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Did the marriage of politics and football cost Nick Mwendwa his stay at Kandanda House?

NATIONAL
By Mutwiri Mutuota | December 3rd 2021

Former Football Kenya Federation (FKF) President Nick Mwendwa. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Football and politics are a marriage of convenience, not necessarily choice. 

Politics govern how resources and status are distributed among societies worldwide while football or soccer to the Americans has grown to be the greatest opiate of the masses known to man. 

How often have we heard the old adage that sports and politics should not mix? Or specifically, the widely cited world body Fifa Statutes that forbid “government interference” in the management of its Member Associations (football federations).

In reality, such a notion is a fallacy.

According to Miller (2016), “Football also offers a unique space for the public performance of identity, both for hegemonic groups attempting to demarcate normative cultural values, and alternative and diasporic groups who use football to critique the status quo and celebrate their alterity.”

It is common knowledge the ultimate fall of powerful world governing body Fifa President, Sepp Blatter in 2015 was brought about by the politics surrounding the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

United States, one of the bidders and the self-proclaimed leader of the free world, felt aggrieved that their bid to host the 2020 World Cup was undercut by the corrupt practises in Zurich under Blatter where vote-buying to award the Mundial was rife.

To hit back, the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and Inland Revenue Service (IRS) wired former Fifa ExCo member, the late Chuck Blazer and secretly recorded key meetings between executives for Fifa and the 2012 Summer Olympics.

The damning FBI and IRS recordings proved to be the final piece of the jigsaw that saw several high-ranking Fifa officials arrested in Zurich, on May 27, 2025 with Blazer having been a key cooperating witness in the investigation that led to the dramatic swoop.

By December of that year, Blatter was gone.

Perhaps to shield themselves from a similar purge in the future, Fifa under Blatter’s successor Gianni Infantino swiftly awarded the 2026 World Cup to a joint United States, Canada and Mexico bid.

Closer home, the government through the Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Amina Mohamed, disbanded the Nick Mwendwa-led Football Kenya Federation (FKF) and appointed a 15-member Caretaker Committee and a supporting secretariat of 12 to run local the game for six months.

The broad mandate for Justice (Rtd) Aaron Ringera, his caretaker team and secretariat is to chart a recovery path for the ailing Kenyan football. 

Justice (Rtd) Aaron Ringera. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

If all goes to plan, that will culminate with fresh elections to instal new management at Kandanda House. 

Amina’s move sparked raging debate that has split the country into pro and anti Mwendwa factions.

The ousted FKF boss was charged in Nairobi with others not before the court on Tuesday with four counts related to corruption and fraudulent acquisition of public property amounting to Sh38m allegedly taken from the federation’s coffers.

Unlike 2004 and 2006 when government action on errant federation officials attracted instantaneous Fifa suspensions, the world body has instead opted to dialogue with the sports ministry.

It is not lost to most that Fifa, possibly scarred by the 2015 mega scandal as well as fresh corruption investigations facing Infantino, is no longer keen to flex muscle against governments when they act on ethical grounds against FAs. 

They too are fighting to prove to the world that the Fifa reform agenda remains on course.

It has now come full circle for the vocal man who surrendered his office after being freed on bail on Tuesday to his vice-president Doris Petra in a meek statement to give him time to battle his legal challenges.

He appears to have forgotten that he too was a beneficiary of the very state machinery he is now fighting.

Back in February 2016, the youthful Mwendwa and his “Team Change” swept to power following government intervention after his predecessor, Sam Nyamweya, was accused of dipping into State coffers.

Former Sports Cabinet Secretary, Hassan Wario, was on the floor of the auditorium to make sure that the then “friend” of the State was sworn in as the first item of the 2016 FKF elections.

It marked the first time in Kenyan football elections history that the overall boss was voted in before other ExCo positions had been filled.

Former Sports Cabinet Secretary, Hassan Wario. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Wario then left Kasarani for Sagana where President Uhuru Kenyatta was holding a Cabinet retreat to personally deliver the report.

Nyamweya quietly left the scene without much of a fight because as a seasoned politician since the days of Youth for Kanu 92’, he knew fighting the State was an exercise in futility. 

Mwendwa then made further history in December 2020 when he became the first local football chief in three decades to retain his position.

It was a silent vote of confidence from the government but as the disquiet over his leadership mounted, crucially, the Kenyan political landscape was fast shifting. 

Nyamweya and those who led the defunct Kenya Football Federation before him including the late Mohamed Hatimy, Alfred Sambu, the late Maina Kariuki and Peter Kenneth lasted for single terms. 

You have to go back to the late Joab Omino (1984 to 1996) to find the last two-term Kenya football chief but even he was forced to go when he got into headwinds with President Daniel Moi’s administration over hosting the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations.

Lord Acton, a British historian of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries famously said; “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

That’s a lesson Nick Kithuku Mwendwa failed to heed as he ran roughshod over Kenyan football since February 2016.

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