Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Achieving Olympic Excellence

As we embark on the final week of the London 2012, it has dawned on Kenyans that this summer games will not be as memorable as Beijing 2008 where our athletes hit new heights and dominated the middle-long distance races. With only a single Gold medal in the Men's 3000m Steeplechase bagged so far, Kenya is pinning its medal hopes on 800m World Record Holder David Rudisha and in the Men's Marathon to salvage what little is left of our sporting pride.

The critical question that Kenyans keep asking is; what happened to our world beating athletes? Don’t they dominate the IAAF Golden League meets? Don't our Men and Women road runners dominate the world’s best marathon competitions regularly?

I will try to answer these questions by posing a question of my own; what do other nations do right when approaching The Olympics that we did wrong? How can inferior athletes in the mould of Mohamed Farah and Galen Rupp win Gold and Silver respectively? How could the number 1 ranked Women's road runner Mary Keitany perform so miserably in the world’s biggest stage?

1. Cutting Edge Technology

Competitive sports have been taken to a whole new level through cutting edge technology where athletes take every possible scientific performance advantage to avoid excess stress or strain that can lead to injury and diminish peak performance.

Biokinetics, is the new buzzword that has hit the Athletics worlds. This is where technology helps athletes measure and monitor their human force measurements by isolating small, key differences that can be used in training programs to produce performance gains. Athletic performance is influenced by individual biagenics - genetics that influence the dominate pathways between power, strength and speed. By measuring and adjusting natural tendencies, athletes get the edge to dominate their field.

When an athlete steps off the force plate of the machine after performing dynamic movements vertically, horizontally and laterally, the device provides a nervous-system blueprint of how the athlete moves, detailing where the athlete' weaknesses lie" says Dr. Phil Wagner, a leading proponent and sports scientist.

According to Mr. Julius Nyagah, the President of the Kenya Society of Physiotherapist and proprietor of The Mullighan Rehab Clinic, the main problems afflicting our Athletes is a combination of poor/outdated training methods and a lack of cutting edge technology to accurately Identify, measure, and track key performance variables to fine tune training programs so that our athletes hit their peak at the right time.

In the developed world, these technologies are used widely including high school and collegiate levels. Isn't it time the Kenya Government in conjunction with Athletics Kenya invest in these technologies?

2. Olympic Programs

Sports as has been witnessed in Kenya are a major source of national pride and unity. When our national anthem echoes in the Olympic stadium and beamed in millions of households’ worldwide our national pride soars and elevates our sense of unity.

 Luckily, Kenya has been blessed with Athletes with the right genetics to dominate Track and Field from 400 metres all the way to the Marathon. Kenya has the potential of winning 12-14 Gold medals in Track and Field. All we need is a little planning and resource allocation from the Government.

Our government through the Ministry of Sport need to establish a Department of Elite Development (DED) charged with the responsibility of training and nurturing our future stars in a four year cycle revolving around the Olympics.

Our junior athletes have dominated the last 2 major youth championships and the best among these athletes can be enrolled into the Olympic program headed by the DED. What will be the role of the DED?

1. Full financial support for the Elite athletes’ including salaries, housing and training gear.

2. Physicians

3. Physical Therapists

4. Nutritionists

5. Orthopaedic Surgeons

6. Qualified Athletics Trainer

7. Strength and Conditioning Coach

8. Sports Psychologists.

9. Cutting edge performance measuring equipment.

Our Government has the ability to fund these kinds of programs and can only start with a total of 50 athletes in various disciplines and scale it upwards over a period of time.

We have at our disposal dedicated athletes with the correct genes and all that is missing is our governments dedication in achieving Sporting Excellence.

Omar Yusuf
@omarYM on twitter

Thursday, 12 July 2012

3 Reasons Why I Support Raila Odinga

It’s July 2012 and almost two years to the day our new constitution was promulgated. A constitution that bear the our collective dream and which has been on the making for close to 20 years. A constitution that will finally give Kenyans a real opportunity for growth both personally and collectively.

