Ababu Namwamba on track to resolve the football standoff

Sports CS Ababu Namwamba. [Jonah Onyango, Standard, Standard]

Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba should not relent on his quest to clean up the mess in Kenyan football. The CS has indicated willingness to engage world football governing body, Fifa, and local stakeholders on the ban.

For nearly a year, football has been relegated to boardrooms and, by extension, watching foreign leagues on TV. But a window of hope has illuminated our beautiful game thanks to Ababu’s swift move. We expect normalcy to resume if the resolutions from Thursday’s meeting with Kenyan Premier League clubs are implemented immediately. Ababu started the process by engaging Fifa officials and bringing on board suspended Football Kenya Federation (FKF) officials.

Kenya is currently serving a suspension imposed on FKF by Fifa on March 31, citing government interference. This is after former Sports CS Amina Mohamed disbanded the Nick Mwendwa-led federation over allegations of misappropriation of funds and appointed a caretaker committee to run football affairs for a six months.

The caretaker was later transformed into a transition committee on June 17 with its term extended for another two months on August 15 before it elapsed on October 16. But there was nothing to write home about the committee. It’s literally been a wasted one year. On February 24, Fifa had asked Ms Amina to re-open the federation’s headquarters at Kandanda House and allow officials of the disbanded FKF back in office for them to be readmitted, but none has come to pass.

The decision to indefinitely suspend Kenya has had far reaching implications on key stakeholders and development of the game with players, coaches, referees and club owners being the biggest casualties. From Harambee Stars and Harambee Starlets, clubs and referees being locked out of international competitions, to delayed payment of referees’ salaries and disbursement of funds to clubs, match fixing allegations and clubs struggling financially, current state of Kenyan football is disheartening.

Apart from Harambee Stars and Harambee Starlets being locked out of Confederation of African Football/Fifa organised competitions, Fifa-accredited referees like Peter Waweru, Mary Njoroge and Gilbert Cheruiyot have all been snubbed by the world governing body for both the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and the recently concluded 2022 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) in Morocco.

During the suspension, both the relegation and promotion in the FKF Premier League will not be recognised by CAF/Fifa. Ababu has a huge football in-tray in bid to recover lost shine, wasted talent and income. He has to do enough house-cleaning and confront cartels to attract sponsorship. All football lovers and stakeholders should rally behind the new minister to resurrect our beautiful game.