Wilson Kiprugut: The man who started Kenya’s medal rush

Introduction

The nation of Kenya has an illustrious record at the Olympics. As of 2020, Kenya has hauled 103 medals at the Summer Olympics, the highest in Africa. The man who started the medal rush was Wilson Kiprugut , popularly known as “Chuma” who won a bronze medal in the 800 metres at the 1964 Olympics.

Background


Kiprugut as a young soldier

1962 British Commonwealth and Empire Games

1964 Olympics: First ever medal for Kenya


Kiprugut in the 1964 Olympic final

1965: Double Gold Medal

1966 and 1968: Silver medals

 

Retirement


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Charles Gitonga’s moment of glory

Background

Charles Gitonga ranks among the best sprinters Kenya has ever produced. His personal best of 44.20 in the 400m, recorded in Nairobi,  is the second fastest ever by a Kenyan. No European has ever run that fast. As we write this article, the European record stands at 44.33.

His moment of Glory came in the 400m at the 1994 Commonwealth games. Entering the final, Gitonga was not expected to win a medal, much less the gold. He had barely qualified for the final, finishing fourth in the semi-finals. He was in lane 8 which is arguably the worst lane to run a quarter-mile.

The heavy favourite was Du’aine Ladejo of England. In 1994, Ladejo won the European indoor and outdoor titles. Another favourite was Sunday Bada of Nigeria who had been a finalist at the 1993 World Championships and the silver medalist at the 1993 world indoor championships. But Gitonga had other ideas.

Race Video

Gitonga maintains his stagger through 300m. But in the final straight, the field catches up with him. Ladejo passes Gitonga at the 300m mark. For a moment it looks look like either Bada or ladejo will win the race. But Gitonga summons his last reserves of energy, finds an extra gear and pulls away from Ladejo in last 40 metres.

A glorious win for Gitonga. It had been 20 years since a Kenyan won this event. The last person to have won the event was Charles Asati in 1974.


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Kenya ranks 45th in Global Rugby participation per capita

When looking at the proportion of a country’s population that participates in rugby, Kenya ranks 45th in the world and 9th in Africa. Kenya with a total population of 54 million, has approximately 50,000 rugby players which translates to 0.094%

The country with the most number of registered rugby players is Tonga where the number of registered rugby players is a whopping 21% of the population. Rugby is the national sport in Tonga, Jonah Lomu, perhaps the greatest rugby player ever was of Tongan descent.


Overcoming cultural barriers: There has been a lot of resistance to allowing girls to play rugby in Tonga

 

In Africa, Eswatini surprisingly has the highest proportion of rugby players followed by South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Madagascar and Senegal in that order. Other surprises include the Carribbean islands : St Vincent and the Grenadines, Bermuda, and the Cayman Islands

The more players a country has participating, the bigger its talent base and this usually leads to better results. Having more registered players at the youth level can help a nation keep track of its up and coming talent as they progress through their development. This ability to monitor  a players development is the key factor in how well a country does.


Rugby at a primary school in the islands of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The SVG Rugby Union was formed as recently as 1998 and the sport has has grown rapidly since then

 

 

Data Sources

World Rugby Player Numbers
World Population Per Country

 

Kenya Rugby Page

 

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Brookside and Kenya Secondary School Sports Association has lost focus

The primary goal of every youth development program is to develop talent. To this end, youth programs are supposed to identify talent, nurture the talent, give them opportunities to play, develop and gain experience.

A decade ago, when Brookside Dairies announced their sponsorship of Kenya Secondary School Sports Association (KSSSA) and Federation of East Africa Secondary School Sports Association (FEASSA), they made it clear that talent development was their primary goal. They have re-iterated this several times.

In 2012, Brookside Marketing Manager Peter Wasonga emphasized his companies commitment to developing talent.

“We are satisfied with the progress we have made so far and we know this year’s games will be a huge success and cement our position as the company that supports youth development in sports. Wasonga also revealed that Brookside will extend scholarships for excelling students beyond basketball and include rugby and hockey. ” said Wasonga

Johnstone Ikiugu, the Deputy Director Assurance and Standards in the Ministry of Education said the Brookside Sponsorship money will be put into proper use and thanked Brookside for investing in the youth.

