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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 12 March, 2003, 18:15 GMT
Kenya embraces new success
Kenyan fans celebrate
Fans back home celebrate the news of Kenya's win
In the same week that Kenya lost one of its greatest sporting heroes, it gained 11 new ones as the county's unheralded cricketers qualified for the semi-finals of the World Cup.

Kenya's first Olympic gold medallist, Naftali Temu, who won the 10,000 metres at the Mexico Olympics in 1968, died on Monday.

But sporting spirits were raised once more when Steve Tikolo's side recorded an upset seven-wicket win over Zimbabwe in Bloemfontein.

Kenyan sporting success is generally limited to the athletics track, with distance running a discipline at which the country shines.

This victory marked the first time in a team sport that Kenya has reached the semi-finals at a major event since 1971, when the hockey team came within two matches of winning the World Cup.

Capital city Nairobi saw joyous celebrations when 1996 champions Sri Lanka were downed by 53 runs in the group stages.

It was the only match that Kenya were able to host after New Zealand pulled out because of safety fears, leading to accusations that the African side's achievements had been devalued.

It's a great feeling, we're happy and I'm sure people back home are happy for us as well
Batsman Maurice Odumbe

Although the scenes were more muted after the Bloemfontein victory, there was quiet satisfaction in the bars of major cities, where fans gathered to watch the action.

"What some analysts have said has been insulting to Kenya; I think this should shut them up," said Jimmy Rayani, chairman of the Kenya Cricket Association.

"It is a great moment for team sport in Kenya. It's unbelievable that in only a month our boys have transformed the sport into such high status," he added.

The team's achievement was all the more impressive because of the adversities players have faced of late.

Players have been lost to the sport because of a shortage of money - a situation that will be helped by the guaranteed $500,000 (311,000) in prize money for their efforts so far.

The national league was discontinued last year following a row between the KCA and the Nairobi Provincial Cricket Association over the management of clubs.

And the government had to be persuaded to recognise the KCA after allegations of corruption in the national cricket and football bodies.

KCA chairman Sharad Ghai is planning a seminar in April to chart the future of the sport in the country.

A new league set-up would entail the establishment of a longer version of the game, which is a major requirement for the granting of Test status - an accolade pencilled in for 2006.

Naftali Temu
Olympic hero Temu died of cancer, aged 58
Sports minister Najib Balala put the quarrels aside to declare the government will strive to establish cricket in the country after the victory.

"The Kenyan cricket team has proved to the world that they can be able to participate and win a non-traditional sport," Balala said.

"We are very proud of the Kenyan team. It has inspired the whole country to be proud of being Kenyan."

President Mwai Kibaki congratulated the team for their first ever win over Zimbabwe.

"The win by the Kenyan side was a reflection of the team's determination to take their place in international cricket," he said in a statement.

"I am following the team's performance with keen interest and I wish them good luck as they embark on the remaining matches."




SEE ALSO
Buoyant Kenya reach semis
12 Mar 03 |  World Cup
Kenya romp past Zimbabwe
12 Mar 03 |  Photo Galleries
Have Your Say on Kenya
04 Jan 03 |  Have Your Say


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