After the just concluded Bloggers Association of Kenya awards and a bout of poor health- superfoota.com decided to take a sabbatical but for reasons you are going to read in this blog today- we are back one day before the planned day of return.
The brain behind superfoota.com @Superjohna07 (left) alongside a friend at the BAKE2013 awards
At superfoota.com we sincerely thank you for voting for us as the best sports blog in the country. Tough competition it was but glad- the best stood out and this time with all due respect to all our competitors; I guess we were the best.
But now onto what obviously steals the headlines today and maybe even through the whole week- the greatest footballing derby in the country; AFC Leopards v Gor Mahia.
I must say it’s been a culmination of misinformation and sheer assumption by most parts of the media that Kenyans are now confused whether to call the derby #Nairobiderby or the #shemejiderby. I want to categorically state that I’m not against any of the names but I will try and demystify why I think #Nairobiderby is the right word but taking a look at the history, location and marketing aspects of this great football experience.
Since yesterday; my timeline has been exploding with various reasons, from ‘the media say so’, ‘Club X, Y originates from region Z,A’ just to mention a few but as promised earlier- I will try and look at all the aspects. It’s never a matter of trying to disapprove your critics- but trying to see how many think along your line or how many disapprove your thoughts and explain why it’s the opposite which I guess my friend @Ilfabiano will do in a blog to be published soon.
I once wrote about this issue in a previous publication when I ran a column on the Kenyanstar website but I think I’ll have to go through it again and in detail. The definition of the word Derby thus would be a good starting point, wouldn’t it?
The Macmillan dictionary defines it as (British)- agame between two teams from the same city. According to worldsoccer.about.comwhich most websites use as a reference for footballing terms, the term derby is defined as- A derby match is generally one played between two teams in the same region.
I guess from the above two definitions one thing stands out; the rivalry/the relationship (the two teams) and location (same city/same region). Spotlighting the two thus; what determines the derby should thus be well explained so the derby doesn’t lose meaning.
According to the above two definitions though- the term same city seem to unite/ignite the rivalry between the warring teams. From this statement thus it would be right to state that the location determines the derby as in every match- there has to be teams and in football for this matter; two is the number.
In the case of Gor Mahia and AFC leopards I’m going to try and explain a few things football fans in this country don’t seem to have known or rather- some out rightly assumed. Both Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards are Nairobi based clubs and not Nyanza/Western based clubs as most would want to assume. They might both seem to draw lots of support from that part of the country but that doesn’t make them draw their location to the respective provinces.
As we will learn later on- there are so many derbies in this league which are never highlighted and so many rivalries that have since been baptised derbies yet they are not. Do we now all agree, the unifying factor in terms of location is the name Nairobi and not Shemeji?
Having explained the ‘location/region/city/town’ confusion I will further go on and now explain why #NairobiDerby seems appropriate compared to #shemejiderby from a second perspective.
The fan base which I know will see many people jump on my neck but take it easy. We must all appreciate that the clubs draw most of their support from two huge clubs in the western part of this country- the LUO’s (Gor Mahia) and the Luhya’s (AFC Leopards). A few would thus be quick to ride on the wave of tribal affiliation and loyalty which I don’t see wrong but again it must be noted that over time- the two clubs have embraced all aspects of nationalism and more and more fans from the other tribes have been drawn to their huge fan bases.
The diversity in their fan bases can be attributed to 1. The locations where they are based which is cosmopolitan which Nairobi is. 2. The success the two teams have enjoyed over time which of course everyone in this country would want to associate with and has in the long run netted so many people along the way.
I was very ashamed yesterday when the tweet appearing below this paragraph, made by one of my followers to me clearly stated that if any fan wishes to be associated to the two clubs then he must also be willing to be associated with the two communities.
One thing that unites all of us in this match is the fact that Nairobi is a central point, cosmopolitan in nature, is the symbol of nationalism and communities which have over the years termed each other as “shemeji’s” should with time realise that a whole lot of other Kenyans have joined the bandwagon- will they chase them or embrace them?
Explaining the marketing bit should be a lot easier but again a few would be in deep trouble trying to understand why their club should be ‘taken away’ from them as more and more football clubs embrace advertising, sponsorship and even name change to suit sponsors.
These are things that the Kenyan football fan should be used to but a few issues that I have highlighted in my previous articles have made it impossible for him/her. While Gor Mahia is sponsored by TUZO and AFC Leopards by MUMIAS SUGAR; the typical Kenyan would outrightly tell you TUZO is not a Luo brand and MUMIAS SUGAR a Luhya brand. None of these corporates enter into deals to tap onto the tribal wave but onto the footballing prowess and crowd support the two clubs enjoy.
If in any case corporates behaved in that manner then teams like Tusker, Sofapaka, just to mention a few would not be even sponsored at this moment in time.
Away from Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards thus it must be accepted that the lack of stability and financial muscle has made it very hard to name some derbies as most fixtures either end as #Nairobiderby ‘s or to put it better- the fact that clubs do not have stadiums of their own makes it hard to have definite derbies. But amidst all the confusion we have to admit rivalry exists between sets of teams and it should be promoted beyond just this season but for seasons to come.
A few examples I’m going to point away from the Gor Mahia v AFC one is the baptised ‘Milk derby’, ‘flower derby’ ‘sugar derby’. While we must appreciate the media’s efforts in trying to hype the fixtures and sweeten the feeling of watching local football it should be noted that we have been misled for some time now.
Gor Mahia v Thika United is just a rivalry and not a derby. Thika United is based in Thika and sponsored by the milk brand ‘BROOKSIDE’ whereas Gor Mahia is based in Nairobi and sponsored by the milk brand ‘TUZO’. As I said earlier, the locations determine the derbies. Since they share no location- the derby doesn’t exist. TUZO and Brookside are sponsors and can change from season to season. A silly question was once asked in an online forum and since then I’ve always referred to it. In case one of the teams changes sponsorship to a bread company and the other retains its association with either of the milk companies- does the derby change to a breakfast derby? I guess you can answer that for yourself.
The Sugar derby according to the above example and the misleading press would thus be between two teams that have sugar companies as sponsors and flower derby between two teams that have flower firms as sponsors. Again the question of change of sponsorship changing and subsequent change of corporate affiliation crops up. Get the difference?
But let it be noted that in a competition that doesn’t belong to the confides of this country i.e should Gor Maia and AFC Leopards meet in a CAN Fixture or the CECAFA Club tourney it immediately becomes a Kenyan derby as the ‘unifying location’ in such a fixture is Kenya.
As a conclusion though I wouldn’t fail to note how far these set of supporters and the media have helped the growth of the local game but a time for graduation from wayward thinking to a more global way of looking at things has surely come.
We shouldn’t have a problem with the naming of the derby for a s long as the bottom line is the ‘same location’, but let’s all look at the bigger picture. Do we want to be changing derby names now and again; do we want to be promoting sporting entities and what they stand for in the field of play or tribal/community outfits?
Time to now enjoy the game- would we all get out and cheer our game despite our difference in thoughts and perceptions of naming and affiliation. The greatest thing is enjoying the game, learning what is right and always seeking to know what is right- not what’s catchy.