In 2018, Brookside Dairies poured Ksh 90 Million into the KSSSA.

In 2018, Brookside Dairy Marketing Director Oliver Mary said they will maintain their support for the games because of the impact they have on the youth.

“We want to make the games better and give the youngsters an equal opportunity to showcase their talent, get noticed and be scouted for university scholarships and also club engagements,” said Mary

The Reality on the ground

In 2020, the school games are still an arena where coaches, head-teachers and students pursue a “win at all costs attitude. This leads them to cheat by fielding over-age players. The school tournaments are typically won by schools deploying mercenaries, many of whom have never attended the schools they are playing for, don’t even have school uniforms and are playing simply for a quick financial reward.

Fielding over-age players has a detrimental effect on talent development because it denies legitimate players a chance to play and develop. The eagerness to win at all costs causes coaches to look for ready-made players instead of developing talents.


2019 Champions: St Anthonys Kitale. All the emphasis is on winning. None on talent development

 

Evidence of this lies in the fact that African countries have historically done very well in the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Nigeria has won this tournament five times, more times than any other country and finished as runners up three times. Ghana have also won it twice and finished runners up twice. These countries place so much emphasis on winning youth tournaments that it forces them to seek short-cuts. Instead of focusing on developing players, they field over-age players.

This penchant for seeking shortcuts now plagues the Kenyan school games as well as the East African school games. Teams that win their respective tournaments are often laden with players in their twenties. The emphasis is on winning at all costs.

“We used a lot of resources and effort to host this event and we had to do everything to ensure the trophies remained here. That’s what happens in these games,” a senior Kenya Secondary School Sports Association said to Citizen Sports.

This penchant for fielding over-age players is not new. Going back to the 1980s, winning a provincial championships and especially the national title often involves fielding players who are in their twenties. It is one of the reason’s why Kenya has struggled and why Kenyan players have struggled to make it in European leagues.

And the age cheating is rampant in all sports be it football, Volleyball, Basketball, Rugby or Athletics. Worse still, capable students are often enticed to pursue A-Level courses at schools in Kenya where A-Level courses are offered or in Uganda or Tanzania. This stifles a players development because at the age of 19, a player should be developing himself and gaining experience by playing top level opposition in the national league instead of competing against 16 and 17 year olds. And there is little or no academic benefit for taking A-Level courses for these students.

Brookside once had a history of talent development.

As recently as 2019, Brookside was tweeting about their commitment to talent development

Brookside also reminded everyone of their role in the developing talents like Michael Olunga, Francis Kahata and Dennis Odhiambo


Francis Kahata during his years in Thika United’s youth development program

 

 

 

Brookside Dairies was the title sponsor of Thika United during the period around 2005 to 2012. Their emphasis was on developing talents and not on winning.

To this end, Thika United scouts were charged with identifying young players with potential and patiently developing them through structured youth developments.

Among the players who benefited from this scheme was Francis Kahata, pictured on the right. He was in the Thika United Youth scheme in his early teens along with Peter Opiyo

Kahata ended up being one of the most technically and tactically astute players Kenya has ever produced. His technique, vision, passing skills, ball control and tactical awareness are all a product of structured youth development.

If Kenya could field a team with players with such levels of tactical and technical acumen, the country could compete more effectively with Africa’s top teams.

Peter Opiyo who played alongside Kahata is noted for his brilliant passing skills and his tactical awareness. Thika’s Youth program has fallen by the wayside.

 

What should be done?

The Kenya schools sports events now has additional sponsors like Airtlel and Coca Cola. With the resources available, KSSSA should shift its focus towards developing talents instead of just winning.

1. Coaches should be sent to youth development courses.
2. Elite development centres should be established at schools that have a tradition for producing talents.
3. Players who show promise or potential should be recruited to these elite development centres.
4. Coaches should be rewarded for developing and producing talents not for winning.

