Last weekend was quite busy and, sadly, we missed Fatuma Zarika’s big fight night in which she outfoxed and out boxed Zambia’s Catherine Phiri to retain the World Boxing Council belt at the KICC.
Kudos to Ronald Karauri and his team at SportPesa for “bringing Las Vegas to Nairobi” and proving that with flawless organization and good support, Kenyan sport can draw in the crowds and attract global television audiences.
SportPesa did it with last year’s Hull City Tigers tour and have done it again with Zarika vs Phiri II.
Well done, and congrats to Zarika for keeping the belt.
We missed the fight night as our staff football team - Nation Media Group FC - was on the road, playing two friendly matches against the Nyamira County Assembly and Kisii County Government.
We drew mixed results, hammering Nyamira 3-0 on Friday at Sironga grounds before being on the receiving end of a similar score against Kisii, barely 24 hours later at the Gusii Stadium.
The score in the second match could have been less humiliating hadn’t we been denied twice, first by the referee who, for reasons best known to himself, ruled out our clean goal, and, second, by the crossbar that came to the rescue of coach Henry Motego’s well beaten rear guard.
Also, we were down to 10 men after one of our players was, justifiably, shown a second yellow card and sent in for an early shower.
Most importantly, our side displayed some brilliant football, much to the chagrin of opposing fans who expected some sort of pub team on tour.
And this despite missing the services of our versatile midfielders Harith Salim and Eric Musungu, no-nonsense defenders Shaban Ulaya and Eric Isinta, goalkeeper Fidel Maithya and striker Cliff Chirchir, among others.
We did travel with our other regulars, including forwards Ken Kusimba, Benjamin “Mayweather” Situma, John “Jontes” Ohuma, Linus Ombete Jnr along with defenders Josiah “Santi” Ochieng and Amos Pere, but they all failed the pre-match fitness test.
It was a memorable outing, not so much for the 180 minutes of football alone, but also for insights we gained, most significantly the dearth of sports development in the two counties.
In Nyamira, we played at the Sironga ground, a makeshift, roadside pitch better known for hosting the Lake Basin Development Authority’s brick-making project.
An uneven ground and all, the Sironga facility is stretched to the limit with the county’s much-talked-about Manga Stadium a white elephant despite millions having been allotted for it’s development in successive budgets.
The refurbished Gusii Stadium is also feeling the pressure with hundreds of footballers yearning for a few minutes of training on the revered ground.
During our match, a group of juniors took advantage of the halftime break for a quick kick-about, highlighting the fact that, just as the case is in Nyamira, the Kisii county administration needs to open up more playing space.
Good sports infrastructure will allow huge contests, like Saturday’s fight night at the KICC, to be hosted in the counties.
Meanwhile, a big thank you to Nyamira County Assembly Speaker Moffat Teya for being a great host during the tour.
Our next stop is May 18 in Laikipia County!