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Kenya Cup heads to crucial stage

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AYUMBA AYODI

By AYUMBA AYODI
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Kenya Cup enters the third and critical phase on Saturday when teams revert to their respective pools following the end of match day 11 last Saturday.

Saturday witnessed the last round of six matches where teams from the opposing pools battled in a one-off, which was the second phase.

It’s visiting Nakuru, who weathered both a previous defeat by Kabras Sugar and a second half assault from Mwamba to beat Kulabu 18-13 in a thrilling Kenya Cup match at the Railway Club, Nairobi. Nakuru had lost to Kabras 38-0 in their previous outing.

That happened as leaders Kabras Sugar, defending champions Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) and Homeboyz refused to bulge from the top of the log after they claimed convincing victories.

Kabras Sugar thrashed touring Kenya Harlequin 34-3 at the Bullring to claim a bonus point from the victory and stay top with an improved tally of 50 points.

KCB mauled Kisumu 55-3 at Kisumu Polytechnic grounds to remain second with 49 points with Kabras Sugar and KCB having lost one match each so far.

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Homeboyz rolled a swift 36-11 victory against hosts Nondescripts at the Jamhuri Park to also stay third with 44 points.

Menengai Oilers failed to uphold their giant-killing instincts when they fell to Impala Saracens 37-29 in a tight clash at the Impala Sports Club. Oilers had stunned Mwamba 30-14 in their previous outing.

The victory saw the Sarries stay fourth with 35 points as hosts Blak Blad crushed visitors Western Bulls 44-0 in a bottom-of-the-table clash at Kenyatta University grounds.

Oilers stayed fifth with 30 points with Nakuru occupying the sixth and last semi-final playoff place with 29 points, while Mwamba are placed seventh with 25 points followed by Nondies 21 and Quins 17.

The only shift in the league came after Blak Blad hammered visiting Western Bulls 44-0 to move one position to 10th and a place from relegation with 13 points.

Western Bulls and Kisumu are 11th and 12th and in relegation zone with 13 and five points respectively.

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In Pool “A”, champions KCB, Western Bulls, Quins, Nakuru, Oilers and Homeboyz will face-off in return legs with Kabras Sugar, Nondies, Impala, Blak Blad, Mwamba and Kisumu taking on each other in Pool “B”.

The top two teams after the end of the third phase proceed to the semi-finals direct with the next four engaging in a playoff for a place in the semis.

Back at Railway Club, there was no end to Mwamba’s miseries after they failed to recover from last Saturday’s defeat to Oilers.

Mwamba camped in Nakuru’s half virtually for the better part of second half, but wasted a lot of opportunities. Nakuru failed to venture into Mwamba’s 22 metre zone the whole of the second half as the Great Rift side deployed an impregnable defence.

Nakuru scored all their points in the first half with centre Oscar Ouma and hooker Emmanuel Mboya landing a try each. Full back Collins Onyango made one conversion and kicked in two penalties to lock the duel.

Fly-half Brian Kivasia gave Mwamba the penalty in the first half with the burly eighth man David Machanje landing from rolling mauls but all was in vain.

“The absence of my prop Felix Omondi was really felt in the second half as my forwards had to dig in for the slim victory,” Nakuru coach Felix “Mwalimu” Oloo said, adding that they have now resolved what he terms “domestic issues” that had seen his side register poor results.

Mwamba coach Peter Kefa rued the mistakes that cost his side. “We lost a vital try-scoring chance and two penalties in the second half and it made the big difference,” said Kefa.

Kabras Sugar 34-3 Harlequins; Mwamba 13-18 Nakuru; Impala 37-29 Menengai Oilers; Nondescripts 11-37 Homeboyz; Blak Blad 44-0 Western Bulls; Kisumu 7-55 KCB.

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Patrick Njiru made us believe in ourselves in Safari Rally

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PETER NJENGA

By PETER NJENGA
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This weekend 20 years ago, a young chap from a sleepy village in Embu made us all believe in ourselves. Patrick Njiru became the first driver to finish the Safari Rally in a Group N car, a potent showroom Subaru Legacy.