South Africa’s Rugby success is built on schools rugby

South Africa’s national rugby team, the Springboks has won the rugby world cup three times and is constistently among the world’s top three teams. Their success is built largely on the player development that is done at the school level. There are two schools in particular that shine when it comes to developing future Springboks: Paarl Gym and Grey College.Both schools have students from ages 6 to18 years.

When South Africa won the rugby world cup in 2007, 5 players who played in the final were from Grey College. When the Boks won the World Cup in 2019, four players on the squad were from Paarl Gym. Dozens more ply their trade amongst the top rugby clubs in the world.

Here are some excerpts from a book called “Between the Lines – The Spirit of South African Rugby”. It explains why Grey College is so succesful at producing succesful rugby players. It explains the methodology that they use to identify talent and how they develop this talent into future Springboks.

 


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Kita Mata Bloque by Josky Kiambukuta and TPOK Jazz (Lyrics and Translation)

Introduction

The song Kita Mata Bloque was composed by Josky Kiambukuta. It was the title song for the album labeled ” Le Grande Maitre et Josky Kiambukuta avec Le TPOK Jazz”. It featured only Josky’s picture on the album sleeve. The album was released to commemorate Josky’s return to TPOK Jazz after he had left in 1986 to pursue a number of solo projects. This 12 minute song was the only song was on Face A of the LP. Face B contained two songs: Minzata and Osilisi Ngai Mayele. Both of which have been translated on this blog.

The song was recorded in Belgium in 1987 and released under the CHOC label as Choc 008. It made its way to Kenya in 1988 where it was released by Polygram Records as POP 038. Josky provides the lead vocals while Malage De Lugendo’s voice is prominent in the chorus. It features the classic Kiambukuta style and was a particular dance favourite in the years between 1987 and 1992. The period was also marked by the reduction of number of Air Zaire flights to Brussels and Sabena to Kinshasa because of the Belgian-Zairean conflict.

Synopsis

The song is about a man who is insecure about his wife’s beauty. It causes him to lose his mind because he is constantly worried that she might leave him. He is overcome with feelings of jealousy whenever other people show her any attention.

Song Video

Translation

Golf 184

 

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Kenya Rugby Sevens Gallery for 2019-2020


Camilla Atieno scored a late try to secure a 17-15 victory for Kenya over Argentina in the quarter-finals of the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series Qualifiers that were held in Hong Kong

 

Sheila Chajira charges past Papua New Guinea defenders at the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series Qualifier in Hong Kong on 4 April, 2019. Kenya beat PNG 20-10 to top the group

Janet Okello turned a lot of heads with her breathtaking pace and sudden change of direction. Here she helped Kenya to a 36-5 victory over hosts Hong Kong

Captain Andrew Amonde receives the 2019 Africa Mens sevens championship trophy. Unlike 2016 when Kenya barely qualified, This time Kenya left nothing to chance, dispatching opponents by scoring 143 points against 12 conceded

 

Nelson Oyoo fends off a Senegalese defender as Jeff Oluoch runs in support at the Tokyo 2020 qualifiers

 

Andrew Amonde and Alvin Otieno bottle up a Cote’d Ivoire defender at the Tokyo 2020 qualfiers.


Andrew Amonde and his team-mates ran over Uganda and all the other teams

 

Kenya Lioness qualified for the 2020 Olympics during qualifiers that were held in Monastir, Tunisia. The Lioness scored 192 points against 19. Notable was a 19-0 win over hosts Tunisia in the semis, a team that used to beat Kenya. Also notable was that during the 2016 qualifiers, South Africa beat Kenya 31-5. This time the score was 15-14 in favour of South Africa. A dramatic improvement for Kenya

 

 

 

 

Alvin Otieno manhandles a South Africa defender at the 2019 Dubai sevens

 

Youthful Johnstone Olindi leaves Ireland defenders hapless as he races to the tryline at the 2019 Cape Town Sevens

 

Dan Sikuta acknowledges cheers from the crowd after Kenya beat Australia at the 2019 Cape Town sevens

