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Kenyan soccer needs more tribalism

By BY ANIL BAKARI | November 18th 2013


KENYA: There is no doubt, Kenyans passionately love their tribes and their ancestral homes — and can kill for them.

This is the love that makes those holding political offices appoint their kinsmen into powerful positions in government, as insurance to their stay in power.

It also explains why hoteliers are laughing their way to the bank from themed ‘cultural nights’ where hundreds go to sample local delicacies and brews.

See, tribalism is paradoxically good. It is unlike its cancerous cousin called corruption. Sadly, Kenyans have only embraced the negative aspects of tribalism. 

Tribalism at best is loyalty to a social group. If you doubt the beauty of tribes in this sense, look no further than to the Kenya Premier League (KPL).

The two top clubs, AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia, are supported mainly by the Luhya and Luo communities, respectively. This explains their enviable success.

The clubs, thanks to their supporters, have helped raise the profile of KPL to the point that they are untouchables.


 They are the reason football authorities have been accused of bias. The two clubs are a handful since they riot during and after the match and the police are yet to rein in on their impunity.

Now, to push the stakes of KPL further and celebrate our tribes, For the Love of the Game strongly believes it is time other tribes came up with their own teams.

Three tribes come to mind immediately; Abagusii, the Akamba, and the Agikuyu. Don’t ask why I have left the Kalenjin out, despite their famed Cultural Night like other tribes. They have their place in athletics.

The three communities are passionate about football as the Luo or Luhyia. And passion is the key ingredient to spice up the local league.

The Kamba, I hear, want to adopt Sofapaka, which is a fair starting point. Let them support the club and come to the field to chant their traditional songs to counter AFC and Gor fans.


The Abagusii should revive the once mighty and indefatigable Shabana, which went to the dogs. Their energy, enthusiasm and passion are what the league has missed all over the years that shemeji derbies have taken place.

How a distinctly Agikuyu club is missing from KPL yet their leaders were at the forefront of Mau Mau rebellion is a phenomenon historians need to study.

There are many players in different clubs from the Central region who can string a team for the Central folks.

With clubs from different tribes joining the league, rivalry will go beyond the shemejis. Fans will throng stadiums in their numbers and players will start earning six figure salaries. In short, community clubs are the future of our football.

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