Mombasa Sports Club Fact Sheet
|Name:||Mombasa Sports Club|
|Address:||P.O.Box 90241 – 80100
|Physical Address:||Mnazi Moja Rd, off Moi Avenue,
Mombasa City, Kenya
|Telephone:||+254 41 2224226 / 705, +254 727 288111|
|Location:||Mombasa Sports Club is located on Mombasa Island, the tropical tourist paradise located on Kenya’s coast and home of Swahili Culture|
|Airport:||Moi International Airport, 5 Kms|
|Railway:||Mombasa Railway Station – 1 Km|
|Club Hours:||The Club opens as below, unless an official function is in progress or prior permission has been sought in writing from the Committee:
Sundays to Thursdays 0800 – 2300 hours
|Facilities:||Full size Sports hall with viewing gallery, all weather pitch, Football (Full Pitch), Rugby (Full Pitch), Field Hockey (Full Pitch) , Cricket (ODI Status) ,7 Tennis Courts (3 floodlit) , Squash (3 Courts) , Basketball (Full Court) , Bowling Green (6 Rinks) , Snooker (2 Tables) , Bridge Room, Gym and Open Gym, Bar & Catering, accommodation, Meeting Rooms, children’s playground, Car Parking|
|Membership Strength:||2,500 Members and their families. Activities: Provision of sports and social facilities to members|
|Members Profile:||Membership comprises of professionals and business people including but not limited to Doctors, Architects, Engineers, Advocates, Judges, Senior Executives of Multi-national and Local companies.
Membership is mostly open to residents of Mombasa.
History of Mombasa Sports Club
The Sultans and The British
It is said that you can’t get three Englishmen together in a foreign country without them forming a club. Thus in Kenya it was not surprising that all sorts of clubs came into being in the early colonial days. The history of the Mombasa Sports Club can be traced back to 1896. Mombasa Sports Club together with Mombasa Club, which was established in the same year, has the distinction of being one of the two oldest clubs in Kenya.
In 1896 the number of Europeans in Mombasa was very small numbering just over one hundred of whom most were administrative officials and railway employees. The East African Protectorate had been proclaimed in July 1895 and in 1896 the building of the Uganda Railway had just started. Sir Arthur Hardinge, the Commissioner for the new Protectorate, was the first president of the Club and the Mombasa Sports Club became a focus of Mombasa life even before Mombasa was declared a township in 1903.
There is very little information about the earliest years of the Sports Club. This is because, like many other clubs, the Mombasa Sports Club began as an informal gathering of a few keen sportsmen who got together and organized teams and matches amongst themselves and then asked their friends along to join in and participate. Proceedings were very casual and minutes of meetings were not kept until 1905. Unfortunately even these valuable records have disappeared in recent years and the writing of this history has been hampered by the lack of any written documentation kept by the Club.
Cricket and a military encampment provide the first clues in the search for how and why a sports club was started in Mombasa. In 1896 there was a rebellion against the British presence and troops were hastily brought in from India to quell the uprising. Barracks to house 900 soldiers, officers’ quarters, an officers’ mess where parties were held, a dispensary and other military facilities were quickly built on land made available by the Sultan of Zanzibar’s chief representative in Mombasa, Salim bin Khalfan. The site, which included a military parade ground besides the already mentioned amenities, was situated in a central position on the island, next to the narrow railway line that ran from Fort Jesus to Kilindini following more or less the path of present day Nkrumah Road and Moi Avenue, close to the present site of the Sports Club.
It was there “on ground near the Sikh’s Lines” the first ever cricket match in the British East Africa Protectorate was played in September 1896. The occasion was a visit of the British naval vessel, HMS Sparrow from Zanzibar, having on board Judge de Sausmarez. The match was won by the Sparrow team in the first innings.