 

 

Alvin Otieno “Buffa” ran over South Africa for two tries at the 2019 Cape Town sevens

 

Collins Injera acknowleges the crowds cheers as his 280th appearance was announced to the crowd at the 2020 New Zealand sevens

 

Johnsontone Olindi slices through the Fiji defence at the 2020 Sydney sevens

 

Willy Ambaka scoring against South Africa at the 2020 USA sevens

 

Vincent Onyala on his way to scoring against Ireland at the 2020 Vancouver sevens. Kenya lost narrowly after having beaten Ireland a week earlier

 

 

Jeffery Oluoch scored a try against Wales at the 2020 Vancouver sevens. Kenya beat Wales 28-0

 

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Kenya Rugby Gallery for 2018 and 2019

 

Kenya women’s rugby 7s won the 2018 Africa cup outscoring opponents 181-12

 

Members of the Kenya womens sevens team step out for the final of the 2018 Africa championships where they beat Uganda 29-7

 

Skipper Philadelphia Olando receives the 2018 Africa sevens cup

 

Kenya Simbas Skipper Davis Chenge meets the match officials and Morocco team captain before the Africa Gold Cup match against Morocco in Casablanca. Kenya escaped with a 28-24 win after trailing for long periods

 

Elkins Musonye leaves a Uganda defender grasping at thin air as he speeds towards the tryline. Kenya beat Uganda 38-22 in this 2018 Africa gold cup match at RFUEA grounds

 

Sevens star Willie Ambaka made a huge impact to Kenya’s 2018 Africa Gold cup campaign. Kenya hammered Tunisia 67-0 in this encounter

 

Willie Ambaka in action against Namibia in the 2018 Africa Gold cup final. Running in support is the late Tony Onyango. Kenya came up short, losing 53-28

 

Collins Injera in action against Canada during the 2019 Rugby World Cup Repechage.

 

Willy Ambaka and Chisanga defending against Hong Kong in the 2019 Rugby World cup Repechage.

 

Kenya beat 45-36 in an epic see-saw encounter in the 2018 Africa Gold cup

 

Kabras RFC womens team in action

 

Kenya players celebrate after beating hosts Brazil 26-24 in an epic encounter in the U20 World Trophy in 2019

 

Kenya after winning the 2019 Elgon Cup

 

Kenya U20 shocked Namibia to qualify for the 2019 World U20 trophy

 

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Remembering James Maina Boi

 

Background

Aside from the 3000m steeplechase, the 800m is the event where Kenya has produced a dizzying array of talents who have gone on to conquer the world. Among the athletes who brought fame to Kenya in this event is James Maina, popularly known as “Boi” due to his short stature. In those days small boys were referred to as “Boi”.

Aside from dominating the 800m locally and winning countless races abroad, “Boi” is remembered for his self confidence, friendly demeanor and amiability. A key element of “Boi” was his amazing finishing kick which he deployed in the last 100m and left opponents gasping.

Maina “Boi” was born in 1954 to a peasant farmer in what is now Nakuru County. He never went to school because his parents could not afford school fees. Given that athletics talents are discovered at school, Maina would have been one of many whose talents were never discovered. But his determination and passion for running ensured that he was discovered.Starting in 1973, whenever he heard that there was a major athletics meet, he would show up uninvited, with borrowed running shoes and convince the organizers to let him compete. In 1974 he firmly established himself as a real contender.  It was at a provincial athletics meet at Afraha Stadium Nakuru that his running talent came to the fore.

Like many runners of that era, Maina’s talents saw him recruited by the Kenya Army. There his talents blossomed. His first major international victory came at the 1978 All Africa games, in Algiers, Algeria  where he took the gold medal  ahead of second placed crowd favourite Amar Brahmia of Algeria. Peter Lemashon of Kenya was third.

At the 1978 Commonwealth games, “Boi” had the misfortune of being disqualified in the semi-finals. Compatriot MIke Boit who at the time was based in the USA, took the gold medal with Lemashon taking bronze.

