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Reading from the back: What fresher news from sports pages!

A few decades ago, young people – and some adults – would begin reading their newspaper from the back. The sports pages provided excitement that acted as balm to minds afflicted by the fear of politics of the day. In the 1980s and 1990s sports pages brought news of local and regional soccer leagues and competitions.

Local derbies in Nairobi and Kisumu, for instance, would be anticipated throughout the year. Safari rally would have its special time. Young people cut out photos of sports heroes and pasted them in scrapbooks. Then, football on TV was ‘Soccer Made in Germany’, which ran until 1988. Some athletics would be available from VoK – KBC now and then on the black and white TVs of the day (remember Great Wall TV?)

But the 2000s came with local broadcasts of sports from all over the world. The English Premier League (and other European soccer leagues) hypnotised millions of Kenyans, who not only watched the matches but also gambled on them. Today, sports news heavily dominates TV and radio, just like politics. Even print and online media jostle to retail to Kenyans cantankerous local politics and unhelpful foreign sports at every available opportunity and space.

So, how refreshing, occasionally, to get some exciting local sports news in the newspapers.

For example, The Standard and Daily Nation on Monday, May 1, 2023, carried very inspirational news on the just ended ‘Secondary Schools Term One National Games.’ These games include field ad track events. There is basketball, hockey, handball, rugby, athletics, and cross-country competitions. The games were held at Hill School, Moi Girls, Nova Pioneer, and Eldoret Sports Club.

The two reports in The Standard and Daily Nation, by Stephen Rutto and Brian Yonga, were quite sporty themselves, with the headings, “How school teams, coaches battled for bragging rights in Eldoret showpiece” and “Rift Valley schools make the most of home ground to win the overall championship title”.

These games are not just co-curricular. It is during these competitions that some scouts for amateur and professional teams identify future sportswomen and sportsmen. Indeed, some of the players at the games, such as those from Musingu High School from Kakamega County, who won the overall boys’ hockey championship, already play beyond the school in amateur leagues. The winning athletes, such as the steeplechaser, “Mathew Kosgei, the son of the legendary 3,000 steeplechaser William Kosgei”, as reported in the Daily Nation, will most likely end up on a bigger sports stage, as a Kenyan.

Why is this sports news inspiring? Consider that these young women and men were competing as sportsmen. It is the time, resources and efforts invested in preparing for the competition that separated the winners from the losers. Those who practiced more, invested in tactics, and steeled themselves for the tournament reaped the medals. Yet even those who lost took pride in appearing in the finals. In fact, the losing finalists and the third best team will all represent Kenya at the regional championships in Rwanda.

None of the competitors played for a tribe, religion, class, political affiliation, or family. Yes, they all played for family. But they were school and sports families. The young people contested for collective school glory. In some cases, the competitors played for different schools but came from the same family or region. Although the ultimate prize was to win a trophy, medal and championship, the mere appearance at the finals registered the participating school’s name as a champion in their own backyard.

In contrast, the politicians were and are still bickering in Nairobi. They cannot agree to play a clean game of politics (note that there is ‘age cheating’ even in the school games). They cannot agree that there is a bigger prize than the declaration of the winner – managing the country’s people and wealth – which needs all skills and knowledge that can be found in the country. The politicians, unlike the young sportswomen and sportsmen in Eldoret last week, cannot concede that the final whistle is nothing but an invitation for another match, a new challenge. And that winners and losers all belong to the same community.

This is why the two reports in The Standard and Daily Nation were uplifting metaphors for Kenya today.

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