The past few weeks have been very exciting times for Kenya as a country. It’s like all aspects of life have been tested in one way or the other but greatest of them all- is the democratic right best depicted by the political landscape of the country.
A few weeks ago, in his final public function as the president of this great country- President Mwai Kibaki described Kenya as ready for take-off. Whoever was to come in though, was to steer the plane to the next level; something each of us hope will be achieved by whoever comes in.
Kenyans went to the polls early last week to vote who their leaders for the next five years would be. I can’t say it’s been smooth sailing; credit to the winners and losers though- the people decided.
So in as much as the people decided, it should also be noted that lots of people were left with a bitter taste in their mouths. Some people outside this country must begin to think Kenyans are so happy with the polls and very peaceful- but let’s not lie to ourselves and the world; silence doesn’t necessarily mean peace. Bitterness too is cultivated in our silence.
But now- turning back the hands of time is of cause impossible. The future holds so much that nothing should come between us and the other side of the sea. Some of us might at this moment feel less Kenyan compared to the others and the greatest job of the incoming government I feel- is to make and help every Kenyan realise their identity as citizens of this country and not second class or third should it exist.
There are so many ways the government can help do that. There are so many ways you as a Kenyan citizen can help your neighbour feel that. Can football though as a sport help realise the Kenyan identity dream too? I think so…..
You may be tempted to say it’s only sport, only football. But you can learn a lot about a society through football. What we watch neighbouring countries go through during the AFCON and the World Cup, what we ourselves went through during the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations were significant striking social events- not just for sport but a celebration of patriotism.
Commentators all over the world call football matches ‘celebrations’; this may be a cliché but it does contain a good deal of truth. In television broadcasts of matches, you’ll always notice carnival elements on display: fans’ faces painted in national/teams colours, carnival clothing, and behaviour that would be impossible under normal circumstances. Victory becomes proof of the value of the nation, the flag and the national identity. There are traditional models of behaviour- ways of reacting to both triumphs and defeats.
Our society is now divided; we don’t know how to react to different events. The excuse is always- it’s a learning process, never again blah blah blah. Above all, we don’t know how to show patriotism, our love for our country, even when an occasion arises that is meant to bring us together.
In recent years though; a few people though have started to feel an urgent need for a national idea round which we can rally. To some extent xenophobia has fulfilled this role perfectly: the idea of us being ‘good’ and them, i.e. those who are not ‘us’, being ‘bad’. We’ve ended up scouring our ‘great history’ for a national patriotic idea to gather round. But we haven’t even been able to find any historical figures to unite us.
Look around today- the politicians of this earth. For every single thing they have done, for every deed they are held accountable for; they may be geniuses for some, but for others living villains, good for nothing beings who deserve an everlasting scorch at the eternal fire of hell.
Searching for national identity
Lots of Kenyans have done this great country proud; some noticed, others unnoticed. But thanks to these sporting victories people feel that they belonged to a great, victorious power. Watching these sportsmen on television is therapeutic. It heals social complexes – Kenya is strong, we are strong, we are winning. ‘We can do it!’ …. Notice the word ‘WE’
So why did I say football?
Probably in every single village across this country; a group of kids come together every afternoon/late evening to enjoy a game of football. Mind not the attire, race, culture, sex- one thing is always on their minds, enjoying the game and having a moment of their lives.
Away from the villages to the large buzzing cities; if it’s not on TV- beautiful people on the stadium stands will blow you away. Whether it’s for the love of the game or not, everybody seems to be happy. The hope that tomorrow holds something special is always a spectacle whereas the glee of today’s win is fast killed/fuelled further by the result of another match.
It’s a game of chances they say- on the other hand just like football; patriotism too is a chance. A chance to show your love for your country, no matter what may seem to divide us, the power to overcome the obstacles of politics, tribes is our greatest victory.
Every one of us should therefore know that each day is an opportunity to make our country proud. A federation needs to do its work perfectly to help promote the game, the coaches and the players need to do their work perfectly to bring pride to their side and the fans too; it’s a chance to show loyalty- they need it.
With all the above factors coming together, victory might not always be guaranteed but the togetherness of a country will be achieved. It’s not how many times we celebrate as a team that counts- it’s how many times even in defeat we remain together. It’s never us against them; it’s us against our very best.
Of course football will not solve all our problems and among people, but for a day, or at least 90 minutes it should bring us closer.
Can we therefore, every match day take it upon ourselves to spread some love. It’s the best way to honour sport, to appreciate one another and above all- help realize the Kenyan dream.
‘’In the German football team players from different clubs need to get on with each other both on and off the pitch. In the grand coalition Christian Democrats and Social Democrats sit in the same boat and need to pull in the same direction.’’ Angela Merkel
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