Gor Mahia, AFC Leopards bear the brunt of government’s punitive betting ban

About 27 companies that had invested heavily in various sports in Kenya had their licenses cancelled following negative findings of the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) that they were not tax-compliant.

The gaming industry has been operating in an extremely challenging business environment following government’s decision to subject them to punitive measures such as delayed license renewal and the suspension of Pay Bill numbers.

This decision by the Kenyan government has considerably reduced the level of business operations prompted some companies to scale back on investments made in different sports.

SportPesa for instance was forced to cancel all sports sponsorships in Kenya, the gaming giant was sponsoring the Kenya Premier League (KPL) to the tune of Ksh 450 million.

KPL and SportPesa had inked a four and a half year deal to gain naming rights. The gaming company was also sponsoring Kenya’s top two favorite football teams Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards in a deal worth Ksh 120 million each year.

CAF Champions League

The withdrawal of the sponsorship by SportPesa is a huge blow these clubs which have no other sponsors. Gor Mahia for instance is participating in CAF Champions League which requires them to travel abroad regularly to play other teams across Africa.

Without SportPesa’s sponsorship, the Kenyan premier league giant might be forced to go back to the era of begging politicians and fans to raise money to honor continental matches.

The irony is that the betting industry does not only help sports in Kenya. According to the East African Herald, gaming industry contributed a whopping Ksh 10 billion to public revenues.

Investors’ nightmare

Kenya government is throwing away Ksh 10 billion by delaying license renewal for betting companies and the suspending their Pay Bill numbers. Yet year after year KRA has failed to meet it’s revenue targets, and now the taxman has resorted to desperate measures like frustrating investors like Keroche breweries owners in a bid to meet revenue targets.

If betting companies shun their activities in Kenya, things will surely get worst. Young people who were employed by the companies either directly or indirectly will lose their source of income, and since the government has no mechanism to give them jobs elsewhere the taxman will only get more desperate to meet revenue collection targets.

Already several manufacturing firms are moving their bases to Ethiopia where low cost of electricity is among incentives offered by the government to attract foreign investors.

Bad government policies continue to see Kenya lose business to Ethiopia, recently a report by Quartz Africa indicated that Ethiopia had risen to second position as a gateway into Africa, just behind South Africa. Ethiopia now commands a lead over Kenya when it comes to the share of passenger traffic and aircraft movement.



How to Pick a Best Friend from a Crowd of ‘Best Friends’

I recently had an epiphany, listening to radio presenter, Jalang’o, aka Jalas, on Radio Maisha. For a comedian, he sometimes seems to make lots of sense. The topic that chilly morning was his unorthodox friend-picking criteria, based not on good times, but by the hard times he has gone through. It’s simple enough – pick the friend that sticks around when life goes off the rails.

Nicholas Okumo doesn’t need a comedian to teach him the ethics of basic friendship – just pick a friend that would pick you from a crowd to accompany him – for free – on an all-paid expenses trip to watch the AFCON Finals tonight, in Egypt.

Nick’s friend, Josephat Nyakundi was a lucky winner for a fully paid trip to Egypt, courtesy of Visa, to watch the AFCON Finals in Egypt. All the winners had to do was use their Coop Visa Card to pay their usual bills – buying goods and services. To add icing to that one-in-a-lifetime cake, the winners were accompanied by one other person, their choice.

I do not know if, presently, there’s a friend that I inspire enough to be their first choice to such a fete – in a narrow world crowded with adoring other-halves, patronizing relatives and prayer partners. Not that my friends are such keen soccer enthusiasts, anyways, but am glad most of them always tag along their Coop Visa cards conveniently using them to pay for fuel and other bills.

Perhaps, one day we can get to win a trip to something like the Lamu Cultural Festival.

Josephat Nyakundi had been pleasantly surprised to learn of his win to Egypt. On the material day, he hadn’t meant to use the card to pay his weekly tab at his favorite watering hole. He had a household constitution to follow, jointly formulated with his wife, Njoki. It had been just on a dare that he had taken the card along. Now he never leaves the house without his Visa Card.