A constitution that will arrests the imperial presidency giving the Judiciary and legislature powers to govern itself without undue influence from the executive. A constitution that has widened the bill of rights and enabled development from the grassroots up through devolution. A constitution that finally puts governments day to day running in the hands of capable and learned Kenyans rather than a political reward to sycophancy. This great constitution is under attack by the lords of impunity as we have all witnessed recently and are intent on ensuring that on the least it is mutilated to its bare bones.

It is on this premise that i asked myself these critical questions, who among our presidential candidates is fit enough for my vote? Which candidate has shown the will and desire to protect and ensure the full implementation of the constitution? Which candidate has risked losing all for Kenya to win?

I have concluded that Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga is the best among the list of contestants for President and below are my 3 reasons.

1. Reformer per Excellence

We all blame former President Moi for the malaise that our country suffers from. He not only exercised his presidency brutally but oversaw shepherded and nurtured corruption to maturity. As a result our development stunted and Kenyans became poorer.

Raila Amolo Odinga unlike many other Kenyans did not sit and watch but decided to take matters into his own hands and continuously agitated for reforms and re-introduction of multi-party politics. President Moi not only detained and jailed but thoroughly tortured Raila Odinga. We today enjoy our democracy but we should not forget to thank Kenyans like Raila Odinga for agitating and fighting for these rights when no one dared.

I keep asking myself where were William Ruto, Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka and Uhuru Kenyatta those days. Wasn't Mr. Ruto a key member of the notorious YK 92? Wasn't YK 92 responsible for the printing of millions of fake Kes 500 currencies that plunged our country into recession? Wasn't Mudavadi a key member of the Moi government that was responsible for quashing and clamping of multi-party advocates? Wasn't Mr. Kenyatta parachuted from nowhere and made a project of the same Mr. Moi that we all lament about?

Can we therefore expect Messers. Ruto, Mudavadi and Kenyatta to ensure a full implementation of our new constitution once elected as president? Their track record tells me otherwise hence my choice of Raila Odinga.

2. Coalition Government Partner

How has Mr. Raila Odinga as Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya executed the functions of his office? As a partner in the Coalition government, i kept asking myself, has he displayed the character and decorum of a statesman?

President Kibaki during the negotiations for the coalition government came out as a non-compromising person with the aim of resisting power sharing at all costs. Raila Odinga on the other hand was egged on by hawks within his party not to compromise and fight for his equal share of government.

To Raila Odinga's credit, he read the mood of the country perfectly and noted that Kenyans were tired of waiting and were keen on a quick resolution to the stand off. On the other hand President Kibaki refused to share Key ministries e.g. Finance, Internal Security, Foreign Affairs, Defence etc.

Raila Odinga could have also played hard ball with the president and demanded for his equal share but he did not, He accepted to compromise and left Sagana state lodge without any of the plum ministries.

On that day, Raila Odinga compromised on behalf of Kenyans and that was a sign of a statesman.

When President Kibaki unilaterally and unconstitutionally appointed a new Chief Justice, AG and Director of Public Prosecution, Mr. Odinga rose on behalf of Kenyans and blocked the appointments. He protected our constitution from mutilation and ensured a worthy Supreme Court was appointed.

3. Mau

Mau Forest is the largest water catchment area in Kenya. Numerous rivers originate from the forest, including Southern Ewaso Ng'iro, Sondu River, Mara River and Njoro River which feed Lake Victoria, Lake Nakuru and Lake Natron. Not only does the forest have the highest rainfall rates in Kenya but its survival has a direct consequence to our livelihood.

I asked myself why did Mr. Odinga take the Mau restoration project while he will not only offend but alienate the Kalenjin Community. Was Mau such an important issue for Raila Odinga to risk the wrath of the Kalenjin? When i read more and more on the importance of Mau Forest to the livelihood of this country made me appreciate the effort of Prime Minister Odinga. It must have dawned on him that the Kenya we will leave for our grandchildren was more important for him than political immediate expediency.

Raila Odinga is known to be the master of reading the political game and we cannot say that he didn’t realise the repercussions of his actions against the Kalenjin.

In other words, Raila Odinga took the bullet for the benefit of this country at a time when doing otherwise would have been more beneficial to him personally. Hero.