Bertie Cator, who was appointed legal vice-consul in Mombasa on 9th June 1896, and Major Hatch of the Sikh regiment were the leading lights behind the formation of this Mombasa cricket team and were ultimately responsible for the birth of the Sports Club which began life primarily as a cricket club. Both were very keen cricketers and the following year the Zanzibar Gazette reported on the official opening of the new Mombasa cricket ground on 19th April 1897. It was celebrated by two matches between the teams of HMS Sparrow and Mombasa. This was the second cricket match at Mombasa Sports Club. It was won by the Mombasa team. The riotous party held afterwards, when the sailors cut the telegraph wires, took the Sub Commissioner prisoner in his bedroom and proceeded to “attack” the military lines shows that even in those far off days the Sports Club upheld its reputation for after-match entertainment.
The Sports Club owes much to the efforts of Bertie Cator and to the generosity of Salim bin Khalfan. Bertie Cator not only introduced the British judicial system into Mombasa but also set up the legal framework for land tenure and the issuing of title deeds, and he made sure that the Sports Club received one of the earliest official grants of title for the land which it still occupies. Salim bin Khalfan donated the land and together with his son Ali bin Salim were made the first honorary life members of the Club in 1898.
The original Mombasa Sports Club title deed is numbered 228 of Series A, dated 1/6/1900 and registered 26/6/1900. It reads “This is a grant in perpetuity, free of cost, by Salim bin Khalfan, Liwali of Mombasa, to Sir Arthur Henry Hardinge (Her Majesty’s Commissioner and Consul General of East Africa Protectorate) and to Ralph Bertie Peter Cator (HM Judge) and others, as Trustees of Mombasa Sports Club.”
The land was given jointly for use by HM Government as a “military parade ground” and by Mombasa Sports Club for “games” and further stated that “If at any time the grantees wish to cease using the land for these stated purposes, the land reverts back to the Commissioner of Wakf, who will use the land for the benefit of Musselmen”.
The 1900 grant, refers to the land as “now in occupation by Mombasa Sports Club” and does not mention the actual date of occupation. The map shows a pavilion, a tennis court and several mango and jambul trees. Since 1900 the plot number has undergone various changes and the boundaries have been altered by the sale and purchase of peripheral sections, but the cricket ground and Club house still occupy the original grant of land.
In the absence of Club records, early photographs and newspaper articles provide the best source material. The earliest picture we have of the sports ground depicts a scene from the celebrations held for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in June 1897. It shows the very first cricket pavilion, a modest makuti and mabati structure set under the mango trees, a refreshment tent and a group of Indian employees of the railways in the foreground.
Both the East African Standard and the East Africa and Uganda Mail, first printed in Mombasa in 1902,carried interesting information about the goings on at the Club. In February 1903 we are told that the Sports Club ground was used for a wedding reception for H. R. Phelips, Auditor of The East African Protectorate, attended by the Governor Sir Charles Eliot and all his staff. On 24 July 1903 a public holiday was declared on the occasion of the annual Agricultural Show~ being held for the third time but for the first time in Mombasa at the Sports Club ground. This was a major public event, timed to coincide with the arrival of the Eastern Fleet which was stationed in South Africa at the Cape. There were cricket matches and tennis games as well as coconut shies, races and prizes for the best vegetables and livestock. German East Africa participated and sent up some good displays of the latest farming machinery.
Nearly every week there were reports of cricket capped” matches held at the Sports Club sometimes against visiting naval ships or, very occasionally, teams from up country. In April 1903 a match was reported between the Mombasa Sports Club and the Portuguese Cricket Club, whose members consisted of Goan Government clerks from Nairobi. Mostly, however, Mombasa cricketers had to fall back on local talent and they showed considerable ingenuity in ringing the changes. Judge Cator until his departure from Mombasa in 1905, organized many of these early matches and had his own cricket XI who took on anyone else who could raise a team.