In the Nyakundi-Njoki household, the Coop Visa card was to be strictly a household talisman. Pay hospital bills. Clear the weekly shopping bills at the supermarket. Pay for fuel at petrol stations during family trips.

Certainly not picking the Vodka tab with the boys at The Local. He had broken the rules, but Njoki was happy how well things had turned out. She was excited that her hubby had won the trip, and encouraged him to pick his long time soccer buddy, Nick. They watched most derbies together. She loved travelling, but couldn’t endure a minute of soccer.

In any case, she would use the weeks he’d be away to source for more carpets in Middle East. She dealt in rags and carpets at her high end outlet. She liked the idea her husband won’t be clearing beer tabs in Egypt over the card, she’d have it with her in Middle East. It’s always safer and convenient travelling with her card.

Oh, using Coop Card Visa card doesn’t incur any extra charges. No hidden charges.

Ignore the big boys, for a minute. We have an unlikely entry into the soccer arena. Picture a young girl, in early elementary school, watching today’s final with her mother. The endless possibilities in her future – the exposure, the enlightening.

Meet Natasha Angela, the lucky Jumbo Junior category winner, accompanied to Egypt by her mother Virginia Wamaitha. If reincarnation is real, this is who I’d love to be. This is a child the world has smiled upon, and shown it’s a world with endless possibilities.

At a young age, she has flown in a plane. She has witnessed firsthand, a once-in-a-lifetime happening most people in the world do not get to have. That’s amazing, thanks to her Jumbo Junior Account. Above all, Angela gets to treat her deserving mother on the world stage.

I would do anything to treat my mother on such a scale.



The Upcoming June 2019 AFCON Fiesta in Egypt will be Lit

Every time the AFCON tournament comes around, it invokes powerful nostalgic memories of my late Grandpa.

Ok, hold up. I am telling this story all wrong.

The football bug bit me around 2002. I was then a strapping lad in between 12 and 13. I wasn’t particularly fond of soccer, then, as I had found a more pleasing engagement drafting cramped, erotic love notes to a geeky girl I had befriended next door. Plus, village soccer then was brutal and unforgiving. It’s a mystery how players in my village weren’t maimed for life.

They didn’t know shin guards, and bone would crash against bone. A lad would limp for a few yards and be good for it. Hit a hidden rock in the elephant grass pitch and lose a toe nail, well, another will grow. And it didn’t help that I was always in my only favorite pair of North Star shoes I had inherited from my elder brother.

I couldn’t risk wearing those out – I couldn’t tell when he would outgrow his current size. Shoes were hard to come by. It’s not like you’d just log in on Android and get a Flexi-Loan from Co-Op Bank to grab another pair. No, you had to please the gods first. Times were hard.

I was branded a village wuss, and no village team captain would give me a call to his team. I had to find solace in my poetic love notes.

I couldn’t help catching the bug, though, from my grandpa. The old man was absolutely nuts about football. Dear old Grandpa was a sultry 60-ish then, still had his wits and energies around him. He would shed the cloak of age faster than Bolt would shatter the world record. Everything else stood still when a game came on – didn’t matter the media it came on. Radio was perfectly fine with him, too.

Victor Wanyama, background, Messi
Victor Wanyama, background, Messi

It’s important to remember, too, that 2002 was the year Grandpa spent a night locked up in a cold cell at the local Police Station. If I ever chance upon retired football star El Hadji Diouf, the Senegalese dribbling maestro, I’ll tell him that it’s his fault that my old man spent a night in police custody.

All for the love of soccer.

So, Grandpa calls me up and asks if I would like to watch a match with him. He didn’t own a TV set, and neither did anyone in the village. We would have to trek to the market center to watch it at The Hotel. It didn’t have a name, even. Everyone knew The Hotel. It boasted a 14’ Black and White Calcum TV in a wooden cage above the counter.

