Afcon 2027 a win for football heroes and EAC
Kenya’s successful joint bid with Tanzania and Uganda to host the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) tournament in 2027 is a glowing victory dedicated to the three countries’ football heroes.
It is also a testimony to how the spirit of unity and good neighbourliness can yield positive results to strengthen the strong bonds embodied in the East African Community (EAC).
Afcon 2027 coming to the EAC, means sports, more than politics or economics, has the capacity to unite the people of the region more closely and rapidly than ideological or parochial interests.
Politicians are cautioned to avoid politicizing or claiming credit to the successful bidding. That accolade solely belongs to the legends of the three East African nations dating back to 1970s. Goalkeeper Massajage and striker Dennis Obua of Uganda, Kenya’s goalkeeper James “Abawa” Siang’a and lethal marksman William “Chege” Ouma and Tanzania’s Juma Pondamali and Jela Mtagwa to mention a few, belong to their nations’ sporting halls of fame.
Their popularity and near fanatical following may not have captured rapt national attention were it not for the scribes and radio commentators who highlighted them.
Those days radio was the only medium thousands of listeners cocked their ears to follow the game, whether it was the Gossage Cup (EA Challenge Cup) or the club rivalry pitting Yanga against Simba in Tanzania, Express vs KCC at Nakivubo or Gor Mahia vs Abaluhya (AFC Leopards). City Stadium along Jogoo Road hosted all big matches, national and international.
Only Afraha Stadium in Nakuru and the Mombasa Municipal Stadium came close, before Mumias Complex. But it was the late President Daniel arap Moi who stole the show when Nyayo Stadium (named after his “Fuata Nyayo” ideology) was born in time to host the 1987 All-Africa Games.
Moi also courted the Chinese to build the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, the only reputable stadium of international standards in Kenya. I cut my teeth in journalism 40 years ago when I wrote two articles for a neighbourhood newspaper called The Eastlands Chronicle that did not live long enough to chronicle all the remarkable stories of
Nairobi’s Eastlands’ sportsmen (football and boxing – remember Robert Wangila?).
One story was about Eastlands youth who catapulted to the national stage through football. The other was the first to be ever written about the Koth Biro football tournament played on the dusty or muddy field (depending on the weather) of Umeme FC in the old Ziwani estate.
Well, that’s the story among stories of another day on the spellbinding feats of the Eastlanders (most from Western and Nyanza region) in football and other sports. True, part of their stories has been told. However, today we say these two regions richly deserve one of the Afcon 2027 stadia.
Today we also honour the scribes and radio commentators (some have departed and not all are mentioned) who kept sporting spirit alive: Leonard Mambo Mbotela, Billy Omala, Said Ali Matano, Gishinga Njoroge, Roy Gachuhi, Hezekiah Wepukhulu, Barrack Otieno, Stephen Ongaro, Ochieng Angela, Finny Muyeshi, Omulo Okoth and Elias Makori, still gallant on the global stage.
It’s a long, interesting story of hope and optimism for Kenyan sports and the EAC that must be continued. Sports and Youth Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba you are on the right track… but get these football heroes and scribes on board to caucus and brainstorm.
Success in sports is all about teamwork..
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