Good progress but long way to go for Harambee Stars

Many Harambee stars fans are elated and rightfully so after the recent spate of good results. In the last four matches, Kenya has beaten Congo-Brazzaville at home, registered two away draws against Tanzania and Zambia and beaten the Democratic Republic of Congo away in Kinshasa. The positive results are a relief for funs who for eight years during the Mohamed Hatimy era and the Sam Nyamweya era have had to endure mediocre performances by the national team. Finally the team is getting closer to fulfilling its potential.

On a positive note also, the team is playing several high quality friendly matches against good sides. This enables the team to gain cohesion and is something that was missing from the previous FKF regimes.

Excellent Defence

The one Harambee stars department that has stood out in recent matches is the backline and defensive midfield area. Congo DR thoroughly dominated possession and had much better buildups as did Zambia. But the defensive line with David Owino Calabar, Jockins Atudo, Aboud Omar, Eric Ouma, Brian Onyango as well as defensive midfielders Anthony Akumu, Victor Wanyama and Ismail Gonzalez all stood tall in the three matches. Though Congo had most of the possession, their moves were disrupted before they could threaten Boniface Oluoch in goal. As a result, Congo created no real scoring chances. It is fair to say that Kenya’s defensive solidity is what has anchored the recent results.

Poor Buildup

Harambee stars have been unable  build moves by stringing several passes together. Some of this can be attributed to lack of cohesion. Some of it can be attributed to the technical staff. But a significant portion of it is due to lack of the calibre of players with excellent first touch, close ball control and the ability to string accurate one times passes as is demanded by modern football. This can only come with proper youth development.

The only Kenya player who fits this mould is Francis Kahata. To have an effective midfield, you need several players with Kahata’s passing skills and close ball control. However Kahata though very good on the ball, contributes little on the defensive side of the ball. The ability to pressure opposing players is a necessity in modern football where players are measured based on how many kilometres they cover on the field.

Harambee stars look most dangerous on breakaways. Wingers like Ayub Timbe and Paul Were have been able to use their speed on the flanks to either score goals or create dangerous situations that result in goals. But the same players have more of a striker’s mentality and are not known for being good passers or even good crossers.

Further to that, Kenya lacks players who can play themselves out of tight situations using their close ball control. All these aspects: accurate passing, crosses, ball control, vision etc are products of a sound youth development scheme. This is completely missing in Kenya today. Some clubs have a semblance of a youth team but it does not amount to structured youth development.

The attack

This author has been watching Kenya football for three decades now and can safely conclude that Michael Olunga  is the sharpest striker Kenya has produced in the last three decades. You would perhaps have to go back to the 1970s to find a sharper striker in William Ouma “Chege”.

Olunga is not as talented as Dennis Oliech. But Olunga needs much fewer chances to score. Oliech in his prime was a superb dribbler and super-quick off the mark. He was a handful for defenders to deal with. He would create numerous chances but would miss too many. That is why in France, Oliech was mostly deployed as a winger where he could wreak real havoc on opposing defenders. Olunga often gets only one or two chances and scores. He has quick reflexes and a sixth sense for positioning himself in the right spot. Thats why he makes a good target man.

Against DR Congo, Olunga was starved of the ball. Hardly any passes came his way. But he was still able to score by positioning himself in the right place to pick up the rebound. And when the ball came his way, he reacted very rapidly, trapping the ball and firing with his trusty left foot. It was virtually the only real chance that came his way and he scored.

If Olunga were to play with an effective midfield that can get him the ball, he would score in every Harambee stars game. Ayub Timbe seems more interested in scoring rather than crossing the ball even when he is in an impossible angle. The same applies to Paul Were. Perhaps Olunga would be more effective playing with Clifford Miheso who is a good crosser as well as Kahata if he has players who can cover his defensive frailties.

Summary

That Kenya needs better player development cannot be gainsaid. The two best passers Kenya has produced in recent years are Peter Opiyo and Francis Kahata. Both are products of the Thika youth development scheme having joined Thika United as early as age 12. This kind of youth development is very rare in Kenya. Yet it is what the country needs.

Coach Okumbi is on the right track. But he needs to work harder on gaining cohesion, build up and supplying the attack with quality passes, something that is compleley missing right now.

As for the current FKF regime, they are a breath of fresh air compared to the Nyamweya and Hatimy eras. And they have recovered from the poor start when unproven players were fielded against Guinea Bissau perhaps costing Kenya a place at the next AFCON.

 


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Remembering James Sianga

Legendary Kenyan goalkeeper and coach James Aggrey “Abawa” Sianga passed away on Friday September 9 2016 after a long battle with diabetes. Sianga’s career is one of the most illustrious of any sportsman in Kenya.

Sianga’s career started in the early 1960s. He was a member of the original Luo Union team that won the league in 1964. When internal wrangles caused the club to split in 1966, Sianga joined Kisumu Hotstars where he played with such legends as William Ouma “Chege” and John Otieno “Hatari” during the 1967 season. In 1968, Sianga was one of the players to joined the newly formed club Gor Mahia and he played a key role as Gor Mahia won the league at their first attempt in 1968.


Sianga pictured 3rd from left Image courtesy of James Sianga

Sianga also played for the national team for 12 years from 1963 to 1975 and was capped 69 times. For most of those years, he was an automatic first team selection. He was known as a no nonsense goalkeeper who took no prisoners. In aerial battles he would punch and elbow opposing players. Those who watched him make the argument that he is the best goalkeeper Kenya has ever produced.

One of his most notable performances for the national team was in a historic 3-2 win over Scotland in 1963.
We stunned Scotland 3-2 and won the Cup in the Uhuru (Independent) celebrations in a Triangular with Scotland, Uganda and Tanganyika. We were just good and Siang’a was brilliant in goal.” said John Otieno “Hatari to the Standard recently.

He played in the national league even longer. During this period, he played in the 1972 Africa nations cup. This was and still is Kenya’s best performance in that continental event. At the 1972 Africa Nations cup, Gor Mahia had the highest number of players. Aside from Sianga, other Gor Mahia players at the cup of nations were Allan Thigo, Daniel Nicodemus Arudhi, Peter Ouma “Pele”, Stephen Yongo, Jackson Aluko and William Ouma “Chege”.