Sometimes matches took the whole weekend and as there were not many people to choose from, anyone who could play cricket was invited. In the teams there are several non-European names, such as Virji, Ali, Sadiki, Dinshaw and Boy Jumah, all of whom regularly played for the Sports Club side, showing that in those early days the Club was far more open than it became later on when only Europeans were selected for the teams. With no television or alternative amusements, the weekly cricket matches seemed to have been the major source of entertainment for the European community, and indeed the whole of Mombasa who turned out en masse’ to watch. Ingenious combinations of teams were thought up such as Law & Order vs The World, Football players vs Cricketers, Cleanshaven vs Moustaches, Married vs Single, More vs Less than Three Years in East Africa and under 30s vs Over 30s. As explained in one report for September 1905, “A great deal lies in the spin of the coin, as the side that gets the mid-afternoon sun when batting is considerably handicapped“. Sometimes there were reports that the ball landed too near the ladies sitting in the pavilion, while on one occasion “Mr. Peacock lost three teeth in the slips.” On April 12th 1905 a Ladies vs Gentlemen cricket match was held which caused much amusement. The gentlemen played left-handed and used broomsticks instead of bats and the ladies won 54- 47.
Football matches were also played. In August 1903 Mombasa played HMS Partridge, a “rather slow” game according to the reporter. On October 8th 1904 there was a football match Europeans vs CMS Boys, the freed slaves from the Church Missionary Society settlement at Frere town. The match was won by the CMS Boys and the commentator wrote that “it was a bit hot for Europeans and on the Sahara Desert Sports ground the advantage went to those not wearing shoes“. It was difficult to find enough Europeans to make up a football team and often the CMS Boys were invited to make up numbers.
On 24th August 1905 a major sporting weekend was held at the Sports Club with tea-parties laid on by the Deputy Commissioner and Treasurer of the Club. By this time the Club’s own three tennis courts were ready and the ladies played in long dresses. There were also football and cricket matches. The reporter for this weekend waxed lyrical as he described how “the sunshades and airy summer dresses backed by the great mango trees with their rich green foliage made a very pretty picture.”
Tennis was another of the first sports to be played in Mombasa, originally by the missionaries, and there were two courts just behind Fort Jesus. But this area was soon needed for administrative offices and in 1908 the land was sold and the proceeds given to the Mombasa Sports Club to expand the tennis section and build extra tennis courts. By 1905 the Club participated in three main sporting activities, cricket, association football and tennis. There was a committee of eight members and the first hotly debated improvement to Club facilities was a new cricket pavilion, funds for which were eventually obtained by raising debentures. The entrance fee and subscription stood at 75 rupees and 12/50 rupees per quarter respectively, and although there are no exact figures available for membership, it was certainly less than a hundred members.
A chapter about the early years of the Club cannot finish without a mention of the Honorary secretary J.W.H. Parkinson who looked after Club affairs from 1907 until his death in 1923. The subsequent success of the Club owed much to his dedicated efforts and his name is commemorated by a brass plaque which still hangs in the Club.
Sports Advancement in the Club
The twenties and thirties saw a rapid expansion of both amenities and membership at the Club. After the building of the cricket pavilion which was also used as the Club house with an upstairs lounge where periodicals were available, and the provision of changing-room facilities which consisted of two showers and three basins, the next major item of expenditure was the building of six new tennis courts. These took a very long time to complete and ended up costing considerably more than the original estimate. The Club had to take out an overdraft to cover costs and by 1926 Club finances were in such bad shape that a proposal to sell off part of the Sports Club land was seriously considered. Fortunately wiser counsel prevailed and the following year when the Sports Club amalgamated with the Mombasa Athletic Club (1st August 1927) the financial position improved dramatically.
The Athletic Club brought in an influx of younger members which put new life into the Club and 1927 was a turning point when both membership and sporting activities increased sharply. Hockey was played for the first time at the Club and the tennis section introduced several new tournaments. The social side of the Club benefited from the increased membership and the first dance which was ever held at the Club was acclaimed a huge success, there being 50 dancers present.
The president, E.C. Philips, in his end-of-year speech was able to state that “1927 has been the most eventful in the history of the Club” and he went on to say, “I am confident that the Mombasa Sports Club has a big future before it, provided the Club receives the right sort of support. When talking of support gentlemen, I do not merely refer to participation in games but to the assistance that can be rendered to your committee and Club, by the prompt payment of accounts.,:’ This familiar plea was to be reiterated by many succeeding presidents & chairmen.
