Monday, March 25, 2013

Football – Kenya’s fitting response to Nigerian hospitality

By Guled Mohamed

There has been a cold war waged by football fanatics in the cyberspace a few days prior to the World Cup qualify match between Nigeria and Kenya which ended in a one-all score line draw.

The reason why this particular football match got so much media play and dominated the cyberspace especially on twitter where Kenyan and Nigerian fans exchanged unpleasant words was simply because the Kenya delegation complained of mistreatment and neglect by their Nigerian hosts.

News clips of the Kenyan players practicing in an alley and corridors of a school in Calabar, a humid coastal town in Nigeria instead of a football stadium spread like bushfire in Kenya irking so many fans who thronged twitter and other cyberspace platforms to express their shock and dismay on the unpleasant treatment the Harambee Stars, Kenya's national football team received in Nigeria.

The Harambee Stars were not received by any official from the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) upon arrival in Lagos and only told the match was in Calaba - which has a discriminatory root - and that they could not be flown there since there was no flight until Thursday forcing the Stars to be lodged in a substandard hotel belonging to an NFF official.

The next day they were not accorded a play ground forcing the players to do a light training in a dusty pavement at Ajao Estate Primary School in a Lagos suburb.

To the surprise of many fans, when the game finally kicked off in Calabar several days later, the Harambee Stars nearly made the impossible possible by scoring the first goal against the much fancied and superstar-laden Super Eagles of Nigeria, who by coincidence are the African champion having won Africa's coveted football trophy, the Cup of Nation on February in South Africa.

It took Nigeria over 90 minutes of normal time to equalize at a time when Kenya were playing without their coach Adel Amrouche who was sent to the stands by referee from Botswana for complaining too many a times!

Now that the return match in Kenya is expected to be a fiery duel, I have the following suggestion to the Kenya Football Federation (KFF) which I believe would be fair to our Nigerian comrades given what Harambee Stars went through in Nigeria.

Am suggesting the return match to be played in Garissa town, which in my opinion fits the poor standards and humidity our Harambee Stars were made to undergo in "Colour Bar" (Calabar) literally from the mistreatment and other poor match standards they were forced to play under.

For the sake of our Nigerian brothers and sisters, please allow me to give them a state tour of Garissa town. Just like Calabar, Garissa is close to a river and temperatures soar to over 33 degree Celsius during the day. There are commercial flights to Garissa and the only means of transport is roughly driven passenger buses and trucks. However, am sure KFF will be kind enough to hire a private bus for your superstars and accompanying officials for the 5 hour journey across 300 km of shrubs and semi-desert terrain.

Located in the North-eastern part of Kenya, Garissa county borders lawless Somalia to the east and has also recently experienced a fair share of insecurity through grenade attacks and at times deadly gun battles, ambushes and assassinations pitting the police and suspected Al-Shabaab adherents whom I can equate to be the cousins of Boko Haram, the Niger-Delta militants infamously known in Nigerians for their callous acts.

Garissa town is inhabited by ethnic Somalis just like in Somalia and lacks piped water and other social amenities. The Super-Eagles should remember to carry water treatment tablets and containers as the only source of water in Garissa town is the crocodile infested muddy waters of the River Tana!

In terms of sporting facilities, Garissa has no stadium. The only ground available to host an important event of this caliber is the Garissa primary school open-air dusty play ground with two goal-posts. The fans will have to stand around the ground when watching the game and it’s estimated the ground can only hold a paltry 3000 fans and officials. Therefore we only expect a handful of super-eagles fans to attend the game.

The match will have to kick off at exactly 2pm, normally the hottest period in Garissa largely because the town is facing power rationing and electricity cannot be guaranteed. But even if the Kenya Power-LESS Company was too kind to provide power our Garissa primary playing ground has no lighting system. If worse comes to worse we can afford to bring 100 pressure lamps to provide the much needed light should the match go beyond sunset which we do not recommend.

When it comes to the matters of the stomach, our Nigerian friends should expect anjera, camel milk for breakfast, rice and camel meat for lunch and a light meal of rice and beans cooked together for dinner. Camel milk tea is served 24 hours in accordance to the Somali tradition!

By the way we are so grateful to the Nigerians for feeding fufu to our small sized boys which somehow affected their mobility during the match. As you all know Kenya is known for its athletics but that day our boys could not hold their breath for 90 minutes and conceded a late goal thanks to the fufu magic. Anjera is a light pancake-like meal that your heavily built boys find to be snack and hence will have no effect on them except maybe lack of energy.

After the game, the Super Eagles might find themselves dehydrated from the hot and humid playing conditions in Garissa which perfectly fits the same conditions Harambee Stars faced in Calabar.

The only concern though would be a possible bout of malaria on their return home since Garissa is infested with mosquitoes. To avoid such medical complications we highly recommended the Nigerian delegation to seek anti-malarial medication prior to departing to Kenya.

The people of Garissa led by their able governor Nadif, wish to assure the Nigerian delegation of their utmost support before the match. As soon as the match kicks off, they should not be amazed by the silence of the crowd simply because majority of the football mad youngsters and elders here chew khat, a leafy narcotic which calms nerves of khat chewers and makes noise or any form of public disturbance a nuisance. Khat has slightly worse effect but is similar in so many other ways to the kola nuts chewed in Nigeria.

The only time you will probably hear the busy-khat chewing fans shouting and celebrating should be when Kenya scores.

To Our Nigerian brothers, please note that we have nothing personal against you. We only wish to extend a similar kind of treatment to the visiting Super Eagles as the one you accorded our Harambee Stars.

Speaking on the behalf of the people of Garissa and indeed Kenya, it is my belief that KFF will seriously consider our request and give us the honor of hosting the return match between Nigeria and Kenya. We just want to offer the same kind of treatment and service to our visiting Nigerian delegation just like what they offered to Harambee stars.

Oga! Please expect nothing less or more.