Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko on Friday flagged off the Kenya national amputee football team who departed Nairobi for Dar es Salaam, Tanzania for a regional tournament.
The national team, dubbed Amputee Stars, is ranked 11th in the world after beating the odds to finish 12th out of the 24 nations that took part in the World Cup in Mexico in October and November in 2018.
Sonko was again on hand to fund the team’s trip to Dar to participate in the East and Central Africa Amputee Football (CECAAF) championships that start Saturday, June 22 and ends on June 30.
Once again, the team received two sets of jerseys branded Team Sonko on the insistence of the 11 players and nine officials who make up the travelling party.
Last year, Sonko had to come to their rescue after the team was abandoned by the ministry, having to go without meals for hours even after doing Kenya proud.
They had to stage a sit-in at the Sports ministry’s Kencom House headquarters to draw attention to their plight.
Sonko got to know of their plight and they have been like team and official sponsor ever since.
In the wee hours of Friday morning the team departed by bus for Dar, something Sonko rebuked his staff for.
“Why are they travelling by bus? They should have travelled by air. Someone is going to be punished for this. The team should not spend hours in a bus when going to represent Kenya,” said the Governor at outside City Hall where he flagged them off.
Before departing, the team was handed two sets of uniforms, footballs and some Sh800,000 cash in allowances.
“You did us proud in Mexico although you did not succeed in bringing home the trophy. You are not going to represent Sonko. Sonko is just a sponsor. You are going to represent the country and all Kenyans,” he told them after learning the team’s jerseys were branded Team Sonko.
He told them discipline, hard work and patriotism will make them succeed.
Team captain Kevin Lumbasi said they will strive to make Kenya proud.
“We appreciate our able governor for investing his efforts to ensure that we not only go to participate but compete in this event,” said Lumbasi.
“We are going to try everything humanly possible to come with the trophy,” he pledged.
He told Sonko: “At all times that we have been coming to you for help, you have never let us down.”
The team’s and CECAAF treasurer Polycarp Mboya said the team is made up of young local-based players selected from universities who have shown great potential.
He said the team is motivated and will strive to do Kenya proud.
He said with Sonko’s support, the team feels it has a father after experiencing emotional torture in the past.
“We went to Mexico for the World Cup. We had many problems. The first to help us was Governor,” said Mboya.
“Governor, let me lecture you. Let me assure you, so long as you’re with the people your doors will always open,” said Mboya.
Mboya said the team is proud of Sonko’s efforts in ensuring one of the team’s member, Brian, turned pro.
Brian went for trials in Japan but had had to struggle to get air tickets, accommodation and upkeep money.
Sonko chipped in and Brian succeeded in signing for a team in Europe.
The Governor said he will push Sports CS Amina Mohamed to also chip in and support the team.
Members of the Nairobi County Sports Board were also on hand to see off the team.
They include chairman Hashim Kamua, Judith Nyangi, who is also the Gor Mahia organizing secretary and Dennis Oliech, among others.