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Fallen Kenya Sevens star instilled fear in rivals

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AYUMBA AYODI

By AYUMBA AYODI
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The sporting fraternity continues to pay tribute to one of Kenya’s fastest and most skillful rugby players, Allan “Malala Sibwor” Makaka, who died in the early hours of yesterday.

The 37-year-old former Kenya Sevens star died early Saturday following a grisly road accident in Nairobi along Mombasa Road on the Southern Bypass interchange near Airtel Kenya headquarters in Nairobi.

Kenya Rugby Union (KRU), his former Kenya Sevens coach Edward Rombo and Kenya Sevens team-mates, Innocent “Namcos” Simiyu and Dennis “Ironman” Mwanja are among those who eulogised Makaka on Saturday.

His workmates at Royal Media Services Limited, where he was sales team leader, having worked at the media company for the last eight years, also mourned the former Kenya Harlequin player who also turned out for the now defunct Ulinzi Rugby Football Club.

A statement from KRU condoled with the family following the passing on of Makaka. “Makaka was a warm individual off the pitch, and his death is indeed a huge loss to his family, friends, colleagues and the rugby fraternity at large,” said the statement. “May God grant his family, friends and colleagues strength during this trying time.”

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Rombo, a former Kenyan international, who handled Kenya Sevens team at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games in Australia, described Makaka and former Kenya sevens skipper Sydney Ashioya as his greatest wingers.

“Makaka and Ashioya were the fastest players in the team at the time. In fact Makaka was renowned in the World Sevens Series from 2003 to 2005 as one of the top three fastest players the series,” said Rombo, adding that Kenya’s opponents, among them Fijian players, feared Makaka for his speed.

“Makaka was also a hard worker, and as I said, the fittest by far and a solid defender. He was also a popular team character always the mover and shaker of all off-pitch activities,” said Rombo.

“Makaka was larger-than-life, lively and happy character.”

Former Kenya Sevens coach Simiyu and Mwanja, the latter who is deputy coach of Kenya Cup champions Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB), said playing alongside Makaka was a great honour and joy for them.

“He was the fastest on the pitch, and his great rivalry with Oscar Osir brought out the best in them and the team,” said Simiyu, adding that Makaka gave his all his to the team. “He carried the team spirit and it made him one of the most beautiful souls around.”

Kenya Sevens player Allan Makaka makes a phone
Kenya Sevens player Allan Makaka makes a phone call when they arrived from Morocco, Tanger Sevens on May 14, 2008 at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

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Simiyu said Makaka’s death is a big loss, considering that local rugby scene still needed his vision, and he had a young family to take care of and his employer Royal Media Services valued his work.

Mwanja, who was Makaka’s teammate at Musingu High School, Ulinzi and at Kenya’s Under-21 team, said he will forever cherish Makaka’s loyalty to him.

“We shared the same cubicle at Musingu. “He was a hardworking and outspoken player who channeled his energies to everything he did,” said Mwanja, who remembers the 2016 Commonwealth Games with nostalgia.

Makaka started in the team ahead of Osir for the first time at the games.

On that occasion, Makaka latched on the kick-off to land Kenya’s first try against Namibia in a match they won 31-5 but Makaka tore his ligaments and missed out on the whole tournament in which Kenya beat Tonga 26-12 to claim the Bowl.

“I left Musingu in 1999 while Makaka cleared in 2000 before I lured him to Ulinzi where I had joined in 2001,” said Mwanja, who also played alongside Makaka in the 2004 Safari Sevens-winning Kenyan side.

Mwanja said he left Ulinzi in 2003 to join former Kenya Cup and Enterprise Cup champions Quins, adding that Makaka hanged his boots following another knee injury in 2008.

Tito Oduk, who played alongside Makaka at Rhino Franchise in the Bambari Rugby Super Series tournament between 2006 and 2008, said Makaka was “a deadly finisher and winger per excellence.”

“Makaka was a man with gas to burn for days and bucket-loads of enthusiasm,” Oduk, who is now the director of rugby at Mwamba Rugby Club, said.

“Rugby was simple. One only needed to break the line then give the ball to “Malala Sibwor” and start asking for the kicking tee.”

Royal Media Services, where Makaka enjoyed an eight-year professional career in sales, confirmed the grim news yesterday morning.

RMS’ Human Resources Director Rose Wanjohi said Makaka joined the company on February 1, 2012, as a Business Executive and later rose to become the Business Manager in charge of HOT 96 FM, a position in which he served with great dedication, passion and commitment.

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Ministry sets up team to prepare for sports resumption in the country

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NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 2 – The Ministry of Sports has set up a team led by Principal Secretary Joe Okudo to prepare for resumption of sports activities in the country once the COVID-19 situation is dealt with, Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed has stated.

Sports activities were halted in the country in March with all public facilities closed as the country battled to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

And with European countries and a section of African nations slowly starting to open up their spaces for resumption of sports though under strict guidelines, Kenya has not been left behind with the Ministry constituting a machinery.

“We have constituted a team to look at it and they will be advising on when to open. The team is led by the PS and of course working closely with the Ministry of Health so that we ensure when we return we do so within safe parameters,” CS Amina said on Tuesday.

While all football league seasons have been cancelled, there is hope for some other sports. In rugby, the Kenya Cup was headed to the play-off stage and despite an earlier decision by the Union to cancel the season, clubs appealed and the decision was lifted.

The men and women hockey leagues were just getting started while the basketball league had been scheduled to start in April. In Athletics, the track season had just gunned off and last week, Athletics Kenya said they would be consulting with the government to set up a new calendar.