The committee realized that if the standard of sport was to improve the grounds would need to be improved and a special grounds committee was formed to tend the playing pitches and look after the club premises. In 1930 a decision was reached to build a new club house. Money was raised and the new building was opened on 27th February 1932. From that date on, largely owing to the active participation of the Lady Members, dances, concerts and sun downers became regular features of the Club’s social activities.
In the 1930s a squash court was built and part of the cricket ground was returned. Hockey was given a pitch of its own and some of the tennis courts were re-laid. Tennis was played to a high standard and outstanding among the tennis members was Fraulein Cilli Aussem, a former World Ladies Singles Title holder. She did much to popularize tennis in Mombasa and in 1935 the Coast Lawn Tennis Championships were played on the Club courts for the first time and the South African Ladies Tennis team came on a memorable visit. A photograph taken of a mixed doubles partnership on the Sports Club tennis courts in 1932 gives some idea of the style of tennis gear of those days. Mr. and Mrs. Benazeth, the French Consul and his wife, are seen with Mr. and Mrs. Ootsdam of Twentsche Overseas Trading Company. The men are wearing long white trousers and women white dresses to the knee, while their rackets have wooden frames with gut strings.
In 1935 the rugby section were fortunate in having a home fixture with the South African Stellenbosch University touring side, which was at that time the best in the world. Although Mombasa Sports Club was easily beaten by the visiting South Africans, it boosted the popularity of rugby in Mombasa for some time after. Edward Rodwell remembers the occasion well as the South African team visit was a major event in the town. The party afterwards, when the Club manager somehow lost all his clothes and walked home naked, was a lively topic of conversation for some weeks afterwards.
In 1939 football was affected by friction between local African and Arab clubs and many fixtures were cancelled due to lack of support, Tennis and cricket also lost popularity but despite these setbacks other sections flourished. All interest in squash was stimulated by a series of exhibition matches played on the Club’s court by the English Amateur Squash Champion, Mrs Gandar Dower. Women’s hockey also enjoyed a revival.
The Mombasa Sports Club was always an expensive club. A subscription in the 1930s cost 20/- a month, which was considerably more than most other clubs. Only the better off could afford to belong. However some of the major shipping and trading companies paid the membership fees for their European employees and this kept the membership going. Sport was considered essential for maintaining good mental and bodily health in tropical climes and everyone stopped work at 4.00 p.m. and played games until dark. By the 1930s there were many sports facilities in Mombasa but Mombasa Sports Club, exclusively European, was the most prestigious of them all.
Amongst the papers of Katherine Fannin, whose husband Charles Fannin was a keen cricketer and chairman of the Sports Club 1933-34, is a faded group photograph of the Officials v. Non-Officials Cricket Teams taken on August 14th 1926 at Mombasa Sports Club. She writes that “In that carefree year the whole Legislative Council, (fore-runner of our Parliament today), and the Governor moved to the Coast for the month of August and held a session in Mombasa. “We maintained that even that brief taste of sea air and sanity did our fevered up-country legislators a power of good. However, I am afraid it soon wore off!”
In the center of the group sits H.E. Governor Sir Edward Grigg (later Lord Altrincham), with W. A. Sim Managing Director of Smith Mackenzie and president of Mombasa Sports Club on his right. On the Governor’s left sits G. A. Northcote and behind him stand Lord Delamere (in striped jacket and double terai) and Sir Edward Grogan, leaders of the Settlers or Non-officials. Disposed round and about are many well-known people, W. Springett, R. G. B. Spicer (Police Commissioner, wearing cravat and with hat on lap). E. R Sullivan Tailyour (Superintendent of Police, Mombasa), A. C. Beale, L. C. Wright, Dr. De Boer, W. M. Logan, E. Rush, R. Bradshaw of the Education Department, H. M. Gardiner (Conservator of Forests), Raymond de Trafford, J. B. Erskine, C. Burman, D. C. Hodgson, S. Evans, A. G. Baker the Surveyor General and C. G. Fannin standing on the extreme left.
