Kenyan football is almost back to normalcy if resolutions from yesterday’s meeting involving newly appointed Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba and Kenyan Premier League clubs’ bosses is anything to go by.
The CS and the clubs’ chairmen and CEOs officially kick-started the process of getting the country’s FA back to world football governing body, Fifa’s fold yesterday.
Kenya is currently serving a suspension that was imposed on Football Kenya Federation (FKF) by world football governing body, 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 period of 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.
On February 24, Fifa had asked 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. It’s literally been a wasted one year.
This forced the Zurich-based body to ratify FKF’s indefinite suspension from all international football activities during their 72nd Fifa Congress in Doha, Qatar on March 31.
The decision of Fifa to indefinitely suspend Kenya has had far reaching implications on the key stakeholders and development of the game with players, coaches, referees and club owners the biggest casualties.
From national teams (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, the 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 period of suspension, both the relegation and promotion in the FKF Premier League will not be recognised by CAF/Fifa.
But yesterday after meeting 20 KPL chairpersons at the Kenya National Library Service, Namwamba said that he had spoken to Fifa ‘over five times’ since succeeding Amina on Friday in a bid to resolve the standoff.
“I want to thank these leaders for finding the time to come and being very open-minded in the consultations that we have held. I want to tell Kenyans and assure lovers of football that this conversation is the first of many and is only the beginning of us making football bigger and better,” said Namwamba.
“I also want to make it public that since I took office last Friday, I have been in consultations with the widest spectrum of stakeholders in this area. I have also been constantly on phone with Fifa, indeed I have spoken to Fifa five times already and I will be on phone with them again after this press conference.
“My conversation with Fifa has been about finding a consensual resolution to the impasse that has hindered the return of Kenyan football to normal and specifically, lifting the ban. I believe the conversation that I have had with the chairmen and leaders of football clubs this afternoon is a big step towards concluding the consultations we have with Fifa.”
And the clubs’ officials led by Gor Mahia boss Ambrose Rachier urged Namwamba to move with speed and meet Fifa’s demands so that the suspension can be lifted.
“We as the Kenyan Premier League clubs thank Sports CS Ababu Namwamba for inviting us and giving us the opportunity to deliberate on matters of football and in particular the way forward as far as the league is concerned,” said Rachier.
“We having met under his wise leadership, and subsequently then meeting on our own, we have resolved that the demands and conditions laid down by Fifa in their letter of February 24 2022 be complied with to the extent that the vice president of the federation be restored.”
He continued: “Secondly, the secretariat at Kandanda House be opened and the head of the secretariat Barry Otieno to be restored so that the football fixtures can be planned.
“The league should start immediately after the restoration has been done and that this communication be made to Fifa immediately so that we can take advantage of the decisions that need to be made before the commencement of the World Cup in Qatar.”
Namwamba said he is ready to listen to all football stakeholders as he aims to bring normalcy back to the country.
“This is an important moment in Kenyan football because it’s pretty much the start of a new era, a new era of consultation and consensual decision making where the voice of everybody matters. If there have been days of arbitrary decision making, ignoring the voice of key stakeholders, those days are gone and are behind us now,” said Namwamba.
“We have resolved and we now want to move forward together. Football is too important to be messed up. We’ve taken cognizant of the fact that we are bound to build sports in this country into a mega industry. An industry that can provide sustainable livelihood to the people of this country.
“And therefore, I’m just giving assurance to football lovers that football is on its way back. But it’s not just about the league resuming, for us it’s about asking sponsors to come back to Kenyan football. I will be working closely with all these (clubs’ officials) to give confidence to sponsors of football that we want you back and work with you to raise the bar of our football.”
He added: “The chairmen came here to offer their advice, the government has listened to it and the government is going to put this advice together with advice and opinions we have listened from other stakeholders and communicate with Fifa.
“The immediate effect is that we are communicating with Fifa and the steps