Kenya is passionate about sports and not only that: Kenyans can look back on a long, successful history with many victories and records. Some sports are closely intertwined with the country’s own culture, including racing, wrestling, stick fighting and dancing. Others, however, were imported from Europe and joyfully embraced. This article tells us about the relationship between the people of Kenya and sports.
Sports have been integrated into Kenyan school curricula in 1925, and the professional organization of such as athletics and soccer began only a little later. Athletics is still very popular in the country, especially running events. Kenyan athletes dominate middle and long-distance races, regularly taking the top spots in Olympic and Commonwealth events. Winners are often from the Kalenjin ethnic group, its leadership in running can probably be attributed to factors such as topography, nutrition, and bone structure. But competition from Ethiopia and Morocco is growing. Catherine Ndereba is particularly well known, having won the Boston Marathon four times and claiming the world title twice. The marathon world record holder Paul Tergat is also known worldwide.
Today, in the digital age, any layperson can read in advance what odds an athlete will face in a tournament. On the best Qatar betting sites, for example, Kenyans keep popping up with informative odds in running events. This is a good indication of how unsurprising their victory is. Although the odds do not allow huge profit margins for bettors, the probability of winning is often utopian. The comparison portal Arabianbetting grants access to many different Arabic betting providers, users get a convenient and clear orientation – and that for free. On the betting platforms themselves, interested parties can read how high the chances of Kenyan and other athletes are. And possibly even profit from the victory of their favorite athlete.
But now back from theory to practice: Kenya’s first Olympic champion in the marathon was Samuel Wanijuri, who took his place on the podium with an Olympic record in 2008. He needed only 2:06:32 for the long distance. The very first marathon medal ever was won by Douglas Wakiihuri, with silver at the Seoul Olympics. Unfortunately, Kenya has also lost victories and medals in the past due to athletes leaving the country. Mostly, these emigrants then compete for Qatar or Bahrain. The Kenyan Ministry of Sports is trying to keep athletes in the country, which unfortunately did not stop Bernard Lagat and others from now competing for the United States.
In soccer, Kenya long ago possessed a regional dominance that no longer exists. Disputes in the Kenyan Football Association wiped out the leading position. FIFA even briefly suspended Kenya for this reason, but lifted the ban in 2007. Spectators continue to flock to the stadiums and feverishly cheer on their favorite teams, so soccer enthusiasm remains unbroken. Perhaps one day better times will dawn again in the active sport of soccer, but in 2022 came a bitter setback.
Two other team sports that are very popular in Kenya are basketball and cricket. Basketball advanced to become a true youth sport here – and several successful Kenyan athletes joined the NCAA, which is considered the strongest basketball league in the world for students. Currently, Tom Wamukota, Joel Awich and Tylor Ongwae have made a big name for themselves there. The national team celebrated its greatest successes from the mid-1980s into the 1990s. At that time, the team qualified for the African Basketball Championship several times and even made it to the Final Four in Nairobi in 1993. The last triumph is not so long ago: Under Liz Mills, the men’s team qualified for the AfroBasket Championship for the first time in 28 years, defeating record African champions Angola.
The English brought cricket to Kenya and the inhabitants made their own tradition out of it. Since 1996, Kenya has participated in the World Cup of Cricket, and in 2003 the team made it to the semifinals. They often managed to trouble or even defeat some of the best teams in the world.
Rallysport made its debut in Kenya in 1953, when the first East African Coronation Safari was held as a professional event in the country to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. The competition later changed its name twice, but still takes place annually. In the meantime, the official name is, short and concise, Safari-Rally. It stretches over 13 stages and now belongs to the WRC as the fourth round of the rally world championship. The only Kenyan to have won a WRC race so far is Ian Duncan, who triumphed in the Safari Rally in 1994. He became one of many puzzle pieces in Kenyan sports history.