Time to rebuild our football, on and off the pitch

Kenya international goalkeeper Patrick Matasi training at Kasarani Annex. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

This week, two major events happened on the Kenyan football scene with huge implications. First, suspended Football Kenya Federation president Nick Mwendwa was cleared of corruption charges involving Sh38 million and could be soon heading back to office.

Secondly, Harambee Stars played Iran under new coach Engin Firat and lost 2-1. The Turkish manager assured Kenyan fans that the team is on the right trajectory and that soon, the team will deliver the goods.

Now, Mwendwa stepped down in November last year after much drama and acrimony, with his deputy Doris Petra taking charge in acting capacity. As that was happening, world football governing body Fifa suspended Kenya from all international events. Fifa accused the government of interfering with the game, which is against the rules.

The Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji had taken Mwendwa to court over misappropriation of FKF funds. However, early this week, a Kiambu court cleared Mwendwa of all the charges saying the case was unfounded. This could open the door for Mwendwa's return to Kenyan football management.

And when Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba took over, he promised to engage Fifa and have Kenya's suspension lifted. And indeed, in February this year, Fifa lifted the ban. However, football stakeholders want the agreement between Fifa and the Sports ministry made public.

They opine that the agreement should be above board and not in any way meant to allow Mwendwa off the hook if indeed FKF monies were looted while he was at the helm. On this one, Mr Namwamba owes Kenyan football fans an explanation. Nobody should be allowed to siphon the federation's resources, while the players make nothing from the game.

That said, Kenyan fans must be elated with Harmabee Stars return to international football. It is in such matches that players get exposed and have a platform to showcase their talent. In such matches, football scouts get see prospective stars and sign them into lucrative leagues.

During a Fifa suspension, a country's talent is hidden and there is nothing players or their coaches can do to sign them into paid ranks. Therefore, there is everything to cheer for Harambee Stars friendly in Tehran, where Michael Olunga scored the solitary Kenyan goal.

After the match, there was understandable disappointment among Kenyan fans, with some alleging match fixing. But even as Kenyans crave success, they must give the new Turkish coach ample time to build the team. The players also need time to gel and form a healthy partnership on the pitch.

These are players who turn out for different clubs in and outside the country and only play together a few times when national duty calls. Therefore, it is prudent to support the team and cut negative vibe now. It is time to rebuild Kenyan football on and off the pitch.