Fuji Heavy Industries had unleashed the Subaru Legacy one year earlier and all the five factory team cars came a cropper in the Safari, with Peter Possum Bourne from Australia being the highest placed Subaru driver in seventh place.

Njiru also failed miserably after his co-driver Aslam Khan was injured.

Subaru returned in the 1990 Safari in a semi-works team known as Subaru Motor Sport Group of which Njiru was a shareholder.

The car was tested and re-tested in a 10,000 kilometres sojourn under the careful eye of Noriyuki Koseki with mechanical wizard Ndoria Ikua being the only black man after Njiru in the line-up. Njiru got assistance from Dave Williamson in that epic race of 1990. Kenya was under single party rule and Robert Ouko had been murdered only two months earlier.

However, the 5,000km Safari Rally dominated that Easter weekend and the spotlight was firmly on Njiru who in 1987 finished the Safari, the first blackman since George Githu in 1979. Unlike his first Safari finish, in 1990 Njiru was commanding an armada of human resources and loads of cash to boot and true to the billing, he passed the interview with flying colours for he went on to become the Kenyan champion.

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There were many suitors, led by Serena Hotels which branded the Legacy and true to his orientation as a mechanic who had studied the profession at Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan, Njiru also won the heart of Koseki who in 1991 took him to Australia WRC where he finished 18th overall.

At a time when sponsorship was an issue in rallying, Njiru was always smiling all the way to the bank with major companies like Standard Chartered Bank, SmithKline Beecham, Coca-Cola, British American Tobacco, Marlboro Cigarettes, Caltex Oil and Hilton Hotels always lining his pockets.

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He repaid them in kind, his defining comment coming in 1994 when, together with Abdul Sidi, he won the Group N category and came fourth overall. This was the year for Kenyans, with Ian Duncan winning the overall title and the last by a Kenyan.

Down the line was also the emergence of Phineas Kimathi, the current CEO of the Safari Rally, Sammy Aslam, Rob Hellier, Azar Anwar, and Mark Trower for a Kenyan grand slam. Eight out of 14 finishers were home drivers.

In 1995 Njiru became the highest endorsed sportsman in Africa after signing a three-year deal with BAT at a handsome figure of 25.5 million and also used his influence to negotiate Sh108 million for the Safari for a similar period of time.

In return, he won three more Kenyan titles, raced in Malaysia and was used by the South Africa government in 1992 shortly after the end of Apartheid to promote rallying as a symbol of blackman’s tenacity to deliver results in a whites dominated event in a clear indication of the future of the rainbow nation.

But Njiru also become a victim of economic slowdown in late 90s. Always spoilt for choice with tones of equipment, Subaru Motor Sport Group ceased, giving way to the factory supported Prodrive which went on to produce the iconic Subaru Impreza. But try as they could, victory in the Safari eluded them until 1997 when the late Colin McRae, navigated by Nicky Grist, finally delivered the Safari victory.

In a way Njiru also helped promote the Impreza brand in early 90s by using the Kenya national championship series to develop the iconic brand before he unleashed it in 1994 Safari Rally under the Sportsman cigarettes livery.

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New dates for World U-20 may lock out some Kenyan juniors: Korir

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AYUMBA AYODI

By AYUMBA AYODI
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There are fears that half of Team Kenya hopefuls for the 2020 World Under-20 Championships might be ineligible to compete if the junior event is pushed to next year.

The junior track and field event has been put off due to the coronavirus pandemic, but a new date is yet to be announced.

Athletics Kenya director in charge of youth and development, Barnaba Korir, has said the men’s team could be drastically affected, with most probables turning 20 after this year.

And Korir has implored World Athletics to consider giving athletes who will have surpassed the age limit a leeway of one year if the event is held next year.

World Athletics and the Kenya government agreed to postpone the junior event that was due to be held from July 7 to 12 at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, to a yet-to-be-disclosed date. Those eligible to participate in this year’s junior event should be 19 or younger on December 31 in the year of the competition.

“We have invested a lot in these juniors after taking them through camps in August and December last year,” Korir said. “Our junior men’s team will be greatly affected since half of our top athletes shall have turned 20 if the event is pushed to next year in the same period.”