Following contentious club elections at the end of 1973, Gor Mahia was split into two. Dan Owino, who had been soundly trounced at the election but who had the support of most senior players, decided to form a splinter group known as Gor Mahia United. Among the players who joined Gor Mahia United was James Sianga. In October of 1973, Gor Mahia United merged with Luo Union and Sianga had returned to the club where his career first took off. With Sianga at helm, Luo Union won the CECAFA club cup twice (1976 and 1977).

After hanging his boots, Sianga became a coach and his coaching career was just as illustrious as his playing career. He had several stints as national team coach, most notably in 1988 when he was assistant coach as Kenya went to the 1988 Africa nations cup. His last assignment with Harambee stars was in 1999 and 2000 when he was head coach.

Image courtesy of James Sianga

Sianga is one of the most renown and succesful coaches in East Africa. Prior to becoming the Gor Mahia coach in 2008, he had coached the Kenyan and Tanzanian national teams and also coached Mtibwa Sugar, Moro United and Simba United. While at Simba he coached them to a victory over Zamalek that enabled them to reach the Champions league group stage. He was also coach when Simba won the CECAFA cup in 2002.

In 2004, following his success in Tanzania, the KFF tried to recruit Sianga to coach Harambee stars again. But Sianga turned them down.

“I have a one-year contract here at Moro United so legally I’m bound to honour it. “I feel it would discredit me if I left Moro United less than two months after having arrived from Express in Uganda.” Siang’a said.

In 2008, he steered Gor Mahia to win the Presidents cup with a 2-0 win over Posta Rangers. In the league Gor Mahia finished 9th. But some fans were beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel. The following year, Gor Mahia lost 0-6 aggregate to APR of Rwanda. Sianga told fans that the players were too young and that they shoud forget about continental football and focus on building for the future.

At Gor Mahia he went about recruiting young players from lower division teams. Many were recent secondary school leavers and some were still in secondary school. The players he groomed became the bedrock of the club for several years including players like George Odhiambo “Blackberry”, Jerim Onyango, Solomon Nasio, Anthony Akumu, Chris Wekesa, Eric Masika, Ibrahim Kitawi. he even resurrected the career of Peter Opiyo when it seemed the latter had been sidelined by Thika United. Most of the players he recruited played key roles in the Gor Mahia teams that won the FKF cup in 2011 ands 2012 and finished runners up in the league in 2010 and 2012 and won in 2013. “I always said when the players mature they will win it (league),” said Siang’a.

When I joined Gor Mahia as a coach in 2008, the club was going through a rough patch and could not sustain itself. There were many problems at the club hence it was difficult to do well,”
“Some players had overstayed at the club and were hard-headed. I have always been a disciplinarian as a coach in every club I have coached, Simba, Mtibwa and even Express in Uganda, and that’s why I always succeed,”
“I could not take it indiscipline from the players and hence dropped almost 10 players midseason and signed 16 relatively unknown players, mostly from schools and colleges,”.

“The club had no money then and sponsors like it is now and therefore could not buy players. I also wanted to lay a foundation for a good team hence went for younger players,”
“After all that reshuffling of the squad we were able to finish position nine and that was quite an achievement bearing in mind the team was almost relegated the previous season,”
“That is a foundation that I set up at the club and I can confidently say it has finally paid off because 8-9 players that I signed back then are part of the title-winning squad now. ” said Sianga

George Odhiambo “Blackberry” later said about Sianga : “I attribute my success specifically to coach James Siang’a, who identified me and moulded me into what I am right now. To me, he is the best coach because he had confidence in me and even fielded me in high-profile matches against established players,” said Odhiambo.

During his playing days, Sianga was the national team coach and an automatic selection for Harambee Stars between 1968 and 1972. Those who watched him say he is certainly one of the top 3 goalkeepers to play for Kenya. Sianga played for Gor Mahia between 1968 to 1974. He was one of the pioneer players of the club. He is one of the players who led the mass exodus of players to Luo Union in 1974. During that period he swore never to play for Gor Mahia again a fact which some fans reminded him when he came back in 2008.

On assignment as Gor Mahia coach


On assignment as Gor Mahia coach

Sianga resigned in July of 2009, a day before his contract was to end. He had been under pressure from fans but when Gor Mahia lost their second match in a row, against Thika United, incensed the fans besieged him to the point that security forces had to intervene to protect the coach.

“I have decided not to renew my contract, as every human being must have a vision. But I still have passion for Gor Mahia FC.”  The coach refuted claims that he was forced to resign because of fan disgruntlement.

That would be Sianga’s last major coaching assignment. In 2015 he was inducted to the Kenya football hall of fame. He became only the third player to be inducted after Joe Kadenge and Mahmoud Abbas.

Tributes poured in upon Sianga’s passing:

 “My condolences to the family. I have known him since my days as a Nation journalist back in 1972 when he was playing for Kenya. We have kept in touch since. Cecafa mourns with the family.” said CECAFA chair Nicholas Musonye.

“Very sad news. Rest well Siang’a,” Tanzania’s FA President Jamal Malinzi said.

“I am very sad following the passing on of my dear colleague, Kenyan gentleman and African coaching giant. My condolences to the family, Kenyan and African football lovers,” said Uganda Cranes coach Milutin Sredovejic.


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2016 Olympics: Kenya’s best performance yet

Kenya ended the 2016 Olympics ended Olympics with a medal haul of 6 gold, 6 silver and 1 bronze, arguably Kenya’s best performance yet, only rivaled by 2008 when Kenya hauled 6 gold 4 silver and 4 bronze.

Jemima Sumgong bags gold in the Marathon

It was Jemima Sumgong who started Kenya’s gold rush with a superb win in the women’s marathon, finishing ahead of Eunice Kirwa a fellow Kenyan who was running for Bahrain. At the 35km mark, the race had been reduced to a battle between Sumgong, Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia and Kirwa. At the 40km mark, Dibaba fell off the pace leaving Kirwa to battle with Sumgong. It was then that Sumgong made her final surge for which Kirwa had no answer.

