SWILA: For their heroics, why not reward Malkia Strikers players with houses?

   Isaac Swila,Nairobi

Kenya’s triumphant teams at this year’s edition of the Africa Games returned this week to a raucous welcome at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi after heroic performances in Rabat, Morocco.

Kenya ranked seventh overall at the competition claiming some 31 medals; 11 gold, 10 silver and an equal number of bronze, which is an improvement on the seven gold Kenya’s team claimed at the 2015 Games held in Brazzaville, Congo.

Putting the gloss on Kenya’s performance was the athletics team which bagged a total of 20 medals while the boxing team also punched equal to its weight to record an improvement on their 2015 performance by amassing five medals; one silver and four bronze.

The performance of the boxing team should be lauded if the poor conditions that dogged their campaign in Rabat is anything go by.

Not only did the team leave for Morocco without getting their allowances from the government but they also lacked adequate training gear in their preparations.

Of note is that the Boxing Federation of Kenya has in the recent past been dogged by leadership wrangles pitting its former chairman John Kameta and current boss Anthony Ombok culminating in the election of the latter and it is encouraging to see that the team did very well despite the politics.

In recent times, the sport has lost its allure and the performance by the pugilists in Morocco is a stark reminder of what our boxers are capable of if they are given the requisite support.

Since the era of Robert Nangila, Kenya’s golden pugilist who won a welterweight gold medal at the 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea, Kenya has had no boxer whose heroics in the ring  has left them gasping for more, but the show by the team in Morocco led by Elly Ajowi is reason enough to leap into the future with some optimism and profound pride.

On the same token, Kenya’s volleyball queens, the national women team, Malkia Strikers made Kenya proud again, spiking every opponent enroute to bagging gold.

Pooled in Group B against Senegal, Cameron and Algeria, Malkia won all their preliminary matches with a 100 record before making light work of Nigeria in the semis.

They did not stop there as they inflicted a sweet revenge on Cameroon, winning by three sets to one( 3-1) in the final to not only bag gold at the games but also retain the honours they claimed four years ago. What a feat!

In so doing, Malkia made their achievement not only delicious but memorable too. It is a testament of the mental strength and endurance the squad has after losing the African Women Nations Champions title to the same opponent in Cairo, Egypt in July.

Paul Bitok, the towering 46-year-old volleyball genius needs to be credited with the team’s turn around.

Taking over barely three weeks ago when the squad had been torn down the middle during the short-lived era of Ramdoo, Bitok instilled belief and unity of purpose and it worked magic.

The youngsters in the squad such as Sharon Chepchumba, who has shown a lot of promise, is a step in the right direction as Bitok works to maintain the team’s upward trajectory.

It’s even more refreshing to learn that Bitok intends to gradually introduce veteran setter Janet Wanja and Jane Wacu to the team’s technical bench.

Doing so will ensure there is continuity and that the young squad to take over do not lack role models they can look upto, at least by working closely with the veterans.

Like boxing, the volleyball queens have brought Kenya endless glory but have never had a fair share of support or recognition from the government.

Malkia Strikers, for the record, is the most successful national team Kenya has ever had and winning gold should earn them not just the customary mouth-watering dishes at State House, if any, but meaningful gifts, I mean, why can’t the government reward each member  of the squad with a house? That way they will have stories to tell and something meaningful to point out even to their grandchildren when they eventually exit from the stage completely.

In the same vein, Kenya’s athletics team will soon shift focus to the IAAF World Champions set to run in Doha, Qatar from September 27 to October 6 as Malkia shifts focus to Olympic qualifiers. It’s only prudent that the government meets it end of the stick.

Conseslus Kipruto and Jairus Birech clear the hurdle in the 3000m steeplechase men finals during the Trials for IAAF athletics championships at Nyayo national stadium on June 24, 2017. Photo/Stafford Ondego/Sportpicha/ Citizen

Speaking on Tuesday at the airport upon the return of the boxers and athletics teams from Morocco, Sports PS Kirimi Kaberia promised that in future sportsmen will receive their allowances in time unlike in the past where they’d wait for long for their dues.

This column condemns in unequivocal term, the sickening government tendencies of perennially delaying athletes’ allowances.

These sportsmen toil each day, some of them pick career threatening injuries in line of duty and it is improper to get ill treatment whenever they represent the country.

Such tendencies by the government is akin to the proverbial kick of a donkey, who even after being fed, finds it wise to kick the hands in return.

Sports CS Amina Mohamed pose with Harambee Stars players after a luncheon in River Nile in Cairo, Egypt on July 2, 2019. PHOTO/Sportpicha/Stafford Ondego/Citizen

The government must realize that it is such pedestrian approach to sports management hat has seen Kenya suffer brain drain, not to mention losing our athletes to the Gulfian nations in drove.

It’s my hope that the good PS will keep his word, and sheer incompetency will be a thing of the past.

For all the heroics and brave performances, I say kongole to Team Kenya.

The author is  Radio Sports Editor, Royal Media Services.