For many years now, Kenya had largely remained unappreciative of the exemplary series of performances in various sports disciplines by her sportsmen/women. Indeed, the government policy had been that Kenyan sportsmen/women did not need any appreciation, recognition or financial rewards as when they participated or competed in any sports on behalf of the country; they did so for the love of the sport as amateurs and patriotism to their motherland.
That is why, in some sports like athletics, the apex organization that used to organize the sport in Kenya, until recently, was called Kenya Amateur Athletics Association (KAAA). The policy was understandable since in those days, most of the outstanding sportsmen/women were from the country’s disciplined forces and other government institutions hence were perceived to be doing their duty to the nation.
Despite the lack of coherent policy, a while back ago, individual sportsmen/women, who had excelled in the various fields during the pervious 12 months, were recognized for their efforts. They were showered with gifts and presents with the most outstanding being crowned the reigning champion in an award gala, an event dubbed as The Sportsman/woman of the Year Awards.
The outstanding sportsman/woman of the year was the one who, in the opinion of eminent sports journalists and their peers, had brought not only fame to the motherland, but also had made many Kenyans proud in the course of the past year. The selection was conducted in a transparent manner over a one-month period opinion poll sort of survey during which all Kenyans were invited through the mass media to nominate their outstanding sportsman of the year in the various sports disciplines.
However, there has since been lack of their appreciation, compensation and reward in the country since the last event ceased over 10 years ago. The result has been that our sportsmen/women were no longer adequately motivated to strive for higher performance. This has cost Kenya her dominant position for instance, in the long and middle distance races, boxing, hockey and others disciplines.
Furthermore, the Government and the people of Kenya have not captured the window of opportunity thrown open to the country to market the country’s image abroad through the numerous sport heroes.
Our sportsmen/women, especially those in athletics, who continue to blaze, shine and win on the international circuit, are hardly honoured at home nor have they been asked or used to promote the country’s image or her products. This is, perhaps, the reason why most of them excel in international sports circuits such as the Golden Leagues but perform poorly when it comes to national assignments. It is no wonder, in fact, that some of our sportspeople are opting to change their citizenship in search of greener pastures.
Indeed, other countries not only outshine Kenya in recognition and compensation of their country’s sportsmen/women but also have used them to market themselves and their products en-mass and obtained cost advantages as a result. Sports heroes like the soccer-star, David Beckham of Britain and Diego Maradona of Argentina are more popular than the UK Prime Minister while Mohammed Ali and Mike Tyson, stars in world boxing, have been used by their countries at one time or another as Ambassadors to promote their products.
Time is now ripe for this country to once again, in a tremendous way, honour her outstanding sportsmen/women annually by giving them every kind of incentives in order to encourage them to do even better in the future as well as encourage promising young sportsmen/women to follow suit.