Faith Kipyegon runs away with 1500m gold

Sumgong was overcome with emotion at the finish line

Sumgong was overcome with emotion at the finish line

Coming into this race, Kipyegon had run the fastest time of the season in the 1500m. Her nemesis Genzebe Dibaba was having a quiet year when compared to 2015 where she won every race in dominant style including the world championships. Still , given Dibaba’s calibre, she was considered the favourite. The first 700m of the race were as slow as molasses. But with two laps to go, Dibaba made her trademark surge. Kipyegon followed in tow. Kipyegon would surge past Dibaba with 200m to go and show the rest of the field a clean pair of heels. She covered the last 800m in an incredible time of 1:56.
Upon crossing the finish line, Kipyegon was overcome with emotion. Perhaps it is because despite having shown a lot of promise as a youth, and despite always being among the top milers in the last 3 years, Kipyegon never looked she would win an Olympic or world championship gold. However in 2016, she showed a lot of determination from the very beginning of the year when she was winning races in 3:56.

Conseslus Kipruto maintains Kenya’s stellar record in the 3000m Steeplechase.

Going into the 2016 games, Kenya had thoroughly dominated the 3000m steeplechase in a manner that no other country has dominated any event. Indeed since 1968, Kenya has won this event every time they participate. The only times they did not win was in 1976 and 1980 when Kenya withdrew from the Olympics.
The young Conseslus Kipruto who has been the top runner in 2016, maintained Kenya’s tradition with a commanding win, beating Evan Jager of the USA to second place. The bigger story of the event however was the disqualification of legend Ezekiel Kemboi. He was disqualified for stepping inside the track. He had been jostled by an Ugandan and Ethiopian runners, lost his balance and ended up taking three steps inside the track. Though he gained no advantage, he was disqualified after an appeal by France on behalf of Maheiddine Mekhisssi Bennabad who was classless throughout, flashing three fingers as he crossed the line to indicate that Kemboi had taken three steps inside the track.
Kemboi who had earlier announced his retirement from the event, soon rescinded his retirement saying he wanted to come back at the 2017 world championships and reclaim the medal that was stolen from him.

Vivian Cheruiyot shows tactical astuteness to win 5000m

Veteran Vivian Cheruiyot put aside her disappointment from the 10,000m where she had settled for silver to win the women’s 5000m. Going into the race, Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana was considered the hot favourite. She had dominated the 10,000m a week earlier and she had been invincible in the 5000m for the past two years. She had been winning races by surging at the halfway mark of each race and setting up an unassailable gap from the rest of the field. So when she took off on one of her surges, all observers must have assumed it was curtains closed for the rest of the field.

But the Kenyan duo of Vivian Cheruiyot and Hellen Obiri stayed in shouting distance of Ayana. And when Ayana began to tire, the Kenyan duo made their move and surged past Ayana who had no answer. The race showed how difficult it is to win several races with the tactic that Ayana applies.

For Cheruiyot, it was a huge victory, marking the first Olympic gold medal in her illustrious career that started in 1999 when she was only 15 and ended up winning the bronze medal at the All Africa games. Both Obiri and Cheruiyot were also returning from recent maternity leave which is significant achievement. Most women runners find it difficult to return to top form after maternity. Some simply lose their motivation.

Comeback kid David Rudisha wins the 800m

It goes without saying that Rudisha is the greatest 800m runner the world has ever seen. In 2012 he won the gold medal with what was touted as the best performance of the entire Olympics. Not only did he set a new world record but he also became the first man to dip below 1:41. But going into the 2016 games, he was not the overwhelming favourite. After the 2012 win, Rudisha was plagued by injuries such that he was beaten to second place at the 2014 Commonwealth games. Many a runner would have lost their motivation after having already accomplished so much. But Rudisha clawed his way back tio the top. He switched his tactics from the front running style that he used before 2012 to a simply controlling the pace of the race, a tactic he used to win the 2015 world championships.
Doubts emerged when he almost did not qualify for the Olympics. It required late surge for him to win 3rd place at the Olympic trials. But he quickly dispelled those doubts when he ran the fastest time of the season a week later in Hungary.
In the Olympic final, compatriot Alfred Kipketer set a torrid pace in the first lap but soon tired himself out, paving way for Rudisha to control the rest of the race and win in grand style.

Amazingly consistent Kipchoge wins marathon

The Olympic and world championships marathons are notoriously difficult to predict. Runners who dominate city marathons like Wilson Kipsang often struggle while runners like Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda who are miserable at City marathons, have been known to win.
However coming into the Olympics, Eliud Kipchoge had won 5 of 6 marathons in which he had entered. His only race was s second place finish in the Hamburg marathon which was his first ever marathon. Saying that Kipchoge always brings his A game is therefore an accurate assessment.
On this day, Kipchoge did disappoint. He stayed with the leading pack until the 35km mark before making his surge to pull away from the field.
And he did so despite the incompetence of the Kenyan officials resulting in him not getting his water at one of the watering stations.

Kipchoge arrived at the water station and to his surprise, there was no water for him


Kipchoge arrived at the water station and to his surprise, there was no water for him

By winning the Olympic marathon, which was the last event of the Olympics, Kipchoge ensured that Kenya’s national anthem was the last anthem to be played at the closing ceremony of the Olympics.

Surprise silver medal for Tumuti in the 400m hurdles
Not much was expected from Boniface Mucheru Tumuti. He had reached the final of this event at the 2015 world championships but finished 7th in a race that was won by compatriot Nicholas Bett. Indeed afthe form-chart suggested another 7th place finish for Tumuti. However he surprised everyone when he grabbed a silver medal with a late surge in the final 50m. The race was won by American veteran Kerron Clement. Tumuti was closing down so fast that had the race been 20 metres longer he might have won.
Kenya is now a glorious era for the 400m hurdles with Bett and Tumuti winning medals at the world championships and Olympics respectively. From a cardiovascular standpoint, the 400m hurdles is very similar to the 800m, which is an event Kenya has dominated for years. What was missing was the technical training that is needed for this event.
Other Silver medals came via Julius Yego who won silver in the javelin. He might have won gold had he not been sidelined with an injury.  Paul Tanui who battled Mo Farah in the 10,000m, Vivian Cheruiyot in the 10,000m, and Hyvin Kiyeng in the women’s 3000m steeplechase. Margaret Wambui won Kenya’s only bronze with a late surge in the women’s 800m

In addition, Kenyan runners won medals for other countries: Ruth Jebet won gold for Bahrain in the 3000m steeplechase. Eunice Kirwa won silver for Bahrain in the marathon and Paul Chelimo won a silver medal for the USA in the 5000m.