Kenya is set to host its first ever event since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic on June 11 when five athletes, anchored by 1500m World Champion Timothy Cheruiyot will compete against the Norwegian Ingebrigtsen brothers in a virtual race.

The Norwegian contingent will run in Oslo while Cheruiyot’s team will run at the Nyayo National Stadium where they have been training for the past one week.

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Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa and Tunisia are among the first African countries to announce plans to resume sports with the COVID-19 situation slowly losing pace.

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Sports CS AMina Mohamed with Care Package founder Jackie Jan Mohamed

Amina spoke at the Nyayo National Stadium as she helped distribute food packages to women athletes from football, cricket, rugby and the Paralympics in partnership with Care Package foundation, run by former Cricket Kenya chief Jackie Jan Mohammed.

“It relieves some of the challenges they were facing of trying to meet some basic needs and we have got some good response with people coming on board. We would like to reach about 1,800 who are most vulnerable and so far we have reached almost 1,000,” said CS Amina.

Meanwhile, Jan Mohamed said they hoped to be doing the exercise every two weeks depending on whether they get increased funding from their partners.

“When the ministry approached us about athletes, I couldn’t say no. Sports is a passion I have had for a long time. What I am looking at is, depending on funding, we might turn around and tell the ministry that every two weeks, we will meet these same athletes, until we fight COVID-19,” she stated.

At the same time, Amina says they will continue with distribution of the monthly stimulus package to sportspeople, having started off last week with the Kenyan premier League players.

Amina says that so far, 1,300 athletes have received their first share of the 10,000 stimulus with 600 more having benefited over the weekend.

“We have received very good feedback and we want to thank the President for launching this package,” Mohamed noted.

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1,800 athletes to get government upkeep package

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By AYUMBA AYODI

The Sports Ministry is targeting 1,800 sportsmen and women in its Covids-19 financial stimulus package and food distribution across the country.

Sports cabinet secretary Amina Mohammed disclosed Tuesday that by last weekend, they had reached out to 600 sportsmen and women, who have received Sh10,000 each and food packages.

Amina rolled out the stimulus package last week with 12 Kenyan Premier League clubs being the first to benefit from the initial release of Sh20 million stimulus. The government has set aside Sh50 million to cushion sportsmen and women from Covid-19 effects. 

Amina was speaking when she presided over the distribution of food packages by Care Package Organisation to 200 sportswomen drawn from six disciplines at the Nyayo National Stadium.  

Amina, who commended Care Package and their other partners for the initiative, said they have so far received supporting totaling Sh 20 million from the private and public sectors towards the Covid-19 athletes support program.

“We shall continue with these initiatives until Covid-19 eases and the sporting calendar reopens,” said Amina, who was accompanied by Sports Principal Secretary Joe Okudo and Care Package founder Jackie Janmohammed.

Also present were Kenya Rugby Union (chairman) Oduor Gangla and National Paralympic Committee of Kenya president, Agnes Oluoch.

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Among the sportswomen who benefited were from Kenya Lionesses, Harambee Starlets, national cricket team, national deaf team and Paralympics.

“The packages could be small but we hope it will cushion them for some days and it’s my hope that more partners will come on board,” said Janmohammed, who was among Kenyans who were conferred with the Wazalendo Award on Madaraka Day by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Janmohammed said she would like all the athletes in the program to be receiving the food packages after every two weeks until Covid-19 is eradicated and the sporting calendar resumes.

“That will depend on how much funds are raised and I believe in sustainability. This shouldn’t be a one-off affair,” said Janmohamed adding that they have also reached out to 6,000 families in the last two months.

Gangla commended Care Package initiative and the government’s stimulus package that have seen the national team players benefiting. 

“Most of these players derive their livelihood from rugby and that has been disrupted. Every one of them is fighting to make ends meet,” said Gangla, who also thanked cubs that are supporting their respective players at these difficult times.

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FA unlikely to take action over peaceful anti-racism protests

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LONDON, United Kingdom, Jun 2Premier League players are unlikely to face disciplinary action if they take a knee or make any other peaceful anti-discrimination protest when the English season resumes.

The shocking death of George Floyd, killed when a white police officer held him down by pressing a knee into his neck in Minneapolis last week, has provoked riots and protests across the world.

Football stars, including Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho, have shown support for the Black Lives Matter cause during matches.

The English Football Association will adopt a “common sense” approach to political gestures, slogans and statements if players or staff publicly back the movement once the Premier League restarts on June 17.

It is understood taking the knee after a goal, as Borussia Monchengladbach forward Marcus Thuram did on Sunday, would be unlikely to attract any sort of sanction.

“The FA strongly condemns discrimination of any kind and has endeavoured to ensure that football in England is both diverse and inclusive in recent years,” an FA statement said on Tuesday.

“Where any behaviours or gestures on the pitch that may constitute a breach of the Laws of the Game have to be assessed, they would be reviewed on a case by case basis with a common sense approach and understanding of their context.”

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Following the example of Liverpool on Monday, Chelsea and Newcastle players were the latest teams to take a knee in a show of solidarity during training sessions on Tuesday.

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Newcastle defender DeAndre Yedlin, a United States international, posted a series of heartfelt tweets on the situation.

“A couple days after George Floyd’s death, my grandfather texted me and told me he’s glad that I am not living in the U.S. right now because he would fear for my life as a young black man,” he wrote.

“Every American needs to ask themselves, is there ‘liberty and justice for all’ and if their answer is yes, then they are part of the problem.

“In no way are we asking black lives to matter more than white lives. All we’re asking is we are seen as equal, as more than 3/5 of a man, as humans.”

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