Sports in Dagoretti in Crisis: Lack of Infrastructure, Structures and Corruption
Author: Mwongelu Kamencu
Newsletter: Dagoretti News
In 2002 Kawangware United, unbeaten the whole season was promoted to the prestigious Kenya premier league after winning the nationwide league as it was called then. The historic episode has remained a moment of pride for Dagoretti soccer fans and players. It has become an inspiration to young upcoming players who dream of playing at the highest stage of football in Kenya. Still, in the early 2000s, the emergence of Dennis Oliech took the level of football in Dagoretti to another level. Dennis Oliech started his football career at Dagoretti Santos football club. He would go on to be one of the most lethal strikers in Kenya and helping the Kenya National team qualify for the African cup of Nations in 2004.
Dagoretti Santos, Gachui black boots and Young Peles would participate in the nationwide league. Dagoretti, then a single constituency, would be celebrated as the home of talented football players with four teams from this single constituency participating in the Nationwide League.
Though it continues to produce great players, the rate of emergence of new talents has shrunk with years. Today Dagoretti, now divided into Dagoretti North and Dagoretti South constituencies, does not have a team that is participating in the premier league. Likewise, it no longer dominates as it used to in the nationwide league now referred to as the Kenyan National Super League. It is not surprising then that no player’s name from Dagoretti featured in the recently released list of the squad for the national team which qualified for the African Cup of Nations.
The lack of amenities in Dagoretti for sports such as swimming, Tennis, Basketball, and Volleyball means that the community has little or no impact and influence in nurturing the talent in these diverse fields. Most of the athletes who are not footballers are stranded as there are no facilities for such activities.
The diminishing of sports can be linked with the shrinking of recreational facilities and space for sports activities. For sports to develop, one would need a proper standard stadium, gymnasiums, buildings, and tracks for its activities. As it stands Dagoretti South has less than five football fields which belong to the community. Dagoretti North does not have a single public recreational facility with football teams forced to seek consent to use fields that belong to schools in the area. These available fields, needless to say, can only be used for soccer purposes, again locking out other sports talents. Without the required and proper infrastructure for these sports, it would be absurd to expect a range of sports’ talents to develop.
The inadequate funding for sports in Kenya is a setback to its development. At this day and age, one is surprised by the lack of sports kits such as boots and balls for players and teams. It is a complete shock when one Witnesses young talented kids playing soccer bare feet and in-home clothes! In such a situation developing sports and growing these talents remains an uphill task.
Questions are been raised on how the Constituency development fund on sports has been utilized. There seem to be misplaced priorities from the constituencies when it comes to funding sports. The sports kitty has been reduced to a campaign tool by our members of parliament. Instead of setting up structures and infrastructure for the development of sports, there are known to put up soccer tournaments using large sums of money and giving away jerseys with their names printed on the front as evidence of their patronage. Although these tournaments could be beneficial, they are not a priority if the players neither have kits nor facilities for the sport.
Football and volleyball teams are known to fundraise now and then whenever they want to attend matches. Since corporate sponsorship which majority of the teams wish for is hardly available, these teams are compelled to fundraise in order to meet the expenses of the team. This practice recurs in the sports fraternity as teams are unable to meet their financial needs for the smooth running of affairs. Just like institutions, without funds for operations, the team closes down. Although these challenges are external, the sports fraternity itself has been caught up in more internal problems that have further hindered sports development. Soccer teams consist of poor internal structures of developing and harnessing talent. A look at the reason for the decline of the best teams in the early 2000s reveals a weak structure for development. For example, there has been a scarcity of structures to allow for the transition of players from age groups to senior teams as the practice in many countries. Thus when senior teams began to decline at the end of 2009 there were no young players to replace these teams. Today, it is hard to find players in the under 15, under 18 and under 20 categories due to the structural scarcity.
Weak structures have also laid the ground for corruption. Corruption has dealt a great blow to the development of sports. Transparency and accountability have been a challenge for the majority of the teams. Most are unable to account for the funds fundraised by the fans or given by the corporate companies. This has led to numerous conflicts within teams, leading to the demise of such teams. Corporate sponsors shy away from such teams whose reputations are tarnished as a result of the misappropriation of funds. The misappropriation of funds also diminishes the confidence of supporters who hitherto were earnest fundraisers for the team.
There should be an immediate effort to overcome these challenges if progress is to be made in the field of sports. Sports are very important in our society and Dagoretti South and North can benefit from it as other societies have done.
Sport is an avenue of employment; professional footballers are among the best paid in the world. In today’s world sports has open all kinds of opportunities from professional coaches, analysts, and journalists who are able to earn a decent living through sports. Dagoretti community should be able to harness this opportunity which will greatly reduce the high unemployment rate in the area.
Through sports, children and the youth develop both psychologically and socially. Being in an environment where there are few success stories to speak of, sports are able to boost their self-confidence in life. Competition is sports’ second nature, it comes with the encouragement to be the best and believe in oneself to triumph in order to become a champion
The quality of leadership and discipline is instilled in young people through sports. Arguably, there is no sport in the world that one can succeed in without discipline. The high rate of drugs abuse and crime would reduce dramatically if sports were made a priority and efforts made to improve it. Instead of idling which would make them vulnerable to a variety of social ills, young people would spend their time playing sports.
The high number of fans and supporters in the stadium demonstrates the unification power sports has in society. There is close camaraderie developed among players and their fan base regardless of ethnic and religious background in society. This tremendous benefit of sports should not be ignored.
If sports is to develop in Dagoretti it must be given greater consideration and efforts directed to reconstruct it. The constituency fund’s allocation for sports must be well utilized, it must only be used for the most important and long term solutions such as the construction of recreational facilities. Transparency and accountability should be adopted both by teams, sport’s officials and the constituency fund in order to make the necessary steps to improve and move forward. Sports structures must be put in place to improve the development and transitioning of young players into the big arena of sports. Maybe, we could then rekindle lost memories when we were at our peak.