@omarym on twitter

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Why A Paradigm Shift Is Needed To Rescue Kenyan Football

In the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea; Kenya against all odds garnered 5 Gold medals and became the most successful Olympics for Kenya. In the same year, The People’s Republic of China also won 5 Gold Medals and finished in eleventh position, two places above Kenya.

When addressing the returning Olympiads in Beijing, The Chinese Head of State at the time Mr. Yang Shangkun Made a statement of intent by proclaiming his vision of seeing China dominate the Olympics within 15 years.

At the time, The Soviet Union, East Germany and USA were the undisputed Olympic leaders but China set up a well-oiled machine that shook the Athletics world when they hosted the Olympics in 2008. They not only overtook USA and Russia but managed to win the games through a myriad of events a record in the Olympics.

My point is, China dared to dream but it did not end there, they threw vast resources into their strategy and ensured they stayed on course through thick and thin to succeed. Granted, there a lot of people who think China cheated on their way to glory but thats not the point here.

Football is not just a game in Kenya, its more than just a sport, it’s a source of national pride and without a doubt the single most potent route to national cohesion. When Harambee Stars play, we all forget about our tribes and our flag becomes our symbol of unity. Why then is our football rotten? How come the Government doesn’t see the opportunity it has to cement our national cohesion and pride?


An average Kenya Premier League footballer is paid between Kes 20-25,000 per month. Walks to training and can hardly afford 3 quality meals a day. It’s a shame when you take a look at the training pitches some of the KPL clubs use with hardly no facilities. The most basic facilities like Urinals and bathrooms are non-existent leave alone quality training gear.

Only 3 clubs in the KPL have a fully qualified Physiotherapist in their ranks and once a player gets a minor injury in training, he will be ruled out for up to a month. Is it a wonder then that our player’s careers nose dive after reaching 25 years?

Fitness is part and parcel of being a professional footballer but it’s sad to note that NOT A SINGLE CLUB in the KPL monitor the fitness of their players scientifically as is common across the world. Recently, a renowned Physio told me that he treated a few Harambee Stars players and opined that NON OF THE Players were physically fit. He mentioned all these players had among many deficiencies tight hamstrings (meaning not flexible enough) and almost all carried very little muscle to withstand the rigours of a 10 month long league to enable them maintain a high level of fitness.

Nutrition is also non-existent in Kenyan football and our players do not understand what Protein, Carbohydrates or Essential fatty acids means or reacts to their bodies. Heck, they cannot even afford 3 normal meals a day.

Are we surprised then to find out only 3 Kenyans have successfully advanced in European football out of a thousand and one trialists?

Aren’t we raving mad to pin our national hope on a group of players who are so disadvantaged from the onset compared to their rivals? Are we realistic to expect our mules to go faster than thorough bred horses? Is this not the time to take a deep breath and find out what the rest of the world is doing right?

This is the time Our Government and FKF need to come up with a 10-15 year plan to resurrect football/sports in Kenya by investing in the following areas;

1.       Coaching and Nutrition: Our PE teachers from primary schools should be trained to be able to teach our children how to play football, understand tactics, acquire ball handling skills, improve their speed, agility etc. The same P.E teachers can be taught basic nutrition and they can pass over to our kids. Our kids will grow up understanding the ingredients of success.

2.       Equipment:  Is it surprising that most of our footballers started wearing boots later on in their careers? The Government need to invest in proper training gears including basic agility training tools. Again, a crucial ingredient for success.

3.       Academy of Excellence: We have national schools that admit the cream of students in Kenya. Why not convert 3-5 of these schools into Academies of Sport Excellence. These will be where our best athletes find advanced training in their sports while pursuing academic excellence too. Imagine 500 or more graduates every year from these academies.We can rule the world.

4.       Referees & match officials: How can our youngsters achieve sporting excellence without qualified, ethical referees and match officials. This is one of the Achilles heels of our sport and the government and FKF should ensure that we produce consistently top referees and match officials.

5.       Stadia & Training fields: There are a lot of football/sports fields across the country but they are hardly maintained. Imagine having our youngsters honing their skills in well-manicured fields. Does it take a lot to maintain? Hardly.