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Kenya Boxing at the 2016 Rio Olympics

Light Flyweight: Peter Mungai Warui
1st round: Received a bye
2nd Round : Beat Ly Bin of China 2-1(29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
Quarter-Final: Lost to Joahnys Argilagos of Cuba 3-0(30-27, 30-27,30-26)


Mungai after stunning Bin

“I have no problem with the way I fought and reaching the quarter-finals was a very big achievement for me. I will be going back home with a lot of pride. Today, he did not fight the same way he fought in his earlier bout and even though I had studied him before this fight, he outsmarted me” said Mungai.

 

Rayton Nduku Okwiri: Welterweight
1st Round: Beat Andrei Zamkovoi 2-1
2nd Round: Lost to Mohamed Rabii of Morocco 3-0(29-28, 30-27, 29-28)


Rayton Nduku Okwiri (right) celebrates winning against Russia’s Andrei Zamkovoi who had won bronze at the previous Olympics(left)

 

Benson Njagiru Gicharu: Bantanweight
Round 1: Lost to of Mongolia 3-0 (29-28, 30-26 and 29-28.)

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Kenya’s medal prospects at the 2016 Olympic games


London marathon winners Eliud Kipchoge and Jemima Sumgong will represent Kenya

Kenya arrives at the 2016 Olympic in the aftermath of a superb performance at the 2015 World athletics championships where they topped the standings with 7 gold medals. However Kenya will be hard pressed to repeat that superlative performance.

Men’s events

Men’s 800m: Gold for Rudisha, bronze for Kipketer

David Rudisha is the defending World and Olympic champion. He is not as dominant as he was when he won the gold medal at the 2012 London games and in the process set a new world record. He survived the Olympic trials barely finishing third in a race that was won by upstart Alfred Kipketer. However he as run the fastest 800m of the season at 1:43.35 which he ran at a meet in Hungary on July 18. With his experience, ability to run the rounds intelligently and big race temperament, he is the favourite for the gold medal. Alfred Kipketer who has run the 5th fastest time of the season should win bronze.

1500m: Gold for Asbel Kiprop, Silver for Manangoi

Asbel Kiprop won the gold medal at the 2008 Olympics after the original winner, Ramzi of Bahrain was disqualified for doping. Injuries doomed his chances at the 2012 games but he came back strongly to win gold medal at the 2015 world championships. When he means business and gets his tactics right, Kiprop has been peerless, often winning all the big races by significant margins But of late he has had some lapses of judgment in Diamond League races. Still he ran the fastest time of the season at 3:29.33 and should win. Elijah Manangoi and Ronald Kwemoi have run the second and third fastest times of the season and could finish 2nd and 3rd if they can run intelligently in what is sure to be a tactical race. If anyone can ruin Kenya’s party it is Tareq Makhloufi, the defending Olympic champion.

3000m Steepelchase: Gold for Kipruto and clean sweep

This is an event that Kenya has thoroughly dominated. In fact a Kenyan has won this race at every Olympics that Kenya has participated in since 1968. The 2016 games should not be any different. Conseslus Kipruto who won the silver medal at the 2015 world championships behind Ezekiel Kemboi, is the favourite having run the three fastest times of the season.

The seasoned Ezekiel Kemboi, who has been representing Kenya for fourteen years and who has two Olympic gold medals to his name, has not run much this year. But with his experience and tactical nous, he can never be counted out. He is a master at timing his his surges so perfectly, shifting gears suddenly and producing a burst of speed in the last 200 metres that he leaves opponents befuddled.

The third Kenyan in the race is another experienced runner in Brimin Kipruto who won the silver in 2004 and gold in 2008. He too has run very sparingly this season and is saving himself for the Olympics.

5000m : bronze for Caleb Ndiku

Caleb Mwangangi Ndiku and Isaiah Koech will be representing Kenya. It will be a tall order for Kenya to gather a medal. Neither Ndiku nor Koech are among the fastest runners in the season. Mo Farah is the defending Olympic and world champion is still the favourite. The Ethiopian duo of Gebremeskel and Muktar Edris should be the closest challengers to Farah

10,000m: Silver for Kamworor, bronze for Bedan Kaloki

Defending world cross country and half marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor will be Kenya’s best hope. But this is based solely on his form in 2015 where he won the silver medal at the world championships. In 2016 he has not run the 10,000m. He dropped out of the race at the trials. But he did win the world half marathon championships where he and Bedan Kaloki set such a torrid pace that Mo Farah could not keep up. However achieving the same result against Farah on the track has proven unsuccessful. Mo Farah is still the favourite.

Marathon: Gold for Kipchoge

Eliud Kipchoge ran the fastest marathon of the season when he clocked 2:03:05 in London and could have broken the world record had he known he was on world record pace. He will be the race favourite along with Stanley Biwott who has run the second fastest time of the season. However the Olympic marathon is always difficult to predict because runners who do well in City marathons often perform poorly at the Olympics.

Other races

Julius Yego may have won the world championship in 2015, but his form in 2016 has been below par. It will come as a shock if he ends up on the podium. Though he has a better chance at medaling than fellow world champion Nicholas Bett who has been far below par in the 400m hurdles this season.

Women’s events

Women’s 800m: Bronze for Wambui

Wambui Nyairera who has emerged as a contender in 2016 is likely to end up with bronze behind Caster Semenya of South Africa and Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi. Eunice Sum, who was world champion in 2013, will likely finish as the first person behind the hyper-Androgenic athletes. In the end this is the most predictable race of the entire Olympics. Caster Semenya will win by a significant distance and possible threaten the 33 year old world record held by Jarmila Kratochilova of Czechoslovakia.

Women’s 1500m: Silver for Faith Kipyegon

This season, Faith Kipyegon has taken advantage of the absence of Genzebe Dibaba to dominate the races she has entered. She ran the fastest time of the world at 3:56.41 in Eugene on May 16. But that was three months ago and the hope is that she did not peak too early.

Her arch-rival Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia who thoroughly dominated this event in 2015, has been silent in 2016, mostly citing injury. There is also the fact that her coach Jama Aden was arrested in Spain with bags of performance enhancing drugs. Nevertheless Dibaba ran a respectable time of 3:59.83 in July in Barcelona. Despite her relatively low form, she will be difficult to beat.

Given her early season form, Kipyegon is a strong contender for gold but the pedigree of Genzebe Dibaba is difficult to overcome.

