Year 2019: Citizen Digital sports writers pick their highlights
The year 2019, like many before it, has has its fair share of sporting drama. Records have been broken in several races across world capitals, while the beautiful game of football, which we all cherish, also kept the adrenaline pumping in the chest of fans and journalists alike.
Throughout this period; month for month, week after week, day by day, and with each passing minute and second, distinguished Citizen Digital crew have been there to document it. From the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar where Kenya chiseled her name for the umpteenth time as an athletics powerhouse, to the imposing Cairo International Stadium in Egypt where Algeria’s Desert Foxes were crowned AFCON champions for the second time in their history, and the first in 29 years, our crew witnessed it all, and documented the memories. Today they give their calls on what impressed them the most.
Matthews Mutai: Kenyan athletes raise the bar again
Kenyan athletes enjoyed a stellar 2019, breaking records across the world and elevating the country’s reputation as an athletics powerhouse to new global heights.
From Eliud Kipchoge’s historic 1:59:40 run in Vienna that made him the first man to complete the distance in under 2 hours to Brigid Kosgei’s sensational run in Chicago that broke the long-standing women’s world marathon record.
Geoffrey Kamworor also posted record breaking performance in Copenhagen and there were championship records at Doha Worlds for Hellen Obiri and Beatrice Chepkoech.
Gilbert Kiprotich: Ruth Chepngetich defying the odds to bag gold in Doha
When Ruth Chepngetich was named in Kenya’s marathon team for the World Championships in Doha, Qatar, few if any would have thought the diminutive athlete would make the podium.
At the global championship, Chepngetich teamed up with two-time champion Edna Kiplagat and Olympian Visiline Jepkesho both of whom commanded much experience than the 25 year old, with the trio facing an uphill task from bitter rivals Ethiopia
Despite the high temperatures experienced in the Middle East country dominating the build up to the race, Chepngetich defied the odds to not only clinch a medal but gold for that matter in 2:32:43.
It is also worth noting that it was Kenya’s first gold in the first event of the championships on September 27.That, to me, was special.
Paul Ombati: Liverpool’s jaw-dropping comeback against Barcelona
On a chilly Tuesday night of 7th May, Liverpool were hosting Barcelona in the 2nd leg of the Champions League, having lost 3-0 at Camp Nou. The Reds made history by overturning the deficit with a chastening 4-0 win, and went on to bag the big two-eared trophy. And who could forget the heroics of Kenyan-Belgian Divock Origi in that particular match? This, for me, was quite momentous, with the famous chants of ‘Alles! Alles!(Everything) reverberating round the stadium.
Jacob Icia: Eric ‘Marcelo’ Ouma signing a five-year deal for Swedish giants AIK
I have watched the Harambee Stars utility man from his days as a student at Kakamega High School to date. His thirst to reach the highest level has never been quenched even when he was part of Gor’s title winning squad of 2015 that bagged the gong unbeaten, to enduring a difficult period in Georgia. In fact many doubted if his career that had quickly blossomed at K’Ogalo would shine again after that poor stint in Georgia. He however broke to Sweden albeit starting in Division III, but lady-luck smiled his in 2019 as he made the the big leap to Allmänna Idrottsklubben(AIK), a to-tier Swedish club That alone warmed my heart.
Godfrey Ashiali: Gor Mahia mauling AFC Leopards 4-1 in Mashemeji derby
In the run-up to this fancied duel, Gor Mahia had recorded back-to-back losses against Motema Pembe of Congo in the Caf Club Championship with Leopards registering an impressive 7-match unbeaten run since losing to Kakamega Homeboyz in September. With that contrast, many expected Ingwe to hold their own. But alas! They crumbled like a pack of cards as Gor clobbered them with no mercy.
Salim Barissa: Scandals that rocked FKF
This year was to usher in a new dawn in our football management what with the planned FKF national elections on December 7.
But it was not to be. What awaited many was a major shock after the Sports Disputes Tribal cancelled the polls over what it termed “lack of enough public participation”. This was also camouflaged by endless accusations by the Ministry of Sports that the federation had not accounted for the millions wired to its accounts for the national team Harambee Stars.
