Fifa suspension offers Kenya great opportunity to rethink and rebuild

Harambee Stars’ Captain Michael Olunga celebrates his goal with Joseph Okumu and Richard Odada during the FIFA World Cup qualifiers second round at the Nyayo National Stadium on Monday, Nov 15, 2021. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

It has been a hectic week for the world, and more so Kenyans who do not know what to get enraged over as there were so many events that could get their collective goat.

Local politicians, as usual, have been annoying and exciting them in equal measure and more often than not, leaving them more confused.

It can be argued that it is the excitement that makes Kenyans elect politicians who never keep their promises, or those who fleece them in broad daylight.

Ideally, when it comes to voting, we are not the sharpest tool in the shed, and that is how we end up with people whose acts annoy us even as they divide us and leave us talking at cross-purposes.

In a sentence, we are not good voters, and the results of our poor decisions are seen in all sectors of the economy and spheres of life including sports, and more so football where we are at the bottom of the pile.

This week, our poor decision making came back to bite us when the world football governing body, Fifa, suspended Kenyan from all international football activities.

Government interference in the activities of the Football Kenya Federation is what annoyed Fifa because late last year, the federation was disbanded and replaced by a Caretaker Committee.

Fifa wants the Sports ministry to rescind that decision — ideally to disband the committee it appointed and return footballing affairs to the federation.

The disbandment of the federation, just like the suspension by Fifa, was expected.

It was just a matter of when, not if, for, everything football was going in only one direction: down.

But the FKF officials did not see it that way. They were on top of their game they said, and there are Kenyans who were on the same pitch with them yet their poor results were visible all over the world.

They had a raft of excuses and one that they have continued to bandy about is that a suspension by Fifa will kill Kenyan football, thus, they need to remain in office.

That is sad, and at the same time laughable because they had the time and the goodwill, to resuscitate Kenyan football but they continued smothering it, and, it can be argued that by disbanding the federation, the government stopped them from killing and completely burying Kenyan football.

It is not a lie that the government itself has not been fair to Kenyan athletes in the wider sense of the word, and to sports generally, but the move to disband the federation earned it some praise.

However, those who felt that the federation was on the right track, were not amused — not because they love Kenyan football, but because their selfish interests and underhand deals were coming to an end.

The aim was to bring back sanity in the Kenyan game, a thing that has eluded successive administrations of the federation because they run it like a personal outfit.

The narrative that a Fifa suspension will lead to misery among footballers is a myth, for, footballers in Kenya know nothing but sufferance, and they are encouraged to embrace it.

It is an open secret that federation officials do not give much consideration to the welfare of players, both at club and national team levels.

Well, it is the responsibility of the clubs to take care of their players, but the federation is the final authority, thus, it should give direction, and not throw tantrums when taken to task over the welfare of footballers countrywide.

Funds that are meant to be used uplift the game at all levels are largely misappropriated what with the few sponsorship deals getting signed in the dark and kept under a shroud of secrecy till they abruptly come to an end.

Well-meaning sponsors who want to come on board, above board, are not welcome because they will want value for their money, and will not sign underhand deals because they have brands to protect.

Sadly, Kenyan football is run by greedy and shameless people who not only live in the past and do not understand sports management in a modern world, but are not intellectually sophisticated to understand that there is more to the game than what goes on in the pitch.

Even though the government itself fumbles and bumbles most of the time as far as sports is concerned, the disbanded federation needed to take a break because it was not any different from the office it replaced.

While the Fifa suspension will cause heartaches and delay career progression of young talent and even older players, it offers Kenya a chance to rethink on how to rebuild and inject new thinking in to Kenyan football.

And no matter how bad things get during the period Kenya is suspended, they can never be worse than how they were during the reign of the disbanded federation. That was the lowest of the low.