3000m Steeplechase: Silver for Kiyeng

Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi won the gold medal at the 2015 world championships. She is in superb form again in 2015 having set a new Kenya record at 9:00.01 . However the race favourite will be Ruth Jebet, a Kenyan who has defected to Bahrain. The youthful Jebet ran a season’s best of 8:59.97 in beating Kiyeng at Hayward Field in Oregon. Knowing she could not beat Kiyeng in a sprint, Jebet set a torrid pace and created a huge gap. Kiyeng clawed her way back but could not catch Jebet who ran the fastest time in the world since 2008 and the second fastest ever at 8:59.97

Kiyeng’s best bet is to trail Jebet close enough but not too close to suffer burnout since Jebet will be intent on setting a torrid pace of this race.

5000m: Bronze for Vivian Cheruiyot

Veteran runner Vivian Cheruiyot will be Kenya’s best hope. She comfortably won this race at the national trials. However the Ethiopian Almaz Ayana has the fastest time in the world at 14:12.59 which is 25 seconds faster then the next runner. As she did at the 2015 world championships, Ayana will set a torrid pace and maintain that pace to the end and no one will be able to respond. The other Kenyans in the race are Hellen Obiri whose season’s best is 14:32.02 and Mercy Cherono.

10,000m: Silver for Alice Aprot, Bronze for Vivian Cheruiyot.

Vivian Cheruiyot won this race at the 2015 world championships. However in 2016, she will have to contend with Almaz Ayana who debuted at this race un 2016 and ran a spectacular time of 30:07.00 at the Ethiopian trials. . Alice Aprot, the runner from Turkana county, has taken the event by storm, winning at the 2015 All African games and 2016 African championships with a time of 30:26.94 . Aprot however talented, will be hard pressed to keep up with Ayana whose personal best is 20 seconds faster.

Marathon: Bronze for Jemima Sumgong

31 year of Jemima Sumgong won the 2016 London marathon in 2:22:58 which is the 10th fastest time in the world. The women’s marathon is notoriously difficult to predict. There is often a woman from Eastern Europe who emerges from nowehere and wins with an unnatural performance then disspears back into obscurity. And city marathon champions often do not do well. Sumgong or her compatriots Helah Kiprop and Visline Jepkesho will have done well if they win a medal.

Overall Projection for Kenya

4 gold medals

6 silver medals

7 Bronze Medals

Kenyan team for Rio

MEN

200m: Carvin Nkanata, Mike Mokamba

800m: Alfred Kipketer, Ferguson Rotich, David Rudisha
1500m: Asbel Kiprop, Elijah Manangoi, Ronald Kwemoi
5000m: Caleb Mwangangi Ndiku, Isaiah Kiplangat Koech
10,000m: Paul Tanui, Charles Yosei, Geoffrey Kamworor, Bedan Karoki
Marathon: Eliud Kipchoge, Stanley Biwott, Wesley Korir
3000m steeplechase: Brimin Kipruto, Conceslus Kipruto, Ezekiel Kemboi
400m hurdles: Nicholas Bett, Boniface Mucheru, Haron Koech
Javelin: Julius Yego
20km race walk: Samuel Gathimba, Simon Wachira


WOMEN

400m: Maureen Jelagat, Margaret Wambui
800m: Margaret Wambui, Eunice Sum, Winnie Chebet
1500m: Faith Kipyegon, Nancy Chepkwemoi, Viola Lagat
5000m: Vivian Cheruiyot, Hellen Obiri, Mercy Cherono
10,000m: Vivian Cheruiyot, Betsy Saina, Alice Aprot
Marathon: Jemima Sumgong, Helah Kiprop, Visline Jepkesho
3000m steeplechase: Hyvin Kiyeng, Beatrice Chepkoech, Lydia Rotich
400m hurdles: Maureen Jelagat
20km race walk: Grace Wanjiru


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Doping: Kenya being unfairly lumped with Russia

Kenya’s reputation as one of the pre-eminent athletics nations has taken a severe beating in the past year. Rumblings about doping in Kenya started to pick up steam when Boston marathon winner Rita Jeptoo was busted for using EPO in 2014. She was the first prominent Kenyan athlete to fail a doping test. Prior to that, the Kenyans who had failed doping test were second, third and fourth tier runners.

In the mean-time, German journalist Hajjo Sepelt produced a documentary which was essentially a hit job. In the documentary he claimed that doping was rampant in Kenya and emphasized the ease with which runners can obtain EPO from pharmacies even without a prescription. The documentary was filled with plenty of innuendo and zero evidence.

Matters started to go out of control in 2015 when Kenya topped the medal standings at the 2015 World athletics championships. Suspicions peaked when two Kenyans: Francisca Koki Manunga and Joy Zakary, both failed drug tests. Their positive tests made huge headlines and only served to increase suspicion of the world. This despite the fact that the two were sprinters who had no hope of winning medals and could hardly be classified as elite athletes.

Then Hajjo Seppel created what was essentially his biggest documentary yet. In it he provided conclusive proof of Russia’s state sponsored doping program. It was complete with evidence from former Russian athletes and anti doping officials, most notably the whistle blower Yuliya Stepanova as well as her husband. Multiple Russian athletes including Olympic gold medalists like Mariya Savinova were recorded on tape discussing their doping regimen. The evidence against Russia was complete and objective.

Seppelt dedicated the second half of the documentary to discussing doping in Kenya. Once again he purported to interview athletes, all of whom were third rate runners plus some fly by night Doctors. Their faces were often obscured. Once again Seppelt produced no evidence of doping among Kenya’s top tier athletes.

Yet the world seized upon the documentary. The IAAF immediately declared that Kenya’s anti-doping program was non-compliant and threatened to ban Kenya from the Olympics unless a new anti-doping law was passed by parliament. Yet even the passing of the law and the raft of anti-doping measures announced in Kenya has not appeased the accusers who have sought to lump Kenya in with Russia.

German Athletics chief Clemens Prokop wrote a letter to the IOC asking them to keep Russian and Kenyan athletes out of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, even if they pass pre-games doping tests.

“I kindly ask you to take athletes’ concerns seriously and to use all possible means for ensuring fair competitions and equality of opportunity in Rio,” the letter said.

