Nick: We will do our best to fight match fixing menace
FKF boss shares his highs and lows as he marks three years in office.
When Nick Mwendwa ran for the Football Kenya Federation presidency in 2016, his campaign slogan was “Team Change.” And three years later, the information technology expert feels he has brought the needed change in the beautiful game.
Mwendwa spoke to Standard Sports about his achievements and challenges after celebrating his third anniversary last week.
How can you describe your first three years in office?
I ran on the platform of change and we have actualised things that many people thought to be unrealistic. We have moved on from the mediocrity of the past to make Kenya a footballing nation again. Though it hasn’t been smooth, I’m so far pleased with where we are now. Apart from a few funding and financing challenges, I think we have surpassed our expectations.
What are your greatest achievements so far?
That has to be structure and the order we brought back into the game. I don’t want to talk about Harambee Stars’ Afcon and Starlets’ Awcon qualifications because those are consequences of order and good structure. I think we have done very well in those two areas.
What challenges have your administration faced?
We inherited an office with an estimated debt of Sh200 million. We have managed so far to reduce the debt substantially and hope to clear all the outstanding debts by the end of the year. Those were bad debts occasioned by bad decisions. We even have coaches who have taken us to court over termination of contracts.
You were recently in Lausanne, Switzerland for the hearing of former Harambee Stars coach Adel Amrouche’s compensation case. What transpired?
I was there with our lawyers to make an oral defense of the Amrouche Adel case. Unfortunately, the case is still on because both parties failed to agree. We feel that since Amrouche was by then serving a Caf suspension, it’s unfair for Fifa’s Player Status Committee to award him Sh60 million in compensation. We will pay as ordered, but we are trying to see if the amount can be reduced.
What legacy would you want to leave?
I want to create a conveyor belt. We have changed the way football is conducted generally, in the simplest way. I want to leave a youthful structure and ecosystem in place, that will see our national team qualify for as many Afcon finals as possible. I believe this is achievable if politics don't interfere with the game. The success we are enjoying today is mainly because we have not had any interference.
What are Harambee Stars' chances at the 2019 AFCON finals in Egypt?
With good preparation and based on our ability, I think we can go past the group stages. This is a knock-out tournament and anything is possible. But I’m happy we have qualified and we shouldn’t exert unnecessary pressure on the team.
How much does Harambee Stars need to adequately prepare for the tournament?
We have submitted a budget of Sh200 million heading into Afcon. The money is for the senior team’s preparation, as well as the U23 team competing in the Olympics qualifiers. We intend to camp in France for three weeks and two weeks in North Africa. I was in France recently to check on where the team can camp.
You had a frosty relationship with the Kenyan Premier League in your first two years in office. Will the federation renew their contract when it expires in September 2020?
I don’t know if that will be the end of KPL, but the fact is this entity cannot run the way it is today. It will be the job of members to decide what happens to the league when KPL’s contract expires. We don’t want to have a revolving chairmanship at KPL. We want to have a chairman who is elected just like the FKF president with an executive to run the league.
Do you think club licensing is successful so far?
I think it has brought a lot of positive things in the Kenyan football. When a club has a technical director, a youth team, bank accounts and financial statements that tells you how they spend their money, that is a progress. Whether they are at their best or not, we are heading in the right direction.
Why are you seeking re-election?
I challenge Kenyans to show me a president who has performed better than me, at least when I’m alive. I don’t know about the likes of Kenneth Matiba, but I hear they did some stuff. For the first time in many years, the world and Africa is paying a lot of attention to Kenya.
WOULDN'T you not be contravening the Sports Act and the new constitution when you seek re-election?
The Sports Act came into effect when I was already in office. We changed our constitution to conform to it. You can’t change it to go backwards. I want people to understand that I’m eligible for two terms and I will not be violating any law.
You promised a minimum wage bill for KPL players during campaign. What happened?
It is a complex issue because the revenue going into KPL has not increased. Clubs are getting Sh250,000 from KPL a month, how can I ask a chairman to implement the wage bill with such revenue. It would be unfair. But once more money comes into KPL, we will quickly pass the minimum wage bill.
What’s the motivating factor for Harambee Stars players going to AFCON?
I think the Sh50 million promise by the government is great motivation for the players. We will have a situation where if they get to a certain level in the tournament, the government will pay more. That’s the promise the Deputy President and Cabinet secretary made to the players. I believe there will be proper incentives for good performance.
With the return of Dennis Oliech in the Kenyan Premier League, do you think he has a chance to make THE AFCON SQUAD?
I really don’t know. I don’t know his level of play, but the coach said he’s been looking at him. I believe the coach is best placed to answer that. I’m also waiting to hear from him. If he makes the decision that Dennis will be in his final 23-man squad, we will go by it. It’s his call.
What is the federation doing to address the issues of match fixing in the country?
Match fixing is a phenomenal problem, not only affecting Kenya, but the whole world. George Otieno’s case happened in 2009 when we were not in office. But the fact remains this is a syndicate that runs across the world. We cannot fight this vice alone; we have to partner with other stakeholders to fight it as we educate players.
There has been uproar over poor officiating, both in KPL and National Super League. What’s the federation doing to address this?
The issue we have at the NSL is that we owe the referees over Sh3.8 million, for obvious reasons. We have been using the money from the NSL sponsors to pay referees, when that money delays they don’t get paid. I understand that when referees don’t receive money, they might get compromised. But we will pay them.
At KPL, we don’t have a refereeing crisis. Can you point out specific decisions that have been wanting or suspicious in KPL? In the AFC Leopards game for instance, they conceded one goal. Where were they for 90 minutes? The referee didn't make any mistake throughout the game. But the club assumed he made one mistake in one minute.
what about acts of hooliganism that seem to be coming back to the game?
In 2016, we deducted points from some clubs. It was demanded and we acted on it. But it seems hooliganism is rearing its ugly head again. We are waiting for the Independent Disciplinary and Complaints Committee (IDCC) to make a ruling. The problem we have with the current IDCC is that they don’t sit for over two months and when they make a ruling, it affects the whole league. But we will also continue educating fans.
Is it true THAT an Outside Broadcasting van your federation purchased FOR Sh135 million from Multichoice has been repossessed?
As a federation, we wouldn’t want to dignify these unfounded allegations by commenting on the issue. We are fully focused on our football development agenda and upcoming international engagements that include the 2019 Afcon, Chan, Olympic qualifiers, amongst others.
That notwithstanding, we have zero tolerance for corruption and welcome anyone with evidence touching on our integrity, be it real or imagined, to report the same to relevant authorities, instead of engaging in cheap propaganda aimed at tarnishing our otherwise impeccable reputation.
Lastly, when will the Harambee Starlets players get their outstanding allowances?
The problems we are having with coach Sebastian Migne over his payment are the same we are having with the women’s team's allowances. Actually, we used our own money and paid the girls Sh15,000 each. We will pay them the remaining Sh65,000 once the ministry disburses the money.
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