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GACHUHI: Acts of God and human failures that killed top league in 1971

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By ROY GACHUHI
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As the 55th season of the SportPesa Premier League winds to a close with Gor Mahia collecting their 17th title, we revisit an old story.

In my column of Saturday April 11, 2015, I wrote: “This is settled, Ingwe won the 1971 league title.”

That was incorrect and I apologise. In fact, the league was scrapped.

In the interest of accuracy and the historical record, this is the story of what happened in 1971:

Ben Ashihundu’s labours to organize the 1971 Kenya national football league resembled the career of Sisyphus, King of Ephyra in Greek mythology, who was cursed to push a rock up a hill with the goal of placing it at the summit.

But each time he drove it up some distance uphill, something would happen and it would roll all the way back to the bottom, and Sisyphus would be forced to repeat his effort each time.

Ashihundu was the fixtures secretary of the FA of Kenya. He was also the chairman of the League and Tours Committee.

In those days, many foreign countries and clubs toured Kenya and it was Ashihundu’s job to run a calendar that seamlessly integrated these matches with league, continental and other local competition fixtures.

FA of Kenya fixtures secretary Ben Ashihundu in 1971. His labours to organize the 1971 Kenya national football league resembled the career of Sisyphus, King of Ephyra in Greek mythology, who was cursed to push a rock up a hill with the goal of placing it at the summit. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

FA of Kenya fixtures secretary Ben Ashihundu in 1971. His labours to organize the 1971 Kenya national football league resembled the career of Sisyphus, King of Ephyra in Greek mythology, who was cursed to push a rock up a hill with the goal of placing it at the summit. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

He went about it with gusto, firing off a press release here, working the telephone with sports reporters there, addressing impromptu press conferences on the sidelines of matches at the City Stadium, sending cables to the then Africa Football Confederation, giving club officials a tongue-lashing and, generally, leaving no doubt about who was calling the shots at the FA.

And in 1971, he got plenty of it. He appeared in the sports pages a lot more than the football stars on the pitch as he juggled a plethora of administrative balls in the air.

Almost all of them had to do with fighting one fire or another.

It all began with the incomplete 1970 league. Some background here is in order.

On New Year’s Day in 1971, Joab Omino, the new secretary of the FA of Kenya, sent a hopeful message to the nation’s football fans.

He said: “1970 was a year of ups and downs but this year will be one of stability. There were a number of shortcomings in football organisation last year but this year we will seek to take Kenya to the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations competition.

“With the support of the public and the government, I am sure we can even make it to the final of the final rounds. We shall do our best to bring soccer back to its footing.”

He was referring to the wrangles that had characterized the 1970 league that was still in progress.

So bad had they become that the Government was forced to intervene and sack the FA committee headed by Martin Shikuku.

Remember him: he was the self-proclaimed People’s Watchman, who bought himself a coffin almost a decade before his death but whose order to ban political speeches during his funeral was casually disregarded by his kind.

The wrangles and the subsequent dismissal of Shikuku’s committee – which was alleged to have saddled its successors with a staggering debt of £10,000 – about Sh1.4 million today – brought the 1970 league a cropper.

A whopping 230 matches involving 20 clubs had to be completed between January and April if Kenya was to enter a team in what is today the Africa Champions League.

The Daily Nation of Saturday, January 16, 1971 captured the chaos engulfing football at that time with this report:

“The remaining national league fixtures, which resumes today, will be reminiscent of a traffic scene during the rush hour as the FA of Kenya work at full speed to complete the league by April and name the winners to represent the country in the Africa club championship. (My goodness, if they would know how traffic is today!)

All league matches ground to a complete standstill last October after the present FA of Kenya took over from the former administration – dissolved by the Ministry of Cooperatives and Social Services.

Abaluhya are in top spot, ahead of Breweries by a solitary point, a position that could easily change. Abaluhya have 15 points, Breweries one less. Both have played eight matches.”

Twenty teams were involved in this mayhem of a Premier League: 1. Abaluhya 2. Kenya Breweries 3. Gor Mahia 4. Kisumu Hot Stars 5. Nakuru 6. Western Stars 7. Kenya Prisons 8. Ramogi 9. Black Mamba 10. Western United 11. Eldoret 12. Lasco 13. Jogoo 14. Kisii 15. Maseno 16. Kenya Air Force 17. Mwenge 18. Mombasa United 19. Wanderers 20. Kitale.

On the weekend that the league resumed, Gor Mahia hammered Kenya Air Force 6-2, Western Stars thrashed Mwenge 6-4, Lasco pummelled Mombasa United 6-1, Kisumu Hot Stars saw off Maseno 4-1 and Abaluhya had their match against Kenya Prisons abandoned in the 60th minute with score deadlocked at 0-0.