The CAF, as it was then called, was hosted in Mali, and Cameroon eventually took the trophy. But we weren’t there for no Cameroon. Grandpa was a Nigeria die hard fan. Indeed, he had weathered the entire tournament listening in on his little elastic-bound transistor radio, but for the Nigerian fixtures. He would grab one of his grand kids and treat him at The Hotel.

This year’s AFCON tournament in Egypt is expected to be an easy cruise for Nigeria in the Group Stages. Grandpa must be boiling with joy, on the inside. Not jump and down, hello, he’s in heaven. You supposed to be cool. I expect he shall be watching it live – through the clouds, no less – as his team trounces entire Group B featuring Madagascar, Guinea and Burundi.

Cameroon, Winners 2017 AFCON
Cameroon, Winners 2017 AFCON

The Hotel is packed tight, and people not in the financial bracket to afford cups of tea had to line up against the wall. The wooden benches, that’s VIP. Keep to your lanes, gentlemen.

We get a seat somewhere on the VVIP, that’s the front bench. It has the who’s who in the village circles. The village Chaplain. The Sub-Chief. A guy studying something at The University of Nairobi – perhaps, I should pay him tribute as the ‘only’ guy in campus, then. That was huge.

Well, the game started. It was the Knock Out Stages, and Nigeria was facing Senegal in the Semis. I kept stealing glances at the tiny TV on the counter. Forgive me, but most of my attention had been taken by the glass display below the TV. It was chock full of neatly arranged Mandazi and round balls we fondly called Kaimati.

I had a gentleman’s arrangement with Grandpa. I get both delicacies at alternate times, all I had to do was point at the glass display when I finish one, and the good lady brings me another. It was an All-You-Can-Eat fiesta. A buffet of sorts.

As the game progressed, lots of things started to rise. Ok, besides my tummy, that is. General agitation, for instance, and the previously soft spoken Chaplain could be heard at halftime apologizing profusely to someone he had insulted.

Egypt's talisman, Mo Salah
Egypt’s talisman, Mo Salah

At half time, the teams had a barren draw. I noticed Grandpa getting restless and sitting on the edge of the bench. That didn’t look or feel good. Bad things happen when Grandpa lost his cool – he had a reputation. He had lots of player names rolling off the tip of his tongue.

“Sunday Oliseh, kwani ulikula nini leo babaa, ama umelipwa?”

“Kanu, what’s the hell with you today, man?”

“Who the hell substitutes Jay Jay Okocha?”

I later learnt Jay Jay Okocha had been at the peak of his career.

I didn’t give much thought to a match happening hundreds of miles away. I had my own goals to score at the glass display.

At the half time mark, the teams had reached a stubborn 1:1 draw.

Grandpa stands up, fishes a fist of coins from his leather jacket pocket and hands them to the hotel lady, who’s left counting them. She ain’t sure my tally would be included in that fist of coins. I was winning by a large margin.

Fast forward to 2019. If I were treating my son to a Semi Final match in the coming AFCON football bonanza in Egypt, I would probably have swiped my Co-Op Visa Card. I would have won a trip for two to Egypt to watch the final match live, but I don’t know if I would have tagged along my son, Zack, though he could have won through his Jumbo Junior Account. Thank heavens for Visa.

Man, I’d give anything to be there for our motherland, Kenya. In the group stages, we up against Senegal, Algeria and immediate neighbor, Tanzania, in Group C. I’d expect us to cruise to the Knock Out Stages, at the very least. The host country, Egypt, who has the highest tally of AFCON trophies since its inception, is up in Group A, against Uganda, Zimbabwe and DR Congo. Will Egypt up its trophy tally to 8?

But its 2002, still, and I have to watch my Grandpa – who has since left his VVIP spot on the front bench and stood on edge near the door.

The 103rd minute, Senegal’s Diouf scores the winning goal. Not that we would know, then, that that would be the winning goal, because a mug of tea had crashed on the tiny TV shattering the screen in a bright ball of fire.

Yes, that’s the day Grandpa came to spend the night in a cold police cell. He had thrown his mug in rage and crashed the only TV in the Market Centre.

El Hadji Diouf, you owe me.