Caro Kones: Eliud Kipchoge breaking the two-hour marathon barrier
Many call him the G.O.A.T and rightfully so he earned this name tag when he made history by becoming the first human to run a marathon under two-hours .There were serious questions around whether a human could run under two hours for a marathon distance. Many doubted him especially after attempting it at Nike’s Breaking 2 event in Monza, Italy – missing the two hour barrier by 26 seconds in 2017, but he did it in style this time round at the INEOS Challenge in Vienna, Austria!
Luqman Mahmoud: Liverpool winning three international titles in a year
Having gone more than five years without a title, The Reds have already collected three titles so far this year.
After winning UEFA Champions League in May and UEFA Super Cup defeating Tottenham and Chelsea respectively, they were last weekend crowned FIFA Club World Cup champions. At the same time Liverpool who sits at the summit of the English Premier League with 11 points gap are yearning for their first EPL title after two decades.
Herman Kamariki: Vihiga Queens bagging the league title, third time in a row
Women Premier league has been an amazing tournament this year with Vihiga Queens being the Team of the Year from my own perspective. Seeing them raise the trophy three times in a row despite training on a barren surface that is Kidundu grounds was enough motivation, that when you focus on the prize, nothing can hinder you from getting what belongs to you.
These queens are a reflection of beauty and hard work not forgetting that most of them have gone beyond high school taking over major courses in the university due to football.
Nothing more to add but a salute.
Alex Kinyua: Kenya making a comeback to the World Rally Championship
After an 18-year hiatus, 2019 was a huge moment for both the country and Africa at large. Being home of revered drivers, it was a shame that this great continent didn’t have a leg in the biggest league, I’m taking about the World Rally Championship.
Kenya’s Manvir Baryan has won the Africa Rally Championship three years in a row and it’s about time he tested himself against the great, in the upcoming World Rally Championship in 2020 that Kenya will host .
Dennis Kamariki: Alex Alumira making his own history
This man Alex led Vihiga Queens to winning the FKF Women Premier League for three consecutive seasons. He was also the first Women Premier League coach to win the trophy three consecutive times. He is also the first Women Premier League coach to be nominated for the Coach of the Year in the Soya Awards. Do I need to add more?
Dan Ogega: Kipchog’e INEOS Challenge win was a rare feat by all means
The 2019 sports landscape was littered with a plethora of interesting sports events but none can match Eliud Kipchoge’s unprecedented conquest of the INEOS Challenge in Vienna in October.
I considered myself lucky to witness one of sports history’s unthinkable feats unravel before my eyes. What a time it was to be alive. It was seismic in every sense.
It was the first time that the Universe was united in supporting the cause of one man and seeing him etch his name amongst sports immortals. And he never disappointed!
Joan Cheruiyot: Emery out chants, followed by Arteta arrival
After a terrible start to the season by the Gunners, recording the longest period of draws without any win, it was a sigh for the team after Unai Emery was sacked on a Friday afternoon of 29th November 2019.
And with his exit, Santa sent Mikel Arteta to the Gunners as their Christmas gift. He was appointed the new head coach on yet another Friday 20th December.
With that, we as the Gunners now see light at the end of the tunnel since Arteta is equal to the task. After all he has been an understudy to the ‘best coach in the world’ in Pep Guardiola.
Kenerickson Njeru: Shujaa turn-around in the HSBC World Rugby Series
The Kenya men’s team were almost relegated and could have lost their core status in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series towards the end of the season in June.
After the ninth round of London Sevens Shujaa had 27 points and were fighting relegation with Wales who had 30 points and Japan who had 25 points, so Shujaa had to collect more points than the two.
But Paul Murunga, the then head coach got a boost from experienced players Andrew Amonde, Bush Mwale, Jeffrey Oluoch and Nelson Oyoo who agreed to help Shujaa maintain their status core.
They went ahead to collect 10 points to secure their core status to finish 13th with 37 points, six points ahead of Wales and 10 ahead of Japan. That is orgasmic!
