Introduction and advancement of American Football in Kenya has always been associated with Tom Kelly, who might as well be regarded as the father of the game in Kenya. Unknown to most people though, is the existence of a myriad of enthusiasts and well wishers whose efforts have also had a great impact on the awareness of the game in Kenya. Kenya airways has always been associated with Kenya’s formidable rugby seven’s team, Shujaa.
This has made them the number one advocate for contact sports in Kenya backed by the success the rugby team has basked in for a long time. Somewhere in the shadows though, has been a rising giant, also supported by the Kenya Airways in the shadows. This giant’s rise has been slow, steady and progressive which has allowed for time gaps for learning and improvement. This giant is the federation of American Football in Kenya.
Since its successful rebirth in 2011, this sport has enjoyed massive backing from the pride of Africa courtesy of an unrelenting philanthropist Frederick Sine, the fleet and development manager at the African carrier. Rick, as he is known by most players, first heard about American Football in Kenya through a feature that had been aired by a Nation Media Group television channel.
Nation Media Group is a regional broadcasting entity in East Africa. This feature must have aroused Rick’s interest in the sport because he is said to have inquired more about it from Kenneth Masika, a co-worker at KQ who also happened to have both the team captain and the sports director’s numbers. At the time, the sports director at the university, Mr Mbaabu Murithi is said to have been working tirelessly in an effort to get better equipment for the game. So, Rick through Mr Masika contacted the director and the team captain, George Alwang’a with the intention of scheduling a meeting.
Both the team captain and the director were excited at the prospect of finally meeting an official from the behemoth of the flight industry in Kenya. It was almost a dream come true. But even with their high expectations, Rick managed to pull out a trick that left them dumbfounded. “I have been raised around the sport, I know its beauty, culture and how it impacts not only players but the community at large” said Ricks. He also added “I have people who can help provide, balls, shoulder pads, jerseys, pants, cleats entirely everything required to play the sport”
where was a guy who had just come out of the blues and swooped in like superman to solve all their problems in a snap of a finger. ‘It was like an angel had landed right at our doorstep,’ the director reportedly said.
Rick had well laid out plans to reach out to NFL teams, American colleges and even high schools in a bid to get them to donate the equipment they didn’t need to the Kenyan team.
He had also organised to ship them in given his vast connections at Kenya Airways. This worked so well it was unbelievable. The acquisition of equipment went smoothly. The time of shipment tended to coincide with the delivery of new aircraft from the United States which made it even better. We could safely assume that they were brought in at no cost at all but this can only be affirmed by Rick himself. We’ll never know the kind of strings he pulled to get them into the country.
Back at home in Kenya, the excitement was palpable. Getting new equipment had almost been a pipe dream due to the expenses that came with it. The director noted that they had relied solely on the equipment from the nineties and it was a real honour to have at least acquired a new set. This was set to bolster the sport tremendously.
They could now expand and get more colleges in Kenya to sign in. The consignment consisted of pants, cleats, footballs, pads and jerseys and not only benefitted the university of Nairobi but also enticed Kenyatta University into the game. This was progress.
Kenya Airways has also sponsored a series of trips abroad for selected players in a bid to increase their knowledge of football and motivate more boys back home to take up the sport. In October 2014, the then university of Nairobi captain was sponsored for a 12day trip and tour in the United States which saw him meet and thank the donors and sponsors at Boeing and Kenya Airways for their relentless support of the game.
He also had a first hand experience watching the Seattle Seahawks play the Dallas Cowboys in Seattle, Washington. To some extent, he was in a sense being rewarded for his commendable effort in getting the game launched in two more universities and two more colleges in Kenya. A little ways down the road, in June 2015, the International Federation for American Football held its World men’s championships in the USA and once again Kenyan officials were invited to improve their level of skill in being umpires and officials of the game. Two gentlemen were sponsored for a two week tour, a trip that had great impact on the quality of refereeing in the country.
The American Football federation of Kenya would like to thank Kenya Airways for the generous support they have given thus far. We vow to put in just as much effort to prove that we are worth everything we have been given. Special thanks to Frederick Sine for a good heart, a giving spirit and a fatherly and progressive mentality. We at the receiving end would be lost at sea without you. We appreciate you. Great thanks to Kenneth Masika for the mentorship, advice, showing up on game days and changing our lives for the better.
And finally, Mr Mbaabu Murithi for the openness to donors, the opportunity to grow and the side by side walk we’ve had thus far. And lastly, seriously this time, Kenya Airways for showing that they are really the pride of Africa by supporting their very own. You brought us up from being belly up to getting on our knees and now that we are past crawling, we can walk, run and certainly fly together. Asanteni sana.