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Raving about Kenyan resilience

I have always known that Kenyans are resilient people but it has rarely been highlighted in the game of football here.

As a country we overcame post-election violence after the December 2007 general elections; we overcame our sinking economy in the early 1990s after the Goldenberg scandal and in many ways we rise above adversity every day to shine.

When it comes to sports, Kenyan long distance runners are the usually the ones who get praise for their resilience, mainly because they succeed due to personal drive and not government design. Kenyans are used to suffering but we come out stronger on the other side.

Last weekend I kept a very close eye on the Kenyan Premier League, as I always do. On Sunday I flew down to Mombasa because I was on duty on the pitch-side for the match between Bandari and Gor Mahia.

Because of all the lives games on SuperSport East I managed to catch eight teams in action. Because these were mostly the top teams in the league, the players who started for their sides were all scheduled to travel and participate in the Cosafa tournament in Zambia.

Some got onto a flight from Mombasa to Nairobi on Sunday evening, then onto another flight early on Monday morning to Kitwe via Lusaka. By 6pm Kenyan time they were lining up to play Lesotho.

Going to down 2-0 to Lesotho was the least we could have expected given the journey they had taken and the fact that 24 hours earlier they were playing competitive league football. What happened in the second half of that game was nothing short of admirable.

The youthful Harambee Stars then returned to the pitch on Tuesday to educate Swaziland on how football is played; winning that 2-0 with two beautiful Lavatsa goals – at least the second was truly a gem.

So, they played three competitive matches in three days and got decent results in all of them.

If that isn’t resilience then I don’t know what is.

But… and there is always a “but” with me.

Why do we put ourselves in such a situation? I admire the fact that the players could and did perform beyond all our expectations early this week but imagine what we could have done had we been better organised. Had the Football Kenya Federation worked a lot earlier with the Kenyan Premier League to plan Kenya’s participation at Cosafa better, I believe Lesotho would have been a breeze to conquer.

The KPL did not have a choice but to insist on weekend matches being played because they too have a deadline for the league to end. The league was already behind schedule through no fault of their own when we broke for the June international fixtures. KPL was at 13 games instead of 15. Now the league will lose another two weeks over the Cosafa tournament, which isn’t really our tournament. So, last weekend’s matches had to be played.

Don’t get me wrong about Cosafa. I think it’s a fabulous tournament where Kenya gets to gauge herself against other African nations. If Kenyan players do well, I’m sure scouts from other African nations, like South Africa, are watching.

Better planning and co-ordination from FKF’s side was needed in order to have avoided the boys playing competitively three days in a row.

I’m sure the impact of that scheduling will be felt in the coming weeks as the boys will experience tired legs and possible injuries. I honestly hope not but it’s a risk we didn’t need to take.

KPL meanwhile will have to congest the fixtures to ensure the league ends early enough for the Cecafa Senior Challenge, which Kenya is hosting this year. You will see coaches complaining of congestion and players of tired legs but remember we did this to ourselves through poor planning.

Resilience is a good trait for any nation to have but if self-torture can be avoided, then it should be.

@CarolRadull on Twitter

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