The tension in the dressing room in Paris was palpable, the Kenya 7s Rugby team and its technical bench watched as two of its senior players appeared ready to tear each other to pieces.
The Paris leg of the World 7s Series was the final leg in the 10-city series that was played in June 2018.
The players who were ready to go at each other were ironically Kenyas best, Captain Andrew Amonde and Willy “Lomu” Ambaka. The bone of contention was a rather silly idea concocted within the team and unsurprisingly egged on by some former Rugby Federation officials in Nairobi to teach the current office-bearers a lesson by blanking out the sponsor logo on their playing jerseys.
The bone of contention, a Ksh. 100,000/- bonus promised to each of them by then stand-in sponsors – BRAND KENYA- for use of their collective images in promotion of the sponsorship.
Whilst Capt. Amonde was vehemently opposed to any alteration of the sponsors brand in any way, Ambaka was equally vehemently pro-blocking. It is this disagreement that escalated the matter into a near fist-fight.
The head coach Innocent Simiyu, after the physical separation of the players, and being a complete weasel, decided to settle the matter by vote where the not-so-clever Kenya 7s players opted for a squad decision to black out the sponsor image.
In the stands, sat Brand Kenya Chairman Chris Diaz who also doubles up as Bidco Marketing Director and who also had brought his boss Vimal Shah to see the fruit of their sponsorship to the team, which is prominently placed at the back of the jersey.
He could feel a cold sweat trickling down his back, he couldn’t believe that these muscled morons had gone ahead to do the unthinkable.
Meanwhile, our Githeri media (lovers of reporting drama and chaos) was tweeting happenings in Paris real-time and tagging Chief of Staff Nzioka Waita plus his boss President Uhuru Kenyatta continuously, thereby making the issue a National crisis.
By the time the team landed at JKIA the following, a false narrative had cleverly been spun through well-known anti-establishment platforms ODD-SHAPED BALLS KENYA and MINISTRY OF RUGBY about the imaginary looting within the Rugby Federation and how the players would refuse to play at World Cup the following month.
Sports Minister Rashid Achesa was instructed by Uhuru to sort the mess, which he did by summoning the officials of the Federation on one hand and the players on the other.
The players even had side-demands like coach Innocent Simiyu’s contract should automatically be renewed else they wouldn’t play anymore (the little shits).
By the time our highly excitable Tourism Minister Najib Balala found himself a microphone and cameras pointed at him, he swore and cursed at the team, promised NEVER to sponsor it ever again and generally threw a good ol’ tantrum in-keeping with his nature. His apology for going ballistic, which he tendered some days later, was inconsequential.
All the potential sponsors who were looking at replacing Brand Kenya in the new year, tucked tail, did like a Banana -and split!
In Nairobi, at the offices of IMG Kenya, the brothers Charles and Peter Gacheru were absolutely livid at the turn of events. It was by their support recommendation that Brand Kenya had agreed with Bidco’s Chris Diaz to step in and support the 7s Rugby team.
IMG Kenya serves as the agency for KTB or Brand Kenya.
Interestingly, the Gacheru brothers, had for many years previously toiled for thankless corporates for meagre fees but had hit the proverbial mother-load when they used family connections to get into Government work through proximity to Uhuru.
They realized that working with Government was a kind of blank cheque, no limits to the amount of money available and no silly issues such as strict budgets.
They made a cameo appearance on this blog after the 2017 World Athletics Championships where they were listed as being some of the highest paid agencies offering ordinary services to the event.
Insiders tell us that IMG Kenya made a killing during the tenure of Gov. Anne Waiguru at the Devolution Ministry that Charles Gacheru was able to use Waiguru’s loot to buy palatial digs in Karen.
To these guys, Government is mother and they have learnt to suckle her titties properly, belching happily in satisfaction.
One of the few corporate clients IMG Kenya keeps close is EABL where they offer PR services in the very classic and old-fashioned style… More akin to being hatchet-men.
For instance, during BARCLAYS KENYA OPEN, where EABL are minor sponsors, you would routinely see full-page pictures of EABL or KBL CEOs (Charles Ireland & Joe Muganda teeing off at the event, in the back page of the major newspapers on Saturday and Monday.
Under ordinary circumstances, it would be Barclays CEO Jeremy Awori taking pride of place in those spots, however many of these companies (like Barclays) work very hard to carry out their activities within strict ethical boundaries would NEVER be caught dead, scheming with newspaper editors, to score cheap PR points.
Not so, with beer brewers and sellers who by the “dirty” nature of their products, appear to have sold their souls… ages ago, and that such small pyrrhic victories (like full page pictures of their CEOs at Golf events) excite them to no-end. Corporate malaise in full manifestation.
Apply the same logic to how EABL (mis)manages TUSKER FC, a football club named after their flagship brand but ironically run like a roadside kiosk. Remember that this club is over 50-years of age and at one time had the highest budget in the entire country.
How can World-Class brand that hires European management expatriates and talent to run the company but their football club remains consistently managed by the lowest management and thought cadres in the company?
We have a theory that the management of the TUSKER FC is left in the hands of the company workers union bosses, to placate them by allowing them to line their pockets through the club budgets and in return manage the expectations of the unionizable workforce by reducing industrial action to a minimum.