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From then on, however, the future AFC Leopards bared their claws for all to see, especially Kenya Breweries who were breathing hard on their necks.

With three matches to go, Abaluhya remained unbeaten. Kisii and Western United were expected to be easy for them but Ramogi was expected to be a tough nut to crack.

Well, they cracked it really hard, 4-0, to finally bring the long-delayed 1970 league to a close on March 6, 1971 – and beat the deadline for a place in that year’s Africa Cup of Champion clubs.

“Abaluhya are the champs”, proclaimed the Daily Nation of Monday, March 8, 1971.

Now Ashihundu could focus on the 1971 league. But he was neck-deep in problems.

The league was programmed to start on May 15, but the heavens opened up in a great deluge, rendering the stadium surfaces unusable in Nairobi, Nakuru and Mombasa.

In fact, rains in Nairobi prevented the Labour Day Cup match between Gor Mahia and Kenya Breweries from being played. And Gor Mahia asked their guests, Tanzania’s Sunderland FC, to postpone their trip to Kenya until the skies cleared.

The start of the league is postponed for 10 days, Ashihundu announced. It took longer but with much fanfare, the weekend of June 12 was finally announced as the new kick-off date.

In Nairobi, Black Mamba were going to play Mombasa’s Lasco, while Kisumu Hot Stars would host Maseno at home.

Kericho’s Chagaik Estate were to meet Limuru’s Bata Bullets in Nakuru, while in Mombasa, Mwenge and Western Stars would play a local derby at the Municipal Stadium.

It seemed the 1971 season was finally under way but at the last minute, Ashihundu announced yet another postponement.

“We are in a mess,” he told reporters. “On May 16, we agreed at our meeting no more friendly matches would be arranged to enable the national team’s training to continue unhampered. Now I see MMM will play Gor Mahia next week.”

MMM were Madagascar’s representatives in the Africa Cup of Champion Clubs that year. It was customary for clubs on continental assignments passing through a country to organise friendly matches.

But it seemed Ashihundu, the FA of Kenya Tours Committee chairman, wasn’t aware of this one.

Joab Omino, the FA secretary, said they needed to re-plan the league before restarting it. He gave “administrative problems involving clubs and the national team’s training schedule” as the reasons for the new postponement.

The national team was at that time preparing for the 1972 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match against Mauritius and national coach Eckhardt Krautzun had made it clear he wanted all the time with his players unencumbered by the league.

Krautzun wanted three days in a week, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for training. He was the first to hail the postponement of the league.

He was followed by Williams Ngaah, chairman of the Kenya Referees Association, who said his organisation still had a lot of issues to thrash out with the FA before his people could be ready to officiate the league matches.

The national team defeated Mauritius in July and duly qualified for its first Nations Cup tournament.

The league resumed in August – but without the top three clubs in the country: Abaluhya, Gor Mahia and Kenya Breweries. These were excluded at the request of Krautzun, who pointed out that together, they provided over 90 per cent of the national team players.

By the end of August, the teams left in the league had played two matches each, with Maseno topping the table with the maximum four points and Mwenge bringing up the rear with none.

Then the Cecafa Challenge Cup came up and with it, another postponement. Ashihundu announced the league would resume on December 19.

“From next week,” he said, “matches will go on non-stop till the completion of the league in March. To make this date, there will be no friendlies or fund raisers on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

“And Abaluhya, Gor Mahia and Kenya Breweries will have to turn out for their matches even when their players are with the national team.”

That order was made with a directive issued by Masinde Muliro, the minister responsible for sport, in mind. Muliro had decreed that once called to the national team, players belonged there, and clubs could only have them back when they were released by the national coach.

But on the due date, Ashihundu announced yet another postponement.

A mid-afternoon shower forced the abandonment of the Gor Mahia versus Black Mamba game at the City Stadium. Ashihundu declared the pitch “50 per cent water-logged.”

He promised to release a revised fixtures list, saying that no teams would be inconvenienced by being forced to play during the Christmas season.

That was the last of the postponements. It was time to throw in the towel. Ashihundu waited until the first day of 1972 to announce that the 1971 league had been scrapped.

The rock could never reach the top of the hill. He said: “We realise that this is a wrong message for our fans for the New Year, but it must be appreciated that the odds are against us and, therefore, some workable solution is most desirable.”

And with that, Ashihundu surrendered.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

Get breaking news on your Mobile as-it-happens. SMS ‘NEWS’ to 20153

With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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