last week’s defeat of Harambee Stars by a solitary goal away to Mozambique, as well as the disastrous performance by the “Hit Squad” at the world boxing championships in Milan are examples of this sort of attitude that seems so pervasive in all spheres of Kenyan life that it can be considered integral in our national psyche.
Most of the problems in our sports have been exacerbated by the realisation by politicians that the fastest route to political Nirvana is through sports administration in this country.
Many clubs and sports federations today count, among their leaders, failed and aspiring politicians marking their time until the next General Election when they will don their party colours and hit the campaign trail with the clubs counted as feathers in their caps.
As a result, the same wrangles that characterise our national political landscape have found another battleground in sports, and a look at the football landscape in this country demonstrates just how deleterious this can be.
Today, the average football fan has no idea who runs the sport in this country, with a plethora of private companies and individuals each contending for a piece of the pie.
The national team is often unsure who hires even the team coach, and at some point the situation was such that there were two coaches before the Prime Minister waded into the murk and introduced German Antoine Hey as the new coach.
Even as the team jetted into Maputo for the match described as “make-or-break” for them, the media was awash with reports that the government could not afford to pay the coach!
Our subsequent collective surprise at the dismal performance by our national team is symptomatic of the national attitude to success, that it is due mostly to luck and Godly favour.
Hard work, planning and foresight are alien in the lexicon of the average Kenyan, and it is no surprise that the commonest peeve for most Kenyans is that the coach is earning over a million shillings monthly and has not ‘delivered’.
The malady afflicting football administration in this country is replicated across most sports federations nationally. Most of them are steeped in juvenile wrangles that result in stagnation of the game due to the oversized egos of the protagonists.
Even games like chess, thought to be played by individuals of above average intelligence, are equally embroiled in similar circumstances with many of the players constantly at variance with whatever team happens to be managing the sport.
Everybody expects miracles with little investment, and is surprised that this does not happen more often. Similarly, we condemn our entire political class for their obvious failings and corruption and then froth at the mouth in their defence whenever their Karma catches up with them.
Our leadership in all areas consists mostly of crisis management, and the little planning we carry out is short-term and often poorly organised.
It seems that the only reason our athletes continue to perform well despite the prevailing problems in leadership may be due to the fact that athletics is often an individual sport, and Kenya has a depth of talent that is difficult to hold down, even on a bad day.
Sports that require even a small degree of organised preparation and investment in the future are doomed to fail in this country because our enduring vision of the future consists solely of a vague picture of ourselves with fatter bellies than we have currently and a coterie of admirers singing our praises.
This is the same fate that faces the country on the political front, where we seem to have placed all our hope on a rapidly ageing cohort of politicians whose names were already in the headlines even before the vast majority in the current population was born!
The situation prevails despite our protestations that it is time for generational change in leadership if this nation’s future is to be guaranteed.
What we need to realise is that success has very little to do with luck or supernatural intervention, but is often the result of meticulous hard work and planning.
As long as we continue sitting back and waiting for our lucky break or divine intervention, we are doomed to continue lamenting about our poor lot even as other less endowed countries continue on their journey towards prosperity.
Dr Lukoye Atwoli is a consultant psychiatrist and lecturer at Moi University’s School of Medicine www.lukoyeatwoli.com