The State of Football in Kenya by Nancy Kamau

Image credit: tl.kozzi.com
Image credit: tl.kozzi.com

Wrangles, incompetence, mismanagement and corruption is what describes the state of football in Kenya.

A promising future back in the year 2003, when Dennis Oliech led the Harambee Stars into the African cup of nations 2004 is the closest Kenya has come close to a world cup qualifier. During the period, only Morocco tallied more points than the stars in the qualifications.  Kenya became the envy of the region’s football. (Football in Kenya, 2015)

More than a decade later, squabbles within the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) have ruined the national team and football in the country.  Kenya was at one point banned from international football by FIFA until they resolved football management.  When the ban was lifted, there was joy for the fans under Francis Kimanzi during world cup/AFCON qualifiers but, as always, everything collapsed sensationally after Kimanzi’s controversial sacking despite taking Kenya to its highest ever ranking.

The federation has also always focused on the senior men’s team neglecting the aspiring young teams. This was evident when the under-20 women’s team story was highlighted for lack of decent accommodation and a team bus.

Every county should have a football talent academy to tap into the football talents for the young aspiring footballers.  This will stop losing generation after generation of male and female players to drugs and alcoholism.  The academies would make it easy and better for squad selection among the youth sides and within five years Kenya would see dramatic improvement. Proof of this is with Zambia, where legendary youth trainer Horst Wein camped in the country a few years back and in 2012 their project came to realization. Kenya can also borrow a leaf from Brazil and USA which have sent a team to every category world cup in the last decade.

Federation chairman Sam Nyamweya has in the past interfered with elections and management of the FKF.  He has also hired non-delivering foreign managers instead of training local coaches.  Currently there is only one coach with a UEFA ‘B’ license. The latest foreign coach, Bob Williamson led Harambee stars to a 1-0 victory over the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde in the recent first-leg match of the 2018 World Cup Qualifier at the Nyayo National Stadium recently. What followed however was a row between the Football Kenya Federation and the players over unpaid training allowances amounting to millions of shillings, as well as air ticket refunds stretching back to July.  This had a potential impact since the players planned to boycott travelling to Cape Verde for a return match.

Another huge setback that has hampered the country football is lack of infrastructure. The existing ones do not have good pitches, good stands for spectators, and decent changing rooms. The only big stadia are concentrated in Nairobi with none in Mombasa and Kisumu; the second and third major cities in the country respectively. (Football in Kenya, 2015)

Politics have been on the center stage.  A few years back, the sports ministry forced the cancelling of naming rights to the Nyayo stadium by the Coca-Cola Company who wanted to upgrade the stadium to international standards.  Instead, a lesser lucrative deal was signed off which was not of much benefit to the nation and the football fraternity.

Popular football clubs in the country are losing substantial revenue to crooks who sell counterfeit merchandise. According to George Bwana, the club’s secretary general, numerous outlets in the city sell the club-branded items without the club receiving a cent. The club has however been able to patent their logo and by law anyone using it without their consent will be violating a right.

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