Why Matiang’i has crucial role to play in Kenyan sport

Monday August 05 2019

Dr Fred Okengo Matiang’i has a lot on his plate.

And he has executed his responsibilities as Interior Cabinet Secretary with distinction, so far, with his erstwhile performance in the Education docket equally impeccable.

It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that his legion of followers are daring to wager on the “super minister” ascending to the house on the hill in 2022, in an expected ferocious battle with Deputy President, Dr William Kipchirchir Samoei Arap Ruto, inter alia.

But such analysis, the permutations it triggers, and horse-trading thereof I leave to my better informed compatriots on the political desk who eat, drink, sleep and dream politics.

Right up my alley, I know Matiang’i has a monumental role to play in helping Kenya’s beleaguered sport get out of the woods.

Two years back, his predecessor, the late Major General (Rtd) Joseph Kasaine Ole Nkaissery, almost single-handedly delivered the IAAF World Under-18 Championships in Nairobi, personally taking charge of the build-up to this major competition.


He whipped contractors into action, kept the Mwangi Muthee-led Local Organising Committee on its toes and ensured deadlines were met, at a time the lethargic Sports ministry dragged its feet in legendary fashion.

Eventually, Nairobi hosted a memorable global competition, the immediate reward being the city handed rights to host the bigger and more prestigious IAAF World Under-20 Championships in 11 months’ time.

Sad that the good General didn’t live to soak in the atmosphere at Kasarani in 2017 as Kenya struck gold in front of an overflowing stadium, crowds never seen before in global age-group athletics competitions.

In an almost carbon copy situation, our preparations for the July 7-12, 2020 World Under-20 Championships are way behind schedule with the event’s secretariat yet to be launched and many of the basics in the red.

Matiang’i could be called upon to do a “Nkaissery” with constant delays threatening the delivery of a successful championship. That aside, funding for this competition seems to be a worry, with the freeze on sports betting and gaming concerns threatening to throw the spanner in the works.

Gaming falls bang in Matiangi’s docket, and the CS is quite in order shutting down non-compliant gaming concerns.

These firms must pay taxes and must be kept on the straight and narrow. But this impasse needs to be unlocked as soon as possible to ensure sports programmes, that heavily rely on tax revenues from sports betting, — raked in through the Sports, Arts and Social Development Fund — aren’t affected.

Already, various national teams are cash-strapped, at a time preparations for next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games are in top gear, as the administrators of the Sports Fund could be biting more than they can chew.

Over to you, Dr Matiang’i!