Mombasa in the twenties and thirties was a small town; its population in 1932 stood at just 40,000 of which 900 were Europeans, 6,000 were Arabs 12,000 Asians, and 20,000 were Africans. Edward Rodwell, reminiscing about Mombasa of that period, wrote how it seems strange to think now how one could be happy without radio, television, video, fast motor cars, air travel, telephones, piped water, tarmac roads, air conditioners, fridges, ice cubes and all the paraphernalia of electronic gadgets. There was little entertainment as we know today, no nightclubs, casinos or even beach hotels, but there was always “a passenger ship in harbor for some fun and games” and of course every kind of sport prevailed on the island; cricket, ruby, football, tennis, hockey, rowing, sailing, boxing and most people joined one or the other club. He remembers that in those days everyone seemed very friendly and “in the main were fit, hardworking and happy.”
The British and Colonialism
The war years 1939-45 were, contrary to expectation, boom years for the Club. War reached Mombasa in June 1940 when Mussolini sided with Hitter and declared war on the Allies. This meant that the Italian colonies of Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia were officially at war with Kenya, a British colony. Soldiers from Ghana and South Africa were quickly shipped to Mombasa to reinforce the Kenyan regiments and defend the borders. To begin with the Italians had the best of it, capturing Moyale and overrunning British Somaliland and its port of Berbera. The situation changed after November 1940 when the main Abyssinian Campaign began with a coordinated attack through Sudan and Kenya. Fortunately the Italians put up little resistance and by May 1941 the main fighting was over and Mombasa became a camp for Italian prisoners of war, several hundred of who were interned at Port Reitz.
Pip Barnes, a former president of the Club, was first posted to Mombasa in September 1941 as a junior officer with the artillery regiment that manned the anti-aircraft guns and was responsible for the defense of Mombasa. He remembers that to begin with Mombasa was strategically unimportant with just a small number of naval flying boats stationed at Kipevu but that after the capture of Singapore by the Japanese in 1942 the entire Far East fleet moved to Mombasa which became a vital supply link for the Far East war zone. During the Burma Campaign Allied troops were assembled and shipped from Mombasa to camps in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) where they were trained to fight the Japanese. Mombasa was filled with military personnel and soldiers waiting to go on active service. They brought increased business to all the clubs and caused the town to hum with social activity. Nyali Barracks was built at this period as a troop transit camp and the Manor Hotel was taken over as Naval Headquarters. All commissioned officers stationed in Mombasa could become service members of both the Mombasa Sports Club and the Mombasa Club at much reduced rates. There was plenty of time for sports and many opportunities for friendly matches against visiting naval vessels and army regiments providing welcome recreation in trying times. On one tragic occasion a troopship, the SS Khedive Ismail, only a few days out of Mombasa was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine with the loss of over 1,000 lives. Among those lost were many women; nurses and technical staff from the Women’s Territorial Service a reminder that the war effort was by no means an exclusively male affair.
The Sports Club’s main concern during the war years was to ensure the supply of alcohol kept up with the greatly expanded demand. Beer was restricted and whisky was rationed but the Sports Club managed to keep up their flow of vital liquids’ and by the end of the war its financial position was a healthy one indeed.
Mombasa grew rapidly in the immediate post-war years and by 1958 the population had more than tripled in 25 years and stood at 145,000: 4,000 Europeans, 14,000 Arabs, 26,000 Asians and 89,000 Africans. Large industrial concerns such as Bamburi Portland Cement and the oil refinery were built. Tourism began to take off as a commercial enterprise, and Mombasa outstripped its neighbors to become the major port of entry for the entire East African region.
In 1949 nearly half the rugby team was made up of Smith Mackenzie junior staff and the rest from other major shipping lines and banks. Shipping was big business in Mombasa as everything and everybody was moved by sea and there was fierce competition between the various shipping companies, all which employed large numbers of Europeans. The young unmarried expatriate staff used to live in ‘bachelor’s messes’, shared accommodation which was often situated above the office. Smith Mackenzie staff had particularly grand and commodious quarters above their office premises just outside the port gates and after rugby matches the whole team would often adjourn there where the party continued unabated. Pip Barnes, a member of the ’49 rugby team, remembers that a favorite party trick at this time was to throw empty beer bottles across the road onto the roof of the Union Castle (a rival shipping line) building, often breaking the tiles and causing the manager no end of annoyance when he arrived on Monday morning to find the place leaking.
