The beautiful game is weathering some dark forces out to fuel disrepute in form of fixing matches for a few pieces of silver. Last week, police arrested three suspects who are alleged to have tried to bribe several Nairobi City Stars players so as to influence results in their game with Sofapaka.
The players had been promised Sh1.8 million to fix the match, but they exposed the scheme by reporting to their club CEO and the authorities. This demonstrates a high level of integrity among players, who are most likely not earning well currently, but respect the game and fair competition.
The club officials and the police took the right action to expose the cheats by arresting and charging them in a court of law. Football insiders opine that match fixing has been a long running menace in the sport. They say corrupt individuals have been enticing players and some club officials with money to fix certain matches.
This not only hurts the Kenyan Premier League financially, but also lows the quality of Kenyan football. This vice stifles potential talent among our youth and puts into question quality of our league among international scouts.
Should it become prevalent, global talent scouts will black list our football talents and block them from breaking into the professionally paid leagues. This is because big football clubs adhere to strict rules under Fifa where match fixing or anything untoward is punished heavily. A club or player caught up in a match fixing scandal can be banned for life.
Match fixing could also be a conduit for betting firms to put the game into further disrepute. In the past, criminals have infiltrated the game and held players into ransom thereby destroying their promising playing careers. We must not let this happen.
That is why Parliament should enact laws to curb match fixing in football. Currently, suspects are arrested and charged with 'lesser crimes' and mostly get a slap on the wrist with a cheap fine. This hardly deters the dishonest individuals from the crime.
Vigilant clubs, players and an honest Football Kenya Federation (FKF) will need more punitive laws to root out match fixers. Today, the criminals know they can get away with the vice easily even if they are taken through the justice system.
Just as the authorities are putting in measures to curb doping in sports, they must now face the match fixing challenge in football. Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba should initiate the drafting of a Bill to fight matching fixing in Kenyan football. He and FKF could borrow a leaf from other footballing nations on how to deal with match fixing once and for all. That should be the least of our problems in the beautiful game even as we lure fans back into the stadiums.
This will also safeguard the quality of competition in the leagues and create a conducive environment to nurture football talents.