Finally, the most defining change has to come from our leaders in Government and Sport. They have to recognise that our national pride is at stake and petty thoughts should be left out and a brand new future developed from the grassroots up.

Omar Yusuf
@omarym on twitter

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Europa League Beckons for Chelsea next season.......

The next 10 days will arguably be the most crucial 10 days for Chelsea Football Club as they seek to finish in the top four of the English Premier League, reach the FA Cup finals and try to beat odds on favourites Barcelona to reach the Uefa Champions league finals.

This is no mean task for Roberto Di Matteo's side and one clearly beyond them if the last 3 games are anything to go by. Chelsea struggled mightily against Benfica, needed a stroke of luck to overcome Wigan and looked tired and jaded against a resolute Fulham side last night.

The fight for the fourth and final champions league spot not only looks ominous for The Blues due to the congested fixtures but will see them face Arsenal, Liverpool, Newcastle and West London rivals QPR in the run in. I can safely bet that Chelsea will finish outside the top four for the first time in the Abramovich era unless Tottenham self-destruct which is highly improbable.

Can Chelsea stun Barcelona and qualify for the Uefa Champions League final? This is also highly improbable considering that the tie will be two legged and it has proved impossible for teams to beat Barcelona over two legs. This leaves the FA cup as the only solace for Chelsea this season but they have to overcome a faltering Tottenham side that are looking to salvage a once highly promising season.

It's do or die for Chelsea in the next fortnight but what is the best way forward?

The main handicap for Chelsea this season has been their slow build up game which enables their opponents to easily defend against. This slow build up game has allowed opponents to launch attacks without fear of getting caught out and as a result has taken out the fear factor that once enveloped teams facing Chelsea.

Chelsea need urgency in its play and a major overhaul is eminent with the likes of Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Florent Malouda, Ferreira, Jose Bosingwa, Michael Essien, Obi Mikel and possibly Ashley Cole departing and leaving room for a younger and more hungry replacements. The million dollar question is who is the right buy for Chelsea and why? below are 6 players that I believe can not only bring pace and guile into Chelsea's play but will not cost an arm and a leg either;

1. The Athletico Bilbao Trio;

Javi Martinez: 6ft 3in 23 year old defensive midfielder known for his high energy game. He is arguably one of the best passers of the ball in the primera liga. His quick passing game will help bring about urgency in Chelsea game. He can also play as a central defender if called upon.

Can replace both Essien and Mikel while acting as a defensive cover if need calls upon.

Oscar De Marcos: 22 year old forward player with pace to burn. The 6 feet player is among the rising stars of Spanish Football and has been lauded for his versatility. He has been used in midfield as well as full back on several occasions this season and excelled. A ball player with a great engine.

Will replace Salomon Kalou. Can also be a defensive right back if called upon. Will highly supplement Juan Mata.

Iker Muniain: 19 year old winger/forward is one of the stars of the U-21 World Cup and has already earned 1 cap for the Spanish National team. He is not only pacy but full of trickery and just what the doctor prescribed for Chelsea.

Will replace Florent Malouda and bring a quick tempo to Chelsea's game.

The trio might cost a combined £80 million.

4. Alvaro Pereira: 26 year old Uruguay wing back currently plays for FC Porto. He is an all action wing back with a great engine. He has one of the best left footed crosses in European football and will add a new dimension to Chelsea’s game. A bid from Chelsea earlier in the year was rejected by Porto.

Ideal replacement for Ashley Cole.

Cost £18million

5. Axel Witsel: 23 year old Belgian international midfielder with an eye for a pass and a good work rate. Considered one of the best midfielders in Portugal and can easily play as an attacking midfielder. He will bring freshness into Chelsea's midfield and provide adequate long term replacement for Frank Lampard.

Cost: £15 million

6. Gonzalo Higuain: The prolific 24 year old French born Argentine international seems surplus to requirements at the Santiago Barnebeu but might just be the tonic for Chelsea. He has averaged a goal every other game and can be an instant hit in the premier league because of his quick feet and eye for goal. He will be the right partner for Fernando Torres upfront.

£20 million

£ 130 million might be too much for Abramovich but his Chelsea side need a breath of fresh air and the 6 mentioned above could revive their floundering fortunes.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Everyday Kenyans and why we need to think different....

