OCHIENG: Why I no longer watch football in our stadiums - Daily Nation

Why I no longer watch football in our stadiums

Saturday February 9 2019

Gor Mahia forward Boniface Omondi (left) skips past AFC Leopards defender Robinson Kamura during the Mashemeji Derby at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on February 9, 2019. Gor won 2-0. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Gor Mahia forward Boniface Omondi (left) skips past AFC Leopards defender Robinson Kamura during the Mashemeji Derby at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on February 9, 2019. Gor won 2-0. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By PHILIP OCHIENG
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In my life, there used to be nothing more enjoyable than a live football match between two roughly equal sides and officiated by fair-minded and strict individuals. There were times, indeed, when I would not miss even an ordinary soccer match in any one of Nairobi’s stadiums. But, as England’s own soccer inventors would say, that was time that was.

It is now long decades since I last entered any of Kenya’s soccer stadia — especially in Nairobi. For the simple fact is that it had become a terrible risk to life to enter such a stadium. A time had arrived when a soccer match between, for instance, a Luo team and a Luhya team, was guaranteed to culminate in bloodshed and even death on the sidelines.

EXTREMELY VOLATILE

That is among the reasons that, for long decades, I have not entered any of Kenya’s football stadiums. For a time eventually arrived when national football was no longer being officiated by fair-minded individuals. Whistling and lines-manning had become so ethnicised that, in our country, the standards of soccer took a nosedive (from which football has never recovered).

Moreover, Britain’s colonial regime had introduced soccer competition on the basis of tribe that Britain’s colonial practices would make extremely volatile. A match between a Luo side and a Luhya side was always likely to culminate in bloodshed. Often accompanied by the crudest and most insolent tribe-based words hurled by spectators at one another, at officials and at players, a football game had been turned into one of the ethnic war fields of the pre-colonial times.

That is one of the main reasons that if — like me — you greatly enjoyed the so-called association football (soccer), you eventually found yourself between the devil and the deep blue sea. Even as age invaded you, you either attended (and thus terribly risked your life) or you chose to no longer have anything to do with the game.

For me, football remains the most enjoyable game ever invented. But, for decades now, I have depended wholly on television to watch soccer, namely, merely the game as it is played in Europe. I do not know how the local game is nowadays faring. But I am reliably told that the standards have so sunk that there is no way of redeeming them.

UGLIER AND UGLIER

No, I have never recently entered even the national stadium because my body is no longer nimble enough to be able to rush out whenever trouble erupts. For I really do wish to live a little longer. Moreover, a game is most enjoyable only if (a) the two sides are roughly equal in strength and in skill and (b) if the officials are as fair-minded as is humanly possible.

There is nothing more breathtaking than a match in which both sides are roughly equal both in skill and in strength, a situation in which, moreover, the officials, especially the whistler, are on top of their game. Because such a situation was becoming rarer and rarer in Kenya, the so-called association football became uglier and uglier in our country.

One reason that, in our country, I no longer go to any stadium to watch a football match is that I eventually lost faith in the claim that Kenya’s whistlers and linesmen had developed beyond trying to help the tribe with which one side of the boys was associated during such a match. Throughout our country, tribalism has extremely ugly influences that are extraordinarily difficult to countermand.

At my age, you no longer possess the wherewithal to wriggle your body into the avalanche of spectators rushing to save their lives whenever trouble erupts. The more you try to keep pace with other individuals, the more you expose your body to permanent destruction. It is for that reason that no soccer match will attract me to any stadium any longer.

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