The attacks against Kenya, though not unfounded, are completely unfair. Firstly Kenya does not have a systemic doping issue like the Russian one which ensures that every Russian athlete at the Olympics is on a doping regimen. In fact it is likely that virtually all the top Kenyan athletes are clean.

Unlike Russia, there is no government run doping system in Kenya. The scale and extents to which Russians went to dope at the 2014 winter Olympics is mind boggling. During those games, 40 Russian athletes failed doping tests but the tests were hidden using a mafia like system. It is clear that Russia is in a class of its own when it comes to doping. But Kenya is not even second to Russia. In fact doping has always been rampant among Eastern European countries and to a lesser extent western Europe and North America.

Kenya is the only elite athletics nation that does not select known dopers for their team. This is unlike countries like the USA whose 2016 team includes the likes of Justin Gatlin, Lashawn Merritt and Tyson Gay who was selected despite not even qualifying. Some of them are still running faster than they did when they were known to be doping.

Kenya and Ethiopia are perhaps the only elite athletics country where non of the Olympic and world championships medalists have never failed a drug test or been implicated. The only elite Kenyan athletes who have failed drug tests are Mathew Kisorio and Rita Jeptoo. Neither has won a medal for Kenya at the Olympics or worlds.

Now contrast this with the German accusers whose elite athletes and medal winners have failed drug tests including Dieter Baumann and Katrin Krabbe. 2000 Olympics gold medalist Nils Schumann was implicated ina doping scandal in 2006 along with Grit Breur.

As noted above, Eastern European countries have had numerous doping scandals. The Americans have had a doping scandal at virtually every Olympics in my lifetime : Mary Decker and Sandra Patrick in 1996, Antonio Pettigrew and Jerome Young in 2000, Marion Jones in 2000 and 2004, Tyson Gay in 2012. And in 1988 it was announced by USA anti doping chief Wade Exum that more than a dozen American track athletes including Carl Lewis had failed dope tests but that their results were covered. Long story short, Kenya does not have the doping pedigree, doping organization and ability to hide doping tests as the Europeans and North Americans have.

So why so much focus on Kenya? To a large extent, the country is being used as scapegoat for a sport that is littered with doping scandals. Some people are lumping Kenya in with Russia just so that the Russians do not feel singled out. While others are simply envious of Kenya’s achievements on the track. Others simply do not want to believe that Kenya is capable of naturally producing so many world class runners.
 


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Kenya finish second in IAAF Junior Championships

Kenya edged arch rivals Ethiopia on the last day of the event to finish second in the 2016 IAAF Junior championships. The games were held in the Zdzisław Krzyszkowiak Stadium in Bydgoszcz, Poland.


Celliphine Chepsol was in a class of her own

10,000m: Kwemoi controls the entire race

Rodgers Chumo Kwemoi was in complete control of the men’s 10,000m, leading for most of the race and generally controlling the pace. For most of the second half of the race, he was closely followed by Eritrean Kifle and Ugandan Kiplimo . But in the last 150m, Kwemoi switched to high gear and showed the duo a clean pair of heels.

Race Video

Race Results

POS ATHLETE COUNTRY MARK
1 Rodgers Kwemoi KENKEN 27:25.23
2 Aron Kifle ERIERI 27:26.20
3 Jacob Kiplimo UGAUGA 27:26.68

 

1500m : Kumari Taki in last grasp win

Kumari Taki who won the world youth championships in 2015, replicated his success again when he won the men’s 1500m. But this time he had to fend off a late charge from Ethiopia’s Tolosa by desperately lunging head first to the finish line.

Race Video

Race Results

POS ATHLETE COUNTRY MARK
1 Kumari Taki KENKEN 3:48.63
2 Taresa Tolosa ETHETH 3:48.77
3 Anthony Kiptoo KENKEN 3:49.00

3000m Steeplechase: Chespol with an impressive performance

Celliphine Chepteek Chespol put on what was probably the best performance of the championships when she won the 3000m steeplechase by almost 50 metres.

Race Video

Race Results

POS ATHLETE COUNTRY MARK
1 Celliphine Chepteek Chespol KENKEN 9:25.15
2 Tigist Getnet BRNBRN 9:34.08
3 Agrie Belachew ETHETH 9:37.17

800m: Bett and Tarbei in Kenya 1-2 finish

Kipyegon Bett and Willy Tarbei replicated their success from the 2015 World Youth Championships where they also went 1-2. But this time the order was reversed with Bett winning.

Race Video

Race Results

POS ATHLETE COUNTRY MARK
1 Kipyegon Bett KENKEN 1:44.95
2 Willy Kiplimo Tarbei KENKEN 1:45.50
3 Mostafa Smaili MARMAR 1:46.02

3000m Steeplechase: Amos Kirui continues strong tradition

For the 15th consecutive time, a Kenyan won the men’s steeplechase, an event that Kenya has never lost. This time it was Amos Kirui who grabbed gold.

Race Video

Race Results

POS ATHLETE COUNTRY MARK
1 Amos Kirui KENKEN 8:20.43
2 Yemane Haileselassie ERIERI 8:22.67
3 Getnet Wale ETHETH 8:22.83

Other Results

Wesley Ledama grabbed bronze in the 5000m. He was leading with 150m to go before he being passed. Emmaculate Chepkurui won a silver medal in the women’s 5000m.

In the sprints, Maureen Nyatichi and Geoffrey Kiprotich acquited themselves well but narrowly missed out on a medal with each finishing 4th in the women and men’s 400m respectively.

