Kenya: Moi Developed Kenya Into a Sporting Powerhouse

Former President Daniel arap Moi in Seguton, Nakuru (file photo).
5 February 2020

Of the four presidents to have ruled Kenya since independence, Mzee Daniel arap Moi's contribution to the development of sports stands out.

Mzee Moi ruled Kenya between 1978 and 2002 and in that period, Kenya established a reputation as a global sporting powerhouse. The successes include several international titles for track and field athletes, volleyball teams and, most famously, Gor Mahia's triumph in the 1987 Africa Cup Winners' Cup (Mandela Cup).

Moi's love for sport was evident when he consistently trained and featured for Bunge football team in the 1960s and 70s. "Mzee believed in eating healthy and staying fit. He consistently exercised in the gym and was one of the most disciplined people I have met," Lee Njiru, his press secretary of four decades, once said.

Moi was a regular feature at stadiums during football matches, including the domestic cup final, a competition then named the Moi Golden Cup in his honour. "He motivated us in several ways when we lined up to greet him before matches," recalls Harambee Stars' coach Francis Kimanzi.

Kimanzi captained Mathare United to a shock 4-1 win over AFC Leopards in the Moi Golden Cup final at the Nyayo Stadium in 1998. Moi attended the match and handed over the trophy and cash to both teams.

It is perhaps these genes that his late son Jonathan Toroitich benefited from. Jonathan was a respected international rally driver in his prime. Besides accepting the shabiki number moja (fan number one) tag, Mzee Moi was at the centre of critical policy-making decisions which changed the face of sports in the country for the better.

"He told us that we should do our best whenever we went to the courts because sports unites Kenyans," Kenya Volleyball Federation chairman Waithaka Kioni recalls.

Moi took time to host several sports delegations to personally congratulate and reward them for their achievements. Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards were each rewarded with pieces of land at Kasarani, thanks to their continental exploits. It is during Moi's reign that sports infrastructure developed. The Moi International Sports Centre and Nyayo National Stadium were built under his direction and remain Kenya's only international standard stadiums.

"He was a futuristic leader in as far as sports is concerned. Kasarani lies on 1,000 acres which would have been impossible to get today," former Commissioner of Sports, Gordon Oluoch, said.

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