JOHANNESBURG: Kenya's startling progress into the World Cup semi-finals could not have come at a better time as it has helped lift the mood of gloom and controversy hanging over team sports in the country.
“A lot of analysts should eat their words because no matter how small we may be, we have proved ourselves,” said Kenya Cricket Association (KCA) chairman Jimmy Rayani.
“It is a great moment for team sport in Kenya.”
It's the kind of moment the country needed having waited for over 30 years for Kenya to have a successful team to cheer even though individual athletes have done them proud.
At the 1972 Olympics in Munich, their 4x400 men's track relay team of Charles Asati, Robert Ouko, Julius Sang and Hezekiah Nyamau clinched gold beating the highly-fancied Americans into the silver position.
Now Steve Tikolo's cricketers have timed their achievement just right as it comes just a month after the government and the national football association (KFF) were involved in a bitter fallout.
The KFF had been accused of using over-age players in the national Under-17 team which was then disbanded by the sports minister.
“We have proof that the two players said to be overage by the minister are actually within the eligible age bracket,” said KFF chairman Maina Kariuki.
However, sports minister Najib Balala was adamant that two players, Alfred Ongoli and Francis Ochieng, confessed to him that they were over 20 years old.
Balala said he believed others were also too old, and ordered the team to withdraw from qualifying for the African Championship.
He also ordered that Kenya withdraw from all national and international competitions to pre-empt any action from CAF, the African governing body, and world body FIFA.
The country's boxing team, fondly called the Hit Squad, has also been on the slide.
At the King's Cup in Uganda recently, the Amateur Boxing Association of Kenya did not even bother to send the national team to an event dogged by allegations of poor officiating and lack of impartiality by judges.
It was a sad reflection on a country which, from 1968 to 1992, had won seven Olympic gold medals.
If there was one incident recently which summed up the problems of Kenyan team sport, it came in hockey when even the police team was barred from the national league for allegedly issuing a bounced cheque to the country's hockey governors.
Kenya Hockey Union (KHU) official, Achieng Owako, said the police club would remain on the sidelines pending a thorough investigation.
“Kenya Police has been barred from the ongoing national league and their fixtures cancelled,” said a spokesman. – AFP