Its 4:45 am in the morning in the outskirts of Athi River town and Mwikali, a single mother of one is lucky to find only 3 fellow tenants ahead of her in the queue outside the only bathroom serving 85 single roomed households. “If you do not wake up this early, you might be forced to go to work without a bath because the queue is sometimes as long as 50 people” she informed us.

Mwikali is 28 years old and works at the Athi River Export Processing Zone (EPZ) where she earns Kes 7,500 per month and is paid fortnighly in arrears. "I am forced to walk 8 kilometres to and from work everyday because i cannot afford the matatu fare” she said. She further informed us that she pays Kes 2,000 as rent and sends Kes 2,000 to her mother who is helping her raise her four year old daughter. She remains with Kes 3,500 per month for her personal use every month.

Mwikali never finished high school due to lack of school fees and has been working as a casual labourer for a few years. "Life has not been kind to me and my family, but I pray to God that our lives change for the best. Mwikali, has absolutely no saving and claims that she sometimes goes without food for a day or two every month.

40 kilometres north of Athi River in Nairobi, Wafula* a 31 year old living in Kawangware has also woken up and preparing for the day ahead. While he doesn’t have the problem of queuing for a bath, he is bracing himself for a 7 kilometre walk to work in the Industrial area. His wife and kids are still asleep at this hour of the day but he has already had his breakfast of 'sturungi' and 2 slices of bread.

Wafula works as a panel beater for a car body shop where he is expected to start work by 7:30 am hence his very early morning. "I earn a basic salary of Kes 10,000 but my boss sometimes adds us Kes 1-2000 if we work diligently and meet our customers’ expectations" he said. He further informed us that he is forced to walk to and from work because of the high costs of transportation, a whopping 84 kilometres per week.

His income is supplemented by his wife's 'kibarua' work in the affluent Lavington area, where she earns a wage of least 200-300 per day if she is lucky to get a 'kibarua. She mainly tends to household chores and gets at least 3 kibarua's per week. Wafula and his family's main meal is normally Ugali and sukuma wiki at around 8pm. "This is the time when I get to see my children and talk to my wife, such is life" he said.

These kinds of stories are not unique to Mwikali and Wafula but can be found in each and every part of Kenya. These are the everyday stories of Kenyans struggling to make ends meet and with no future to look forward to.The average life expectancy in Kenya is 45 years but is it a wonder when every day Kenyans go through life just like Mwikali and Wafula? 


Tuesday, 3 April 2012

3 Reasons Why Sir Alex Fergusson  trumped Roberto Mancini.....

Manchester United are 5 points clear of their 'noisy neighbours' after 31 rounds of the English Premier League and set to meet  their next opponents QPR a few hours before Manchester City play Arsenal FC at the Emirates. It means that the Red Devils, if they defeat QPR will be 8 points clear at the top of the league before Manchester City Vs. Arsenal game.

It definitely looks ominous for Roberto Mancini’s team but what exactly did Sir Alex do right to put Manchester United in the driving seat? I will summarize my 3 reasons why Manchester United will win the EPL before they meet Manchester City at the Etihad in round 36.

1. Roberto Mancini's attitude

Roberto Mancini: While Mr. Mancini is known to be a disciplinarian and a strict Manager, he had too many bust ups with his players more than Sir Alex has had with his players this season. The public spats with Mario Balotelli, Gareth Barry, James Milner, Edin Dzeko and the much publicized spat with star striker Carlos Teves all points to a Manager who is not willing to compromise with his players in certain situations.
Sir Alex, a tough disciplinarian has always read situations and softened his stance on many occasions while not compromising the clubs values. The Wayne Rooney incident of 2010 - 2011 Season when he defied Sir Alex and handed a transfer request because of a wage dispute is a prime example.
Roberto Mancini is too rigid and alienated a lot of players as a result in the course of the season.

2. Lethargy

Roberto Mancini's claim after the Swansea defeat that his team looked tired and jaded was not only true but it was his failure to address the issue earlier in the season that led to Manchester City losing steam at the most critical juncture (Last 10 games of the season).
Manchester United has played equal number of games compared to Manchester City but why aren’t they fatigued? This is the genius of Sir Alex Fergusson because he used his players sparingly throughout the season so that they can save their energy for the home stretch.
Below is a summary of the Key players for both teams including number of games played this season.

