• I really wish they just developed football for the sake of football and for the sake of prosperity of our youth who depend on the sport — Oluoch.
• Oguda concurs that Fifa funds are largely for development purposes and improving the condition of the women’s game.
The phrase: “I am vying to take Kenyan football to the next level” is an all too familiar rhetoric when Football Kenya Federation elections are on the horizon.
This and an assortment of candidates all with promises of bringing in sponsorships to the sport are ubiquitous combinations in every election cycle.
The only thing the aspirants usually agree on is that ‘there is no money in football’ yet still use hundreds of thousands if not millions to do ‘the charity work of resuscitating football’.
Kenya Premier League Chief Executive Jack Oguda, whose organisation has been at loggerheads with the Nick Mwendwa-led FKF over a myriad of issues, says the cut-throat pursuit of votes eventually brings division up and down the football pecking order.
“In every election year, there is usually divisive politics. The top tier clubs form a big part and possibly influential position. The downside is that the clubs are members of the federation but when it comes to an election year, they are seen or portrayed as outsiders who are trying to fight the federation,” he rues.
For former Commissioner of Sports Gordon Oluoch, a sports administrator for the last three decades, football is only a stepping stone for leadership roles in other fields not least politics.
“While it is the democratic right for anyone to vie for any elective position, in Kenya and indeed across the world, many seek positions as a stepping stone to other destinations, particularly political positions and that is the unfortunate part,” remarks Oluoch.
“I really wish they just developed football for the sake of football and for the sake of prosperity of our youth who depend on the sport.”
Oluoch further alluded to the clout and control of immense resources that come with being a top-level football administrator as the reason for the no-holds-barred battle for seats. He said that football being a leading sport in Kenya the head of the federation enjoys unparalleled respect and influence beyond the sport’s sphere.
“Even though they are not supposed to be on a salary, we all know that they have handsome perks and privileges. They have full access to international tournaments that come with handsome allowances. It’s no wonder that leaders of CAF or Fifa are extremely wealthy persons,” the former Sports Commissioner asserts.
Former federation bosses Alfred Sambu, Peter Kenneth, Joab Omino as well as club officials like AFC Leopards former chairman Alex Ole Magelo gained instant recognition handing them easy paths to political positions.
However, George Onyango, who was elected the chairman of the FKF Nairobi East branch before the Sports Disputes Tribunal under the leadership of John Ohaga voided the process, said that football administration and politics are intertwined.
“Football is political and you cannot disassociate the two, that’s why others use the sport as a springboard to achieve political ambitions. FKF presidency also gives the bearer of the seat much publicity in the nation,” says Onyango.
With accusations that most aspirants seek leadership roles in football so that they can dip their fingers in the proverbial cookie jar, Onyango, a long-serving official in Nairobi and patron of Mbotela Kamaliza — a fourth-tier side — said that could not be further from the truth.
“Fifa and Caf grants are largely meant for administrative purposes while the rest are meant for capacity building programmes such as coaching courses, youth and women football development programmes,” he says.
Oguda concurs that Fifa funds are largely for development purposes and improving the condition of the women’s game.
“I cannot comment much on grants as it has never helped any men’s league from top to bottom but supports women football. The funds should help in youth development, coaching and refereeing, mainly. Football is a popular game but unfortunately, some people have used the game to escalate to politics,” he concludes.
On his part, Oluoch challenged football stakeholders — players, clubs, elected officials, government and parents to ensure accountability.
“Football is the richest sport potentially in Kenya. They should not be even going around with a begging bowl. They can be able to generate their own money from the private sector as sponsors since it is the most popular sport; if only they market it well,” notes Oluoch.
“It is for the stakeholders to insist on accountability so that every shilling can be accounted for whether it comes from Fifa, government or sponsors. Then, in that case, you will find that youth and women football will be developed and all that national teams will have at their disposal the best talent Kenya can offer.”
Unlike in developed countries, the government of Kenya play a role in the management of sports that is not limited to policymaking. Sometimes this puts them in a collision course with Fifa, who are always quick to play the interference card, particularly when the government seeks to assert its authority in the management of football.
“The government’s role is crucial since national teams are fully-funded by the government to necessitate international representation and also infrastructure programmes like the construction of stadia and other programmes deemed fit for football development in the country. Onyango says.
Oguda, on his part, challenged the government to ensure that infrastructure is available for the various sporting disciplines and some support through Sports Fund for the various national teams.
Nyayo Stadium which had been under renovation for nearly three years is close to completion while last week, Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed promised that Kipchoge Keino Stadium and Moi Stadium, Kisumu will be fully refurbished by August.
Oluoch, who has the inside knowledge of how the Ministry of Sports works, says that the Kenyan government, unlike countries like the United States, has gone beyond its mandate of making policies and providing enabling environment for sports to thrive.
“The Kenyan government has been very kind to football. When Harambee Stars qualified for 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, they received a whopping Sh244 million from the government for that purpose,” he observes.
“We also know that over the past five years football has received a lot of financial support from the government more than any other sports federation.”
He also noted that when the Federation wants to host a continental or international tournament, the government’s support is vital.
Youth football pioneer and coach Bob Oyugi reiterated the importance of embracing the CAF/Fifa philosophy on grassroots Football.
“African federations are encouraged on grassroots initiatives in order to have more youths, girls/boys to develop their talents by playing and training,” he says.
He advised the football federation from the bottom up to engage stakeholders like academies, Non-Governmental Organisations, Ministry of Education and continue cooperation with the National Olympic Committee and other sports associations like Kenya Football Coaches Association (Kefoca), Kenya Football Referees Association (KFRA), Ministry of Health.
“FKF should take the lead in building solid relations with government ministries, communities and other organs, in addition to compliance with the laws of the land, for feasible football development projects,” he concludes.