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Korir said Athletics Kenya spent an estimated Sh25 million to run 19 junior camps last year, adding that the exercise should not be in vain. “We got enormous support from schools, parents and camps from across the country,” said Korir.

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Korir gave an example about the world football governing body, Fifa, which has shelved the rules for the Under-23 tournament for 2020 Olympics which has been postponed to 2021.

For example, Fifa made an amendment that “players born on or after January 1, 1997” will be able to participate in the 2020 Tokyo Games in 2021. This will now allow some 24-year-olds who want to represent their countries at that level to do so after the Games were postponed from July 24 to August 9 this year to July 23 to August 8 next year in Tokyo. However, there is no age limit for the general athletics championships.

Korir appealed to the ministry of sports to move in and cushion the young athletes with some funding after President Uhuru Kenyatta moved on Monday to provide Sh 200m from Sports Fund to Kenyan artists.

Already, National Treasury Cabinet Secretary, Ukur Yatani disclosed that a total of Sh7 billion will be spend from the Sports Fund to fight the novel coronavirus spread.

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FA chief urges players to ‘share the pain’ as pay talks linger

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AFP

By AFP
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English Football Association chief Greg Clarke issued a stark warning over the economic carnage caused by the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday, calling on players and fans to “share the pain to keep the game alive”.

It comes after the head of the union representing Premier League players said they had “agreed to play their part” as pressure mounts to find a collective pay deal.

Clarke, speaking at an FA Council meeting, said football faced economic challenges “beyond the wildest imagination of those who run it” as a result of the health emergency.

“We face the danger of losing clubs and leagues as finances collapse,” he said. “Many communities could lose the clubs at their heart with little chance of resurrection.”

Clarke called on players, fans, clubs and owners to “step up and share the pain to keep the game alive”, saying even wealthy Premier League clubs were not immune.

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England’s top-flight stars have come under heavy fire over their lack of action, which contrasts sharply with significant pay cuts taken by players at other leading European clubs such as Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

The Premier League has proposed wage cuts of 30 percent but talks have hit a stumbling block, with the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) warning that Britain’s National Health Service could suffer from the loss of tax receipts.

World governing body Fifa has urged players and clubs to reach agreement over wage reductions and players are reportedly set to start negotiations on a club-by-club basis.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock was among senior politicians calling for players to take a cut and “play their part”, a call that sparked angry reactions from former players.

A poll conducted by polling company YouGov last week found 92 percent of respondents said they backed a pay cut.

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor told the BBC that the players had agreed to do their bit, adding they were “responsible enough” to know wages were a factor in any club’s expenditure.

“We’ve been consistent with what we’ve said from the beginning and the fact is the players feel quite aggrieved that the Secretary of State for Health should put them in a corner without looking,” he said.

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But he repeated concerns that public coffers would be hit as a result of the deal proposed by the Premier League.

Taylor, 75, is reportedly not taking a cut to his own £2 million annual salary.

“The PFA will make donations and the PFA is involved in the players’ charity,” Taylor told the Guardian when asked if he would accept a reduction in salary.

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said it was unfair to single out footballers over the issue of pay cuts.

“It’s unfair to call on any individual or footballers as a group because I already know players do a great amount of work in the community, and players are doing a lot to help this situation,” he told Sky Sports.

Tottenham have come under pressure from fans to follow Liverpool in reversing their decision to use public money to pay employees.

Liverpool, the European champions and the world’s seventh richest club, ditched their controversial plan to furlough some of their non-playing staff during the coronavirus on Monday after coming under intense pressure from ex-players and fans.

Liverpool chief executive Peter Moore wrote an open letter to supporters apologising for the decision.

The Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust once again urged the club to follow suit and overturn the decision to furlough some non-playing staff.

Newcastle, Norwich and Bournemouth are the other Premier League clubs to have announced plans to use the government’s furlough scheme and they were joined by Scottish club Rangers on Monday.

The Ibrox first-team squad along with manager Steven Gerrard, his coaching staff and the club’s executives have also agreed to accept wage deferrals for three months to ensure non-football staff receive their incomes in full.

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