When the Somalia men’s basketball beat their Kenyan counterparts 81-79, it came as a shock to many basketball fans especially the younger ones. How could war torn Somalia where most people are too busy dodging bullets to play sports beat Kenya ? How could a Kenya lose to a country where Al Shabab has forbidden any sporting activity ?
Many Kenyans of course remember the hijab clad womens national team that played in Kenya recently and lost heavily to their Kenyan counterparts.
News outlets described it as a shock and an upset. However those in the know knew that a loss to Somalia was a distinct possibility.
Somalia’s Foreign Based Players.
Somalia fielded a team that is probably the strongest team they have ever fielded. It was chock full of USA based players : Faisal Aden played for Washington State and recently played in the NBA D-League is the go-to-guy on Somalia’s roster.
Others like Osman Olol played at Coppin State and is currently in Canada at St. Mary’s, Abdi Faras who plays for Barstow Community College , Munye Sufi (Ohio State-Marion) played college-ball in the US and with the addition of Netherlands-based Hossein Addow, the team does not lack height at all in the paint. The most experienced player is certainly Yusuf Qaafow , who played several seasons in the NBL, Australia’s highest basketball level. Seattle-based Tabid Mohamed, the Canadian-trio of Osman Mohamed, Liban Hassan and Husein Mahdi rounding up the picture.
Credit must go to the Somalis for putting together this team.
Where are Kenya’s USA based ?
It is not as if Kenya lacks USA or Europe based players. There are literally dozens of players out there, most notably the explosive Omondi Amoke who despite being a USA player also has a Kenyan passport. Then there is sharp shooting Robert Nyakundi. Both played college football in 2012 and are now based in Europe. They would be useful additions to the Kenya team. There is also Tylor Okari currently playing college ball in Louisiana among others.
If you ask the Kenya basketball federation why they never make the effort to bring these players, the answer will be that they lack the funds to do so. But if war torn Somalia is able to bring their USA based players to the zone 5 qualifier then why can’t Kenya ?
Nigeria, Senegal and several other countries have cashed in on their USA based talent to become continental powers. It is not as if these countries are financially endowed, Maybe they simply wanted success a lot more than the Kenyans. Or maybe they have more creative ways of raising funds. The fact that Kenya cannot bring their USA based players is an indictment on the Kenya basketball Federation as well as other stakeholders.
Strong tradition of basketball
Somalia has always had a strong basketball tradition. Prior to the current chaos, the city Mogadishu had basketball courts all over, a vital ingredient in creating a culture of basketball. the Somalia basketball team of the 1970s and 1980s was stronger than Kenya and routinely beat their Kenyan counterparts. For those of us who know about this era, this loss to Somalia does not come as a surprise.
Even today amid the ruins of the war, young boys often take a moment to put down their machine guns to play the round ball.
When Kenya beat Burundi by a narrow score of 71-63, it was a sign to keen observers that this Kenya was in trouble. A team like Burundi that does not have basketball pedigree and whose population is only one fifth of Kenya should not give Kenya these kind of headaches. However tiny countries like Burundi are also rapidly closing the gap on Kenya. At this years East Africa secondary schools championships , a Burundian school trounced Kenyan giants Shimba Hills. This means the Burundians are doing better at player development than Kenya and it is just a matter of time before Kenya is suffering humiliating defeats to Burundi as they do to Rwanda.
Kudos to the Players
The Kenyan men played very well. Loosing to a Somalian team full of USA based players by only two points is a decent achievement. The girls have so far done Kenya proud, winning both their opeining matches by over 30 points.
See Kenya’s foreign based players