‘Mercenary’ claims mar Barding’s historic EA victory

‘Mercenary’ claims mar Barding’s historic EA victory

The stakes at the Federation of East Africa Secondary School Sports Association (FEASSA) Games that concluded under heavy showers in Eldoret on Saturday were too high that officials could not spare anything, including allegedly resorting to enlisting ‘mercenaries’ to ensure they landed coveted regional titles.

During the 10-day showdown across different venues in the self-styled ‘City of Champions’ claims emerged that different teams in various disciplines fielded overage players or ‘imported’ talent from other schools who did not make the showpiece from the nationals or established league clubs.

“They did what they wanted. Their plan was to host and win at all costs. Let them come to Uganda next year and we shall see what happens,” a St. Mary Kitende official complained bitterly when their side lost to Barding High School 1-0 in the boy’s football final on Saturday at the Dr. Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret.

Of course, he was alluding to the controversial offside decision that denied his side an opening goal before they later conceded the winner to James Ochieng four minutes from time as they missed the valuable trophy they had won 11 years in a row.

But his allegation of ‘host and win at all costs’ was not wide off the mark if Barding’s match-winner is anything to go by in an illustration of how the games were ‘fixed’.

In the euphoria of winning the first regional title for Kenya in 12 years, the Barding officials let the cat out of the bag during the post-match interviews.

“First of all, I want to be in the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) that is my first ambition before I look forward. I’m in Form 4 and I would like to play for Thika United or Western Stima.

“I have been in Stima Under-20 and I just came out of there yesterday (Friday),” Eric Michu innocently told Citizen TV’s Bernard Ndong and yours truly.

Confused?

Well, the youngster who said his name is Eric Michu was listed in Barding’s starting line-up as James Ochieng who came off the bench to score the winner for the debutants in what is a clear example of the alleged fraud in the tournament.

His boss and former KPL side and league leaders, Tusker FC assistant head coach, George Owoko who was grinning from ear to ear in the afterglow of glory gave further credence to the ruse after either letting his guard down or revealing too much without thinking.

“We are still going to retain the team; we will not kill this team because majority are Form 1, Form 2 and Form 3. I only have one Form 4, the captain (Iddi Hassan Ali),” he said.

Owoko must have conveniently or otherwise, forgotten the other ‘Form 4’ player in his side and goal-scoring hero, Ochieng or Michu since he ‘joined the school yesterday’!

At the start of the tournament, national champions Laiser Hill who beat the Kisumu-based Barding on penalties at the lakeside city were embroiled in similar scandal when striker Jaffery Owiti who turns for KPL side Chemelil Sugar FC played for them against compatriots Passenga under the name of Timothy Oduor.

After the matter went public on local websites in their 1-0 loss, he turned out with his given name in the second game against Massaka of Uganda in a barren stalemate but Laiser did not progress past the group stages.

The con job was not restricted to football with boy’s volleyball where players from the General Service Unit are alleged to have played in the tournament, girl’s football  and rugby among others.

“We used a lot of resources and effort to host this event and we had to do everything to ensure the trophies remained here. That’s what happens in these games,” a senior Kenya Secondary School Sports Association (KSSSA) official claimed in brushing off the severity of the deeds that in effect, invalidate the essence of why FEASSA are organised, which is to spot and nurture talent.