The following year, 1979, “Boi” underlined his dominance on the African continent by taking the gold medal at the 1979 African championships.

His greatest victory came at the 1979 IAAF Athletics world cup. Representing Africa, Maina “Boi” took the gold medal in the 800m, beating American James Johnson and Willi Wullbeck of East Germany. It was here that Maina exhibited his well noted finishing kick which he often used to devastating effect in the final straight.

1979 IAAF Intercontinental Cup Video

“Boi” was at his peak in 1980. Unfortunately, Kenya was part of an ill-advised boycott of the 1980 Olympics. As a result, he missed an opportunity to challenge for Olympic gold against the likes of world record holder Sebastian Coe whom he had beaten as well as Steve Ovett who was the eventual gold medal winner,

What is special about “Boi” was that his success came at a time when Kenya was experiencing a significant dip in its athletics fortunes. After Kenya’s boycott of the 1976 Olympics and the ill-advised boycott of the 1980 Olympics, Kenyan athletes were thoroughly demoralized. The net result was that Kenya performed rather poorly in subsequent events including the 1982 Commonwealth games and the 1983 world championships.

At the 1982 Commonwealth games for example, Kenyan athletes performed so poorly that the boxing team actually performed better, winning more gold medals. This despite the fact that Kenya sent their best athletes. On that occasion, Kenyan athletes won one gold, one silver and three bronze. The silver medal came via Maina “Boi” in the 800m.

1982 Commonwealth Games 800m

Kenya fielded a strong trio for this event including Sammy Koskei, who held the African record for over twenty years, Juma Ndiwa and Boi. It was Boi who proved the best of the trio, running a tactically astute race that saw him take second place behind Peter Bourke of Australia.

Indeed on the highly competitive local circuit, Maina underlined his dominance for much of the early 1980s, winning virtually every local 800m race, often against intense competition. In those days, athletics meets occurred all over the country during the athletics season and attracted the top talents.  According to the Daily Nation, his dominance extended internationally where he won 13 successive races.


In the 1980s, the highly competitive local circuit included top tier runners from left: Chris Onsare, James Maina ‘Boi”, Sammy Koskei and Edwin Koech

 

 

A decade of running finally started to take its toll. Maina qualified for the 1983 World Athletics championships but did not make it beyond the preliminaries. At the qualifiers for the 1984 Olympics, “Boi” was now facing intense competition from youthful upstarts especially the USA based duo of Billy Konchellah and Edwin Koech, both of whom took the qualifying spots for the Olympics along with Juma Ndiwa.

After the 1984 season, “Boi” started charting his post athletics career. With the money he had won in his athletics career, he purchased matatus. In his later years, he worked as a security officer with the Kenya Post Office saving bank. He passed on in July of 2004, leaving behind a widow Monica and eight children.

 


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Remembering Aurlus Mabele

Background

Congolese musician Aurlus Mabele is no more. The singer, known for his up-tempo soukous style passed away at a hospital in Eaubonne, Paris at the age of 67 after having contracted Covid-19. He has had underlying medical conditions for several years having suffered a stroke 10 years ago.

His daughter Liza Monet who is a rapper, announced his passing on social media.

My dad died of coronavirus this morning, thank you for honoring his memory. He is a great legend in the soukouss that the Congolese people are losing today,” wrote rapper Liza Monet on twitter.

 


Mabele and his wife Liza who was from Re Union

 

He was born Aurélien Miatsonama in 1953 in the Poto-Poto district of Brazzaville. In 1974, together with his peers such as Jean Baron, Pedro Wapechkado and Mav Cacharel, he founded the group Ndimbola Lokolé.

In 1986, along with guitar wizard Diblo Dibala, he formed a band called “Le groupe Loketo” or simply “Loketo”, a word which means hips. It was an apt name as the band became famous for its hip swinging, up tempo hits, characterized by Dibala’s pacy guitar, a prominent percussion section and Mabele’s smooth vocals. Other members of the group included Jean Baron, Keyboardist Ronald Rubinel,  rhythm guitarist Freddy De Majunga, bassist Miguel Yamba, and dancers Antoinette Yelessa and Joelle Esso

The band propelled him to prominence in the late 1980s.  This was the era when the fast paced soukous style that emphasized  swift guitar riffs and chanting rather than singing. Mabele’s songs were a prominent feature in dance clubs all over the continent. He was immensely popular in Kenya where he toured almost every year in the early 1990s. During this period, Loketo songs would send Kenyan fans stampeding to the dance-floor at any night club.