Rugby was a very popular game at the Club during this period and there are many ex-players still living in Mombasa who have fond memories of tough games played and after match exploits both away and at home. Some of the facilities offered, especially in the Tanzanian venues, were very basic and the pitches often un-turfed, but nevertheless it is all remembered as being great fun. Two rugby highlights of the time occurred in 1949 and 1955 when visiting teams from South African universities came on tour and played at Mombasa Sports Club. As the South African sides included several rugby internationals the competition was very challenging indeed and drew large and appreciative audiences.
Post – Independence
The character of the Mombasa Sports Club has changed radically since the early 1960s. By 1996 the European membership was very much in the minority. There were many more purely social members and the number of children using the Club had greatly expanded. These changes however happened gradually as it was not until the 1970’s that the hangovers from colonial days were truly swept away. The first non-European Chairman of the Club was M. Satchu in 1973 while the first African Chairman was J. K. Kabetu who was Chairman for two years, 1979-80.
The first Asian committee member was Dr. Rasik Patel and he served on the selection committee for two years 1964/5 and helped to open up Club membership to persons of all races. He remembers that the process was rather slow at first, probably because subscriptions were expensive and beyond the reach of most people, but as the social divide diminished and a well-off middle-class not only of Asian but also African professionals and businessmen emerged more and more wanted to join the Sports Club. Even to this day the membership is largely drawn from the commercial and private sector of the town as the large parastatals and organizations tend to have their own sporting facilities.
Membership in 1996 stood at an all-time high, of over 1,400 of which two thirds were family members. In 1964 the membership was roughly 250, so in the intervening years there has been a five-fold increase in membership, which though very encouraging has increased the burden on those involved in the management of the Club. The Club is now run by ten committees headed by a management committee and chairman. All committee members come up for election once a year and there are four trustees. The dedication and energies of these unpaid officials ensure the smooth functioning of the Club. The salaried staff consist of a manager, two secretaries, eight in the accounts section and others totaling 69. The sports sections each have their committees as well and the captains meet once a month to discuss any general problems and to liaise with each other on fixtures, socials and sponsorship. The management structure has become increasing complex and has moved a long way from the early years when the whole Club was run by one small committee with no formal staff or written minutes. There is now a waiting list for membership, but sports players are given preference and temporary membership is available.
The improvement and expansion of facilities has had to keep up with the enormous increase in demand. In 1977 the front car park wall was built and the present parking area designed. In 1978 snooker was introduced and in 1981 a second squash court was added. An initially controversial addition of an out-building containing a new kitchen, second ladies’ shower room and an office for the accounts section was built in 1986. The tennis section particularly objected to the cutting down of a fine old mango tree that had provided welcome shade and picturesque back drop to their evening games, but their protests were in vain and the extension went ahead. Another incident which provoked controversy, again involving the tennis section, was the sale in 1976 of the tennis court adjoining court No.4 to D.T. Dobie’s garage for their new assembly yard. In return for the land, D.T. Dobie paid for a new tennis court, the present court No.5 on the other side of the Club house near the squash courts. In retrospect this sale should never have been allowed to go through as it was detrimental to the Club. The 1 new court was never used for tennis and even now j.1 as a basketball court, is under-utilized. This sale I and the subsequent conversion of another court 1 into a practice wall and viewing area effectively 1 reduced the number of playing courts available to the tennis section to seven. In the late ’70s two viewing stands originally fabricated by Fred Passaris of Helmaco for the football pitch were moved and given a permanent home adjoining tennis court No.6 and floodlights for two courts were put in.
