More pain for Kenya as Fifa ratifies suspension

Harambee Stars Midfielder Kenneth Muguna reacts after his goal was denied for offside during their friendly encounter at Nyayo National Stadium on March 15, 2021. [Kelly Ayodi, Standard]

For how long will Kenyan football remain in limbo?

In their 72nd Fifa Congress in Doha, Qatar, the world football governing body ratified Football Kenya Federation’s indefinite suspension from all international football activities.

Zimbabwe and Pakistan are the other countries that were suspended indefinitely during the meeting which was chaired by Fifa president Gianni Infantino.

This means, Kenyan referees, players, instructors, clubs and national teams —Harambee Stars and Harambee Starlets—will remain in the cold with FKF members/officials not benefitting from any development programmes, courses or training from the Confederation of African Football (CAF)/Fifa until such a time when the government meets the conditions initially set by Fifa during a council meeting on February 24.

While announcing the suspension in February, Fifa Secretary General Fatma Samoura, said that Kenya will only be readmitted after the government revokes the appointment of the Caretaker Committee and reopens the doors for the federation’s secretariat at Goal Project, Kasarani.

According to Fifa, the decision to suspend Kenya was reached after terming the Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed’s act to disband FKF as government interference.

The Sports CS disbanded FKF on November 11, 2021 over allegations of misappropriation of funds and installed a Caretaker Committee to manage football affairs for a period of six months.

Following Thursday’s (today) ratification, Kenya’s case has been referred back to the Bureau Council who will lift the suspension only if the initially set conditions are met.

The decision comes barely five days after FKF delegates revoked National Executive Committee’s (NEC) mandate during a Special General Meeting in Nairobi.

But with 198 members having voted for Kenya’s suspension against only one that opposed it, Kenyans will now have to pay the price for the suspension as it will have implications on the development of the game in the country.

Apart from Harambee Stars and Harambee Starlets being locked out of the Confederation of African Football (CAF)/Fifa competitions, Kenyan teams have also been barred from competing in age-restricted and international club tournaments.

Harambee Stars will not feature in the upcoming 2023 AFCON qualifiers set to kick off on June 23, 2022, while the winners of this season’s FKF Premier League will not participate in the Champions League.

Harambee Starlets and Kenya U17 women’s team were recently omitted from the fixtures of the 2022 African Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) qualifiers and 2022 African U-17 Women’s World Cup Qualifying Tournament respectively.

During the period of suspension, Kenyan players will not be able to join foreign clubs and both the relegation and promotion in the FKF Premier League will not be recognised by CAF/Fifa.

Moreso, Fifa-accredited referees like Peter Waweru, Mary Njoroge and Gilbert Cheruiyot are likely to miss out on appointments for big tournaments this year including the World Cup in Qatar. In addition, no players’ transfers both locally and globally will be approved during the time of suspension as there is no federation to issue International Transfer Certificates (ITC).

Even though the ratification of Kenya’s suspension has generated mixed reactions, most stakeholders have called for dialogue between the government and the disbanded FKF.

“From the Fifa Congress decision, it seems there has been no communication between the government and Fifa. The only solution to the current impasse is for both the government and FKF officials to sit down and talk. I feel there is fear and suspicion from both the government and FKF. I wish we had a mediator to convene a meeting between the two parties,” retired Fifa referee Alfred Ndinya told Standard Sports.

“I feel sorry for some of our referees who had chances of officiating at the World Cup. Since we are still in a limbo, their dreams are almost being shattered.”

Former FKF Secretary General Lordvick Aduda said the suspension has been ratified because none of the set conditions by Fifa has been met.

“The suspension has been ratified because none of the set conditions by Fifa has been met; the FKF office has not been reopened and the Caretaker Committee is still running the game.

“It would have been a different ball game if we had been banned, but the ball is now in the government and FKF’s court.  For the sake of the Kenyan football, everybody should move away from being hardliners and talk to each other.  If we don’t sit down and talk before the CC’s term expires on May 11, we will be in for more chaos and confusion because there will be a vacuum.”

For former FKF president Sam Nyamweya and a team of FKF presidential aspirants led by Twaha Mbarak, Sammy Sholei and Milton Nyakundi, Caretaker Committee appears to have failed its mandate.

“But while we had hoped that the Caretaker Committee was going to streamline the running of the game and give the way forward, this has not been the case and as it stands now, there is more confusion the game as it was before,” said Nyamweya.

“We, like millions of Kenyans including the appointing authority, had the confidence that the Caretaker Committee was competent and upto the task and whereas that confidence has not been eroded, several issues are premise of serious concerns about the Caretaker Committee being able to execute its mandate,” added Mbarak, Sholei and Nyakundi in a joint signed statement.