It is evident to all that EABL has never made any serious effort to align the management and running of the football club to its own World standards with the mandate to win continental trophies etc…
But alas, we digress…
Whilst Peter Gacheru made his bones in Sport through Badmington, Charles has always been a golf-walla. So you will always see him shepherding an openly inebriated Uhuru around the greens and fairways of the Kenya Open in a golfcart.
When the Kenya 7s team fucked it up in Paris and Uhuru had given the greenlight for his Government to plough more into the Kenya Open, the opportunity was lost by some and gained by others.
The Gacheru brothers were the beneficial midwife in this case!
So, in the same week that Kenya 7s Rugby players are on an extended strike from the National team that is participating in the World circuit (ostensibly because there is no money to pay them the huge salaries they are accustomed to), Brand Kenya launched its sponsorship of the Kenya Open Golf tournament!
In the process, Brand Kenya edged out Barclays Bank as the headline sponsors for this years open at a ticket price of a whooping Ksh. 253m. The name is apt too… MAKE IT KENYA OPEN!
Rugby, by the very actions of its stewards has lost bigtime to Golf..
Sadly, a very dangerous narrative has gripped the tribal enclaves of corporate Kenya and Government. The narrative that sports whose playing and leadership ranks are populated by Luos appear to have a self-destructive and self-limiting mien.
This unfortunate notion gained currency from the selfsame sport of Rugby when the dynamic duo of Philip Jalang’o and Eddie Omondi (both formerly senior officials of the Rugby Federation) brusquely engineered the hounding out of office, of the then Board Chairman Mwangi Muthee.
Mwangi Muthee would thereafter vindicate himself by becoming the CEO of the earlier-mentioned World Athletics meet in Nairobi 2017 which was dubbed a “roaring success” such that Kenya was awarded hosting rights for the under-20s event in 2020.
The two troubled young minds (Jalang’o and Omondi) were not satisfied and went a step further to disenfranchise the entire sport by outrightly insulting sponsor CEOs or senior staff. In the process, the CEO of the largest company in the region invited his counterparts from several different sponsor companies to a press conference in a Westlands hotel where they ALL agreed to withdraw financial support from the sport.
This is where the tragedy lies, because the owners of capital in Kenya are viewed as Kikuyu (the Jews of Kenya…what a load of crap) and the ejection of Muthee (himself a successful captain of industry) from the helm of the Rugby Federation was viewed by these “owners of capital” as a marking of territory by Luos. In a sense, the message here was, “you can bring your money but stay away from the running of the game”.
After the debacle in Paris, it only served to harden and entrench the belief of the self-destructive nature of Luos who, it is now openly touted, consider nothing sacred.
It would be upon this misguided beliefs that IMG Kenya would find the right motivation to move sponsorship away from Rugby into the perceived safe hands of an annual 2-day Golf event, after increasing the monies involved 5-fold.
Kenya Golf Union and its leadership is viewed as a bastion of Kikuyuness…therefore safe pair of hands and such like.
However, don’t we all know the role played majorly by the Kikuyu elite alongside lesser numbers of Luos, Luhyas, Kalenjin, Kamba and others in bringing this country to its knees?
It would be good to remember that the stellar performance of the Kenya 7s team in the years around 2015 – 2016 which culminated in winning of the Singapore 7s of the World circuit.
This win and consistent good performance at the World Cup excited the Presidency so much that he would invite and interact with the players at State House, where he would even award the team with personal sums of money.
Would you believe did the team led by their coach Benjamin Ayimba did with this money that later brought so much embarrassment to State House and the President? Didn’t they collude with some State House officials to split these monies given by the President, and what later came to be known as the “Rio Olympics fuck-up” where even money from the Sports Ministry for the ladies team to Rio was expected to give kick-backs through Coach Ayimba for the State House officials.
A lot of this came out in the open when some ladies refused to part with kick-backs and were threatened with exclusion from the team at that time and in future.
The entire problem began when Coach Ayimba proposed to Uhuru that the money be given to them individually since they could not trust the Rugby Federation. We now know that these players and coaches knew that the Rugby Federation would have to tax the money and deduct advances. They couldn’t tell Uhuru this so they concocted a story of theft and plunder of already empty bank accounts (you can’t make this stuff up!)
Today, no more special consideration is given to the Rugby team, the boneheads who arrogantly whipped out their cocks and urinated on the National team jersey.
At State House too, Chief of Staff Nzioka Waita was No.2 at Safaricom when the shenanigans that led to their withdrawal of sponsorship came about, and today he tries to manage any damage from the Rugby team that could smear the Presidency by dealing with it at arm’s length.
Amazingly behind the scenes, the owners of the game of Rugby realized that they had been dealt a terrible card by rogue elected officials and were now starring at the real possibility of the game dying whilst in their hands.
They quietly began the painful and slow process of sanitizing and reconstructing the game bu eliminating the venomous leaders and members. They rationalized communications where only the most essential information was disseminated to the public.
Even when they were under serious attack after the Paris incident, they kept their heads and refused to be baited into a sparring contest with the playing unit.
When the contracts of players and staff expired, they quietly negotiated new ones based on the financial realities or simply refused to renew those of problematic staff.
Obviously, within the leadership of the Rugby Federation, a sinister individual or two will fall through the cracks and find themselves in there, however, the more mature and influential leaders have managed to keep a tight lid on things.
To wit, only a fool would swap sponsorship of Rugby 7s team with that of Golf.. but Kenya is certainly full of them.
Who will save us from these diabolical decisions and their architects?