During this period, Loketo achieved huge success with hits like Douce Isabelle which introduced him to his Kenyan audience, Malou, which was composed by Jean Baron and Extra Ball which was composed by Diblo Dibala.


This was the classic album with hits like Douce Isabelle and Malou. Clockwise from left: Diblo Dibala, Aurlus Mabele, Mack Macaire and Jean Baron

He and Diblo Dibala parted ways in the early 1990s. Diblo left to form a band known as Matchatcha along with Freddy De Majunga and Miguel Yamba. Mabele stayed with Loketo and recruited another prominent soukous guitarist in Dally Kimoko with whom Mabele had most of his success. His friends from his youth like Jean Baron and Cacharel were prominent members of Loketo along with new members like guitarists Remy Salomon and Geo Bilongo, drummer Awilo Longomba as well as singers Lucien Bokilo, Mack Macaire and Solo Sita

One of his biggest songs was “Embargo”. He toured widely on the strength of this song which involved a series of chants by a female chorus line followed by a male chorus line and was completely devoid of singing. It typified that era and was very popular in dance clubs all over East and Central Africa.

In later years he tailored his music to the style of the French Antilles and achieved significant success in the Caribbean and in French Guyana.

Above all things, Mabele was a brilliant stage performer. Anyone who watched his videos or attended his concerts left thrilled. From his stylish dress code to his tireless dancing and well choreographed dancing troupes. It was a thrill a minute.

Having suffered a stroke, Mabele’s health weakened significantly. He was partially paralyzed. His wife Liza who was from Re Union Island, is said to have left him during this period.

His last album, “C’est va se savoir”, was in 2004.

 

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Georgette Mowana alias Tété, Tabu Ley’s first wife

Image courtesy of tabu.reseau.jord.net

Georgette Mowana known popularly as Tété, was the first wife of famous Congolese singer Tabu Ley. She married Tabu Ley in 1960. During the period when they met, Tabu Ley was working  as a State official for National Education and assigned to the Kalina Athenaeum. It was there that he met Georgette Mowana (Tété).  Before his first marriage, Tabu Ley already had three children from two different women. The exact number of children he would eventually have is not known. But it has been estimated that he had about 100 children !  Georgette Mowana, was born in Katanga, but her parents came from Bandundu. With Tété, Tabu Ley had five children: Blackson-Matthieu, Mireille-Esther, Collette, Gisèle and Isabelle  Mireille and Collette studied at Utalii college in Nairobi, Kenya. Collette followed in her fathers footsteps as a stage performer. Mireille was the eldest daughter and was born in 1964. Tabu Ley sung a song about her called Mireille mwana  Tété had a tumultuous relationship with Tabu Ley due to the latter's infidelity and numerous relationships.She left and came back several times. Tabu Ley married other women while still married to Tété. Most notably Mundi and Mbilia Bel. He also had long term relationships with other women notably Jeanne Mokomo, who was Miss Zaire in 1969 and with whom he had 7 children. There were other relationships with women, some of whom Tabu Ley even sung songs about like Mwanke and Maze.  Despite all this, Tabu Ley remained dedicated to his first wife even composing several songs about her including: Adios Tété, Official Mission, Moto akokana Nzambe akosukisa, Tété nakozonga, Dernier Espoir 'Itou'. Her name is cited in other hits including Mireille mwana and Leridi.  Georgette Mowana Kaly passed away in the 1990s. Though Tabu Ley had other wives and several other relationships, he seemed to have a special place in his heart for his first love. He often sung "Adios Tete" in his concerts and it is said that he sometimes burst into tears when the song was sung by other performers.

 

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