The fate of July’s Safari Rally will be known in the next two weeks with Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed Friday hinting at a possible postponement of this World Rally Championship round owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking on a wide range of issues on NTV’s Friday sports segment Mikiki mikiki, the CS also maintained the government would not pay former Harambee Stars’ coach Adel Amrouche Sh109 million in outstanding salary and arrears, saying the ball is squarely on Football Kenya Federation’s court.
Amina further noted her ministry was exploring ways of cushioning athletes against financial losses endured due to the cancellation of competitions due to global concerns over the coronavirus spread and increased cases of the resultant Covid-19 disease.
“We are still discussing on the possible postponement of the Safari Rally and when we have new dates, then we shall agree on the way forward,” the CS told NTV Sports presenter Joshua Makori.
Speaking separately, Safari Rally chief executive officer Phineas Kimathi said they would know the Safari’s fate in the next two weeks.
Kimathi said it would not be ideal to have large groups of visitors, especially from Europe, under the current circumstances in which European countries, especially Italy and Spain, have been worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
By Friday afternoon’s count, there were 1,040,528 positive Covid-19 cases worldwide with 13,915 deaths so far recorded in Italy and 10,935 in Spain, according to agency reports.
The Kenyan count stood at 122 positive cases and four deaths.
“Even if we eventually have the situation in Kenya under control, what happens to where they (drivers, officials, fans and rally teams) are coming from?
“If the situation doesn’t improve soon, especially in Europe, then a postponement can be on the cards. But we shall know this for sure by April 17,” Kimathi added.
Currently, the International Automobile Federation (FIA) has put on hold four rounds of the World Rally Championships with only three – in Monte Carlo, Sweden and Mexico – having been run in the 2020 calendar.
Amina also said the postponement of the Olympic Games does not mean the Kenyan committees she appointed to prepare Team Kenya for the Tokyo Games be disbanded.
Rather, she explained that these committees (Steering Committee and Central Management Committees) will remain in place but meet less frequently as they strategise on the rescheduled Games.
The Olympics were planned for July 24 to August 9, but were this week pushed to July 23 to August 8 next year owing to the coronavirus.
“All committees will remain in place and will meet perhaps once a month and shall be paid sitting allowances,” the CS explained.
“We don’t want our programmes to fail and we shall hold virtual meetings where necessary. We don’t want to start afresh with other new committees.”
Last month, world football governing body Fifa said they would impose sanctions on FKF for failure to pay Algeria-born Belgian Amrouche his outstanding dues.
But Amina maintained the government would not make the payment on behalf of the federation.
“We haven’t relaxed our stand as a government. As a government, we won’t pay him. FKF should agree with Fifa on terms of payment,” she said.
The CS added that she is awaiting official communication from Fifa over the possibility of a four-way meeting – initially scheduled for next Monday – between Fifa, the ministry, FKF and the Sports Disputes Tribunal over the controversial FKF elections.
But she recommended a “local solution” to the impasse rather than a Fifa solution.
“As a government, we would like to see a direct communication from Fifa to the government, and not through FKF or another agent,” she said.
“However, even before this, I’d like to see a local solution so that we don’t rely on external forces to solve our local problems.”
Amina noted that the government would try and offer financial assistance to sportsmen and women affected by cancellation of competitions during this coronavirus pandemic period and that the government will also make efforts to repatriate back home sportsmen and women caught out by the virus melee in foreign nations.
The CS added that even as Kenya battled against the coronavirus pandemic, the government will use the lockdown to complete renovation of sports facilities, including Eldoret’s Kipchoge Keino Stadium.
“As we speak, the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, which was to host the Continental Tour meeting on May 2 and the World Under-20 Championships in July, has been closed down and renovations are going on within government-approved guidelines,” she said.
“We shall also work on the Kip Keino Stadium in Eldoret.”
Amina urged our sportsmen to work out on their own, maintaining social distancing to stay fit even as they remain in self isolation.
Nairobi was set to host the World Athletics Under-20 Championship from July 7 to 12, the Continental Tour leg on May 2 and the Safari Rally from July 16 to 19.
The CS urged sportsmen and women to be good ambassadors and role models as the country continue to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
“They should continue training because when they stop training is when they are lured into various vices,” she noted.
On Friday, former world marathon record holder Wilson Kipsang was released by an Iten court after he and a group of friends were arrested for drinking during curfew hours on Thursday night.
Two days ago, a group of elite athletes in Iten were also arrested for training as a group in contravention of the government’s clarion call for social distancing and outlawing of individuals gathering in groups. They were later released without charges.
Additional reporting by Elias Makori.