Man City Players
Number of Games
Sergio Aguero
David Silva
Yaya Toure
43 (including AFCON)
Samir Nasri
Joe Hart
Gareth Barry

Manchester United Players
Number of Games
Wayne Rooney
Patrice Evra
Ashley Young
Michael Carrick

According to the Opta English Premier League statics, a midfield player in the EPL covers an average of 12km per game while a Centre Forward and Defenders cover 10.1km per game.

On average Manchester United’s Key players have played a combined 200 matches while their counterparts in Manchester have played 242 matches this season.  Man City have played as a collective unit 42 games more equalling to 2,783 Km’s.

Is it a wonder then that Manchester City are faltering to the finishing line?

3. Tactics

Roberto Mancini is probably the only manager in the EPL who has used only one formation in the entire season so far. The deadly 4-2-3-1 formation was used to overwhelming effect earlier in the season but 8 months down the road, most of the other premier league managers conjured up ways to contain City’s ‘galacticos’. Why Mancini never used varying tactics depending on the opposition is shocking considering the talent in his squad of players.

Coaches and defenders found ways of containing Nasri and Silva because they never cross from the flanks but drift into the middle looking for a defence splitting pass hence City’s struggles in front of goal lately.

Thumbs up to Sir Alex for winning Manchester United’s 20th league title through his sheer genius.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Arsene Wenger has been great but he will never win the EPL ever again......

In October 1996 Arsene Wenger breathed a new life into Arsenal FC, the iconic but faltering Islington based football club. Within six months of taking over, Wenger completely changed the way the club was run by introducing new training methods but most of all he eradicated the booze culture that was rife in English Football.

He revamped the medical team by bringing in sports physiotherapists and nutritionists of the highest calibre and embarked on an ambitious project of building a world class training facility at London Colney (Which later became a blue print for almost all other English Clubs). Wenger had a vision that no other manager in English Football had at the time.

Wenger had also built a reputation at Monaco (Where he was a coach) for unearthing youthful talent and grooming them for success. He did not disappoint at Arsenal either, Patrick Vieira heralded his revolution at the North London Club followed by arguably one of the best youth and talent spotting system in world football.

When he joined Arsenal he dreamt of building a bigger and more modern stadium to replace the historic Highbury in order to give the club financial stability. The Emirates Stadium at Ashburton Grove is by far, Arsene Wengers biggest coup at Arsenal. Currently the stadium generates 50% of the clubs income and has not only brought in financial stability but as a result helped increase its fan base.

While Wenger was building his legacy at Arsenal another revolution was taking place in English football where billionaire investors from as far as Russia, USA and Iceland were investing in Premier League clubs. Chelsea FC, Man United, Aston Villa, West Ham United and most recently Manchester City among others have been scooped by wealthy foreigners.

These billionaires invested hundreds of millions in acquiring the best talent in world football and lured them with astronomical wages and bonuses in order to bring instant success to their clubs. Abramovich's Chelsea FC led the way and was rewarded by back to back titles.

While the new moneyed clubs were busy investing on players and coaching staff, Arsene Wenger introduced austerity measures during the construction of the Emirates in order not to balloon the clubs debts further. He also introduced a strict wage structure and put a cap on transfer budgets. Seven years down the road, Wenger's policies are still in effect and resulted in 7 successive trophy-less seasons while at the same time haemorrhaging some of their best players in successive seasons.

With Arsenal's strict wage and transfer policies, will top players ever consider moving to the Emirates due to their low wage structure? Will smaller European clubs who depend on player sales to survive consider Arsenal? Will Arsenal's top player Robin Van Persie renew his contract with the knowledge that he can earn 2-3 times more his current wage and stand a better chance of winning some silverware?

Can Arsene Wenger do the same things over and over and expect a different result? I doubt the results would be different hence my prediction that Arsenal FC (Under Wenger) might never win the English Premier League ever again simply because their opponents are getting more stronger year after year.