Philip Muchiri: Timothy Cheruiyot winning gold in Doha
He is a skinny kid with an indefatigable spirit. After finishing second and winning silver in several events in a career spanning more than eight years, he finally made it in the 1,500m at this year’s World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar winning his first ever gold. What a marvel it was watching him bask in glory; his joy was thoroughly deserved.
Lydia Akoth: Harambee Starlets conquering all to bag Cecafa title
Harambee Starlets deserve special mention. The Kenyan Queens brought home the first women national team football trophy since independence by bagging the Cecafa title. And they did it in style; going the entire tournament unscathed and without conceding a goal. Vihiga Queens striker Jentrix Shikangwa stood out as she netted 10 goals, a performance that earned her her the golden boot.
The Cecafa success has earned Kenya recognition as the Starlets head coach David Ouma was nominated for Confederation of African football (CAF) Coach of the Year award. In my view, David Ouma & Jentrix deserves Sports Personalities of the Year honour.
Ernest Mkalla : Boxing Federation holding its long overdue elections
Anthony Otieno Ombok aka Jamal rose to the helm of the Boxing Federation of Kenya after being unanimously elected by the boxing delegates. Prior to the new team being elected, they had visited 15 counties in the country with boxing duels while empowering the clubs with boxing equipment which were lacking. It was also enchanting for me that the polls were held after long period of in-fights with his predecessor that had threatened to derail the sport.
Jeremiah Nyokabi: Promotion of Fortune Sacco FC to the NSL
Following the relegation and to an extent the decline of some of the teams from Mt. Kenya region due to financial constraints, the emergence and promotion of Fortune Sacco to the National Super League is giving hope to the region. With their promotion to NSL, football enthusiasts from Mt Kenya region have two teams to rally behind- Fortune and Mt. Kenya FC. What a cherished development.
Stanley Mativo: Volleyball titan Bitok ending stint with Rwanda to join Malkia
Who would not celebrate when a favourite and successful son returns home after over a decade overseas? This is the feeling that enveloped me and the volleyball fraternity as decorated volleyball coach Paul Bitok returned to the country of his birth to steady the national women volleyball team, Malkia Strikers after more than 10 years handling several age-group national sides of Rwanda.
Immediately he took over the mantle to lead Malkia Strikers, he guided them to retaining their African Games title in Morocco, quite telling.
His return was also a massive boost to the Kenyan Volleyball Federation (KVF) league after his proposal to change the national regular league format was adopted where all league’s matches will be played indoor starting next year.
Geoffrey Mwamburi: Starlets winning Cecafa Women title
Harambee Starlets stood out for me for clinching the Cecafa women title in Tanzania. This is because apart from the team lacking full support from the Government, they beat all the odds to be crowned the winners after narrowly missing out on a ticket to the 2020 Olympics. I Congratulate the girls and coach David Ouma for a job well done.
Milton Ochieng: Gor’s Ivorian import Yikpe Gnamien hurting poor Leopards
November 10 at the Kasarani Stadium, Gor Mahia did the unthinkable beating an inform AFC Leopards 4-1. The Ivorian striker was the destroyer-in-chief. With so much excitement he hit a brace to leave Leopards limping.
After the match, Yikpe said he intends to win the golden boot at the end of the season. The memories, to me, are nostalgic to date.
Isaac Swila: Harambee Stars breaking a 15-year duck to grace AFCON
Giants are no doubt meant for the big stage and our Harambee Stars broke their 15-year wait to grace Africa’s premier football competition, AFCON, held in Egypt. But that is not all, the thrill of watching our boys brush shoulders with Africa’s elite such as Algeria and Senegal was humbling.
And who can forget the sweet-savoured 3-2 win over neighbours Tanzania? That was an East African derby exported to the Arab world. Wait a minute. I’ve not told you about the delicious goals by our very own own ‘Engineer’ Micheal Olunga which won us the match; the first, a spectacular overhead kick in the mouth of goal, and the second, a low grass-hugging shot. This tourney also birthed a star in central-defender Joseph Okumu and it was a joy to see world press such as AFP file reports on the heroics of our goalie Patrick Matasi after stopping Sadio Mane’s penalty. What a moment this was!
The entire Citizen Digital sports desk takes this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year. We take pride in you and thank you for your continued readership.