2016 Medal Standings

Rank Country Total
1 United States UNITED STATES 11 6 4 21
2 Kenya KENYA 5 2 2 9
3 Ethiopia ETHIOPIA 4 2 4 10
4 Cuba CUBA 3 2 0 5
5 Jamaica JAMAICA 2 3 3 8
6 Poland POLAND 2 2 0 4
7 Germany GERMANY 2 1 3 6
8 Pr Of China PR OF CHINA 2 1 0 3
9 Qatar QATAR 2 0 1 3
10 Bahrain BAHRAIN 1 2 1 4
11 France FRANCE 1 1 3 5
12 Belarus BELARUS 1 1 1 3
13 Austria AUSTRIA 1 0 0 1
13 Czech Republic CZECH REPUBLIC 1 0 0 1
13 Great Britain & N.I. GREAT BRITAIN & N.I. 1 0 0 1
13 Hungary HUNGARY 1 0 0 1
13 India INDIA 1 0 0 1
13 Montenegro MONTENEGRO 1 0 0 1
13 Norway NORWAY 1 0 0 1
13 Switzerland SWITZERLAND 1 0 0 1
21 Australia AUSTRALIA 0 3 1 4
22 South Africa SOUTH AFRICA 0 3 0 3
23 Eritrea ERITREA 0 2 0 2
23 Greece GREECE 0 2 0 2
23 Italy ITALY 0 2 0 2
26 Botswana BOTSWANA 0 1 1 2
26 Japan JAPAN 0 1 1 2
26 Romania ROMANIA 0 1 1 2
26 Ukraine UKRAINE 0 1 1 2
30 Colombia COLOMBIA 0 1 0 1
30 Djibouti DJIBOUTI 0 1 0 1
30 Ecuador ECUADOR 0 1 0 1
30 Mexico MEXICO 0 1 0 1
30 Venezuela VENEZUELA 0 1 0 1
35 Finland FINLAND 0 0 3 3
36 Canada CANADA 0 0 2 2
36 Turkey TURKEY 0 0 2 2
38 Barbados BARBADOS 0 0 1 1
38 Belgium BELGIUM 0 0 1 1
38 Estonia ESTONIA 0 0 1 1
38 Grenada GRENADA 0 0 1 1
38 British Virgin Islands BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS 0 0 1 1
38 Morocco MOROCCO 0 0 1 1
38 Moldova MOLDOVA 0 0 1 1
38 Sweden SWEDEN 0 0 1 1
38 Trinidad And Tobago TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO 0 0 1 1
38 Uganda UGANDA 0 0 1 1

 

All Time Medal Table

Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1  United States 105 69 55 229
2  Kenya 72 62 41 175
3  Russia 43 32 26 101
4  People’s Republic of China 38 44 33 115
5  Ethiopia 34 30 25 89
6  Germany 30 37 33 100
7  Cuba 27 31 19 77
8  United Kingdom 27 25 32 84
9  Jamaica 23 34 34 91
10  East Germany 23 10 18 51
11  Romania 20 18 15 53
12  Soviet Union 18 16 22 56
13  South Africa 13 14 10 37
14  France 13 12 15 40
15  Australia 11 21 27 59
16  Poland 11 16 13 40
17  Bulgaria 11 5 7 23
18  Nigeria 10 13 7 30
19  Qatar 9 4 5 18
20  Finland 8 9 15 32

 


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Koffi Olomide should have listened to Tabu Ley’s words


Koffi is seen here attacking one of his dancers with a vicious kick


On July 22 2016, Koffi Olomide was deported from Kenya where he had gone for a series of concerts. The reason for his deportation is that he was seen on a cell phone camera viciously attacking one of his dancers (Pamela) with two vicious kicks which happily did not land on target. It is not the first time Koffi has assaulted one of his dancers.

Koffi has in the past said that growing up, Tabu Ley was his favourite musician and inspiration. Well Koffi should have listened to Tabu Ley. Back in the early 1980s Tabu Ley sung a song about domestic violence.The title of the song was : Jalousie mal placee.  In the song, Tabu Ley encouraged women who face domestic violence at the hands of their husbands to leave their marital home and go to their homes.

Song Video

The refrain of the song which prominently features the voice of Kuleta Pom Pom is sung from the perspective of a woman who has experienced domestic violence.

Tika ngai nakende ozali kobeta ngai
Yo olakaki baboti ba ngai okoki kobeta ngai te
Kobeta mwasi ezalaki likambo ya tango ya ba mama
Na tango na biso tokomi na tango ta commission feminine
Oh oh ohh oh
Yee yee yee

Which roughly translates to:
Leave me alone I am leaving because you have assaulted me
You told my parents that you were incapable of assaulting me
Beating women is something that used to happen during previous generations
Today we are in the era of women’s rights.

Tabu Ley sung this song 35 years ago. Here we are in 2016 and Koffi is still engaged in violence against women.
 


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Kipruto, Kwemoi, Obiri and Kipketer shine in Monaco

As Kenyans gear up for the upcoming Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, a number of Kenyan runners were in sensational form at the 2016 Herculis Diamond League meet in Monaco.

Conseslus Kipruto affirms favourite status in 3000m steeplechase

In form steeplechaser Consesulus Kipruto won the 3000m steeplechase as expected. And as expected, Kenyans commanded the top three positions in this event that Kenya has made its own.

Kipruto who is the current world junior champion, was in the lead for most of the last lap. With 200 metres to go, the evergreen Paul Kipsiele Koech challenged Kipruto and they went neck and neck at the water jump. However with 50 metres to go Kiruto eased away to win.

For Kipsiele Koech, it is his 14th season as a professional racer and he has managed to dip under 8:10 in all 14 seasons which is an amazing feat.

Top Results

POS ATHLETE COUNTRY MARK
1 Conseslus Kipruto KEN KEN 8:08.11
2 Paul Kipsiele Koech KEN KEN 8:08.32
3 Barnabas Kipyego KEN KEN 8:09.13
4 Soufiane Elbakkali MAR MAR 8:14.41
5 Abraham Kibiwott KEN KEN 8:14.84
6 Andrew Bayer USA USA 8:17.39
7 Lawrence Kemboi Kipsang KEN KEN 8:19.15
8 Sebastián Martos ESP ESP 8:19.33
9 John Kibet Koech BRN BRN 8:20.11

Race Video

Asbel Kiprop in shock defeat as Kwemoi triumphs

The men’s 1500m was a strong field that included Mo Farah who has run 3:28 at this distance as well as Olympic champion Tareq Makhloufi of Algeria, Abdi Iguider of Morocco and Kenyans Kiprop, Kwemoi and Manangoi. Conspicuously missing of late is Djiboutian Ayanleh Souleiman who has been a stalwart at this distance over the past two years but whose coach Jama Aden was recently caught in a doping sting.

Kiprop trailed the pacers closely until the final lap bell when he tripped over Abdi Iguider. From that point on Kiprop lost his mojo and appeared listless. Iguider led until the last 100m when Kwemoi made his move to take the lead. Elijah Manangoi once again finished strong but left his kick really late. He finished second.

