Kenya’s sporting legends and veterans can now afford a smile of hope after the government Thursday apologised for neglecting them over the decades, promising massive change.
Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said the government has acknowledged having forgotten the heroes and heroines who put the country high on the world’s sporting map in recent years.
“I must tell them we are sorry, and let me apologise for that. I want to tell you that we are now trying to rectify that henceforth,” said Amina after presiding over the distribution of food rations to legends by the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K) at the Nyayo National Stadium on Thursday.
Amina also distributed food and cash donations to athletes at the Nairobi Region camp for the World Under-20 Championships in athletics.
Amina, who accompanied by Chief Administrate Secretary in the Ministry of Sports, Hassan Noor Hassan, and Sports, Arts and Social Development Fund chairman, Jack Tuwei, said the government is preparing a list of all legends so that they can be helped during this Covid-19 pandemic period and after.
“We shall approach them directly so that we can give them something to support them and their families. We shall have an elaborate plan for them moving forward,” said Amina. “Though long overdue, we need to rescue some pride and come out for these legends since we are where we are because of them.”
Amina said they have so far reached out to 2,400 sportsmen and women, who have received Sh10,000 each to cushion them from Covid-19 hardship from the ministry’s stimulus package.
“More have also received food rations from the ministry.”
NOC-K acting secretary general, Francis Mutuku, disclosed that they have identified 85 needy legends who will benefit from the food donations across the country every month for three months.
“They are drawn from boxing, wrestling, tennis, basketball, cycling, paralympics and tae kwon-do.
Mutuku said they have partnered with Royal Parcel Service who will deliver the food packages to the legends who are residing outside Nairobi.
“We are also supporting them with some little cash,” said Mutuku.
The 1978 Belgrade world light flyweight boxing champion Stephen Muchoki, the 1990 Auckland Commonwealth Games light heavyweight champion Joseph Akhasamba and 1994 Victoria Commonwealth Games heavyweight champion Omar Ahmed Kasongo were among the legends who welcomed the ministry’s move and accepted the government’s apology.
They were among the legends who were at the Nyayo National Stadium to receive their food packages.
“I would say the government’s move is long overdue but again, better late than never,” said Muchoki, the 1974 Christchurch and 1978 Edmonton Commonwealth Games gold medallist.
Muchoki regretted that the government had formed a habit of coming to recognise former athletes when they are dead.
“Let them come through for us when we are still alive,” said Muchoki.
Akhasamba, who won the World Boxing Board (WBB) world heavyweight title in 2000, said that the assistance will go a long way in helping them since most of them are unemployed.