• Few except Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards have much of an identity, and that's locally
• The story has been of clubs stretching out their begging bowls in seeking assistance
A few years back, I asked a certain lecturer of mine why many Kenyans are obsessed with English Premier League teams. This was in the midst of a spate where young men were taking their lives in frustration after their favourite teams lost.
I was surprised and bemused as to why someone would commit suicide over another team thousands of kilometres away, yet we have the likes of Gor Mahia, AFC Leopards and others in the country.
However, my lecturer had a different point of view: These clubs are no longer English clubs but global brands that have won the hearts of millions worldwide thanks to their culture, which is exhibited on the field through entertaining football.
There in his reply lies the missing piece of the puzzle as to why our football teams remain confined to Kenyan borders. Save for Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards, local football teams are yet to cultivate an identity that remains steadfast throughout many generations.
Even for the Mashemeji clubs, they are yet to publicise themselves beyond Kenya and win many hearts across the African continent — at least for a start.
They should borrow a leaf from our next-door neighbours, Tanzanian giants Simba SC and Yanga, who have done a great job in spreading their tentacles across Africa thanks to their great exploits in continental football and vigorous marketing strategy. Thanks to this strategy, many local football enthusiasts are familiar with Haji Mnara, the director of communications at Yanga and formerly at Simba, their bitter rivals.
Whereas social media is a suitable platform for publicisation, local teams should also make an effort to connect with fans and prospective ones in person through various initiatives in the local community.
Throughout developed countries, football clubs are often involved in one way or another in furthering causes in their localities, including breast cancer month, fight against racism and financially donating to various causes, among others.
Back home, the story has been of clubs stretching out their begging bowls in seeking assistance to facilitate their activities. Rather than give a human face to these teams, such habits only push fans away, not forgetting potential sponsors.
Kenyan clubs need to learn from their peers elsewhere in the world on how to grow from local to megabrands. Doing things the same way and expecting the situation to change is a foolhardy strategy.
Edited by T Jalio