Kenyan sports fans have really spent the bulk of this weekend balancing on the edges of their seats.
Binti, one of my closer friends is among these. Aside from being one of the hugest Kenya Rugby fans that ever was or will be, she happens to be a Manchester United fan. So on Saturday, she was frantic and on edge as the Kenyan Rugby 7s Team kicked off a fairly important game against Russia. They were winning up until the last minute. In fact, as the clock hit 0, they had the win. All they had to do was stop game play. And somehow in that last play, they lost. Binti slammed tables and screamed frantically, emotions I shared with her fully.
The only other way for them to make a difference was to beat New Zealand AND Argentina. The former game was already written off as impossible; the Kiwis are beasts. And true to that, they spanked us merciless. But with the Argentine Pumas there was a chance. Again, that chance was squandered in yet another “so close” moment.
One can’t help but watch our local sportsmen – bar runners – and feel like maybe, just maybe, with a little more push and support, they’d be game changers.
The next day, Manchester United fans (99% of Kenyan football fans on Twitter) began tweeting optimisms early in the day. Last game of the season and they were a few goals behind. This meant either they either had to secure a victory while Man City lost on the other end. Or they had to win by an obscene 8+ point margin.
For 92 minutes, Man U were champions as Man City experienced the full dream killing abilities of QPR. But in that last minute, their world was turned on its head and Man City scored the two goals that would change the world. From where I sat I saw a table of Man City fans go haywire and quite literally flip their tables over in joy.
In the next room I could hear Man U fans screaming and weeping and cursing. There was some glass breaking and a large volume of profanity spewed. As the shots of the new owners of Manchester City – the billionaires that rebuilt the club – came on, there seemed to be consensus that that influx of money into City’s kitty is what made the difference. Then it was back to cursing and crying.
Only later did I begin to reflect on the happenings. 2 thoughts came to mind:
1. What if, hypothetically, the type of money pumped into Manchester City was pumped into one Kenyan Sport – rugby for instance? Would we be able to create champions? I mean, we already have the local talent in abundance. Why should we only restrict ourselves to athletics? And even if we say rugby doesn’t have a lot of fans, football (or soccer for the rest of you) does. Why don’t we pump money into that?
2. Why would the same bar be filled when a foreign club level team is on the pitch and empty when a national team is playing? It’s not because we don’t love our country, obviously. Is it perhaps because we’ve lost hope in it? I mean, do the masses really expect the extraordinary to ever happen with our national teams? Are their games not entertaining?
My theory is that it’s the power of money. If more cash was pumped into developing talent, building stadiums, training a national team to the standards we know they can attain, we would be playing a different ball game, in a manner of speaking. If some random Chinese company decided to dump billions into Kenyan Football for example, who wouldn’t want to watch the games? We’d start winning, gain international fandom, make history and the investors in question would laugh their way to the bank.
Or would they?
I’m not savvy on the matter, but I’m curious as to what you all think the problem is? When will Kenya Rugby, or Football have as many fans as Manchester United? What will it take? Or should we just keep cheering our runners and watching them get bought out by nations willing to invest in their talent?
Whatever the case may be, only time (and a huge injection of funds) will tell.