Top Results

POS ATHLETE COUNTRY MARK Points
1 Ronald Kwemoi KEN KEN 3:30.49 10
2 Elijah Motonei Manangoi KEN KEN 3:31.19 6
3 Taoufik Makhloufi ALG ALG 3:31.35 4
4 Abdalaati Iguider MAR MAR 3:31.54 3
5 Mohamed Farah GBR GBR 3:31.74 2
6 Asbel Kiprop KEN KEN 3:32.03 1
7 Ryan Gregson AUS AUS 3:32.13
8 Jakub Holuša CZE CZE 3:33.36
9 Charlie Grice GBR GBR 3:33.60
10 Filip Ingebrigtsen NOR NOR 3:33.72

 

Race Video

Kipketer continues his rise in the 800m

Twenty year old Alfred Kipketer, who surprised many when he won the Kenyan Olympic trials that were held in Eldoret, continued with his meteric rise to the top. He won the race but barely

Kipketer trailed the pace maker Bram Som and continued to push the pace after Som dropped out. At the final bend, he held off Jonathan Kitilit who then faded away. With fifty meters to go, Polish runner Adam Kszcot who won the silver medal at the world championships in 2015, made a  strong move and almost passed Kipketer who won by two hundredths of a second.

Race Results

1 Alfred Kipketer KEN KEN 1:44.47
2 Adam Kszczot POL POL 1:44.49
3 Marcin Lewandowski POL POL 1:44.59
4 Brandon McBride CAN CAN 1:44.90
5 Jonathan Kiprotich Kitilit KEN KEN 1:45.00
6 Michael Rimmer GBR GBR 1:45.38
7 Samir Dahmani FRA FRA 1:45.51
8 Nicholas Kiplangat Kipkoech KEN KEN 1:46.35
9 Luke Mathews AUS AUS 1:47.00
10 Brice Etes MON MON 1:48.73

Race Video

 

Hellen Obiri impressive in the 3000m

Hellen Obiri, who took the 2015 season off to have a child, has returned to her top form. Obiri who will run the 5000m in Rio, won the 3000m here in impressive fashion. With 2 laps to go, the Kenyan trio of Obiri, Mercy Cherono and Janet Kisa were over 30 metres ahead of the rest of the field. They continued to push the pace and open up the gap with the rest of the field. At the back straight Obiri turned on the after burners and Cherono had no response. Obiri went on to win by a signficant margin

Top Results

1 Hellen Onsando Obiri KEN KEN 8:24.27 10
2 Mercy Cherono KEN KEN 8:27.25 6
3 Janet Kisa KEN KEN 8:28.33 4
4 Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal NOR NOR 8:39.47 3
5 Stephanie Twell GBR GBR 8:40.98 2
6 Nicole Sifuentes CAN CAN 8:46.25 1
7 Katie Mackey USA USA 8:46.58
8 Dominique Scott RSA RSA 8:46.65
9 Dera Dida ETH ETH 8:48.31
10 Gabrielle Grunewald USA USA 8:59.72
11 Rosie Clarke GBR GBR 9:15.04

 Race Video

Other Results

Eunice Sum finished third in the women’s 800m finishing behind Caster Semenya and Francine Niyonsaba. Wambui Nyairera of Kenya who had finished third, was disqualified.


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Its a reversal of the 1980s as Kenya demolish Zimbabwe


On Saturday July 9 2016, The Kenya XV rugby side made history when  they beat their Zimbabwean counterparts aka the Sables by a score of 61-15. One would not expect Kenya to beat Zim by such a scoreline even in Nairobi After all it was only two years ago that the Sables wrecked Kenya’s hopes of qualifying for the world cup by beating them m 28-10 in Madagascar. Zim beat Kenya again 28-20 in the 2015 Africa cup.

Aside from the scoreline, What makes Kenya’s performance even more impressive is the fact that the match was played in Harare. Yet Kenya won by a massive 48 points !

The win will bring back memories of what was a low period of Kenya rugby which co-incided with what was a good era for Zimbabwe rugby. During this period, Zimbabwe went to the rugby world cup twice (1987 and 1991).

In 1987, Kenya played Zimbabwe in the All Africa games. It is the one and only time that rugfby was contested at the All Africa games and it was the fifteen a side version not sevens. On that occassion, Zimbabwe comprehensively  outplayed Kenya winning 44-12. During this period, the entire Zim side was composed entirely of white players and they were much bigger than their Kenyan counterparts. One unforgettable moment that was relayed in new highlights on the Kenya Broadcasting corporation was of a Kenya player attempting to tackle a massive Zimbabwean player, only for the Zimbabwean to drag him several meters and across the try line.

In 1989, Kenya played Zimbabwe in Nairobi again and the gap had increased even further as Zimbabwe won 56-9.  Then in 1993, the two sides met again in Nairobi for a world cup qualifier and again Zimbabwe were a class above Kenya, winning 42-7.

The 61-15 win for Kenya in Harare has reversed what was essentially Kenya’s darkest rugby period when measured against Zimbabwe. When Kenya was pummelled by Zim in 1987, Mad Max Muniafu was in the Kenya national team setup for both fifteens and sevens and may have indeed played against Zimbabwe. When Kenya beat Zimbabwe 61-15 , his son Moses Muniafu was on the field playing lock for Kenya. Rugby has indeed come full circle.


Moses Muniafu (with the ball)

Match Report

Additional reporting courtesy of the Daily Nation

Mwamba lock Dan Sikuta touched down a hat-trick of tries as Kenya Simbas mauled hosts Zimbabwe Sables 61-15 in their opening match of the Africa Cup Division 1A at Police Grounds in Harare on Saturday.

Kenya Harlequin winger David Ambunya and his club-mate Dennis Muhanji crossed the try-line twice each as the 10-try Simbas beat the Sables for the first time at their home turf.

Hooker Max Adaka and Ediwn Achayo all from Kabras Sugar and Strathmore Leos’ Tony Onyango went for one try each as a pushover try in the last minute was given to skipper Brian Nyikuli with no clear scorer.

Kenya Commercial Bank winger Darwin Mukidza completed the rout with four conversions and a penalty as Kenya edged out Zimbabwe for the first time since 2013.

“We asked Lord and you gave us, we are humble and to our fans, no words can express how grateful we are for your continued support and prayers,” skipper Brian Nyikuli told Sunday Nation Sport after the match.

“Our next stop is Namibia and we are confident of another victory.”

 

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