The bowling green, squash courts, tennis courts, cricket pitch and playing fields have all received the regular attention needed to maintain the highest standards and to ensure that the Mombasa Sports Club can continue to offer the best all round range of sporting facilities in the Coast Province. A third squash court with a spectators’ gallery and glass backing is being built and promises to be the first of its kind on the Coast. An ambitious scheme for a swimming pool complex is planned for 1996/7 and after 2005, when the land now being used by the police reverts to the Club. There are hopes for a new rugby pitch as at present football and rugby has to share one ground.
The social side of the Club has continued to be very active. For many years the New Year’s Eve party was the best attended in town as it was less formal than the rival Mombasa Club function which generally attracted a more staid and elderly clientele. Recently, however, competition from the increasing number of beach hotels and discotheques has taken its toll. The annual Rugby Ball is a major social event at the Club and a successful “Sportsman’s Ball” has been held for the last two years. Children’s Christmas parties are still held every year and the Diwali celebrations in November are always very colorful with saree and firework displays. Friday evening open nights draw large crowds and are very popular family occasions when members with their children can come and sit out on the cricket pitch to enjoy chicken tikka and samosas cooked by Dilawars Barbecue. The monthly draw is also held on Fridays and has on occasions been combined with bingo games to pull in extra funds for the club. A film evening is usually held on Sundays and members can use the roof terrace of the lounge for in-house functions.
In 1973 the Club introduced two new prizes, aimed at encouraging and rewarding sporting excellence amongst members. These were the sportsman and sportswoman of the year awards. The chairman has the responsibility of nominating the candidates who must either have represented the Club in an outstanding performance during the year or have shown all round sporting ability or dedication. For several years after the l’ nomination of the brilliant cricket and tennis player Aasif Karim in 1981, there seemed no-one worthy of the title but in the 1990s there was a revival with Julie Stonestreet who did so much for women’s hockey being given the award in 1994. K.P. Shah was named sportsman of the year for his winning performance at bowls in 1994 and Vimal Shah was made 1995 sportsman of the year for his contribution to squash.
1981 saw the end of an era when finally the Men’s Bar was persuaded, reluctantly, to admit women. George Wilson remembers clearly what happened. Percy Coulter a former chairman (1963), a stickler for tradition and one of the oldest members still using the Club at that time, had held out with determination against women being allowed into the Men ,S Bar. But finally even he was defeated and he accepted his defeat gracefully! He moved from his usual seat in the comer of the Men’s Bar and was next seen holding court surrounded by women at the Lounge Bar.
Beyond: The Millenia
Dr Charlie Patel, who has been a member since 1964, says many rules have been done away since he joined and that nowadays the atmosphere of the Club is much more relaxed than it used to be. When he first joined, children were only allowed into the playground area and certainly did not have the freedom of the Club as they do now and there were much stricter dress regulations. There are many more social members than there used to be, which is becoming a slight problem for the Club as the average age of members has increased making it difficult to field strong teams, particularly in some of the field sports. The football section is one area that has suffered in the face of strong competition from other clubs, and the men’s hockey team no longer has the caliber of players it used to have. On the other hand, women’s hockey has recently made a big come-back and rugby has also gained a new lease on life. The cricket, tennis and squash sections continue to contain players of a high standard, while the bowls and bridge sections contain some outstanding players who have fared well at international levels.
These days younger players, often children of long term members, are particularly encouraged and many have done exceptionally well from the training they first received at a young age at the Mombasa Sports Club. In this category mention should be made of one or two former bellboys in the tennis section who have benefited from generous sponsorship and ended up good players doing well in national competitions, with career prospects.
There is no doubt that the Mombasa Sports Club is continuing to hold its own as a cornerstone of Mombasa’s sporting and social life. It has managed to remain financially buoyant throughout the one hundred years of its existence, no mean achievement, and has been successful in bringing the pleasure of participating in sport to a larger section of society. From its inception the Club has been in the forefront of introducing new sports to the country and has provided the early training ground for several of the country’s most talented players, especially in the fields of cricket and tennis. It is to be hoped that the first one hundred years of Mombasa Sports Club is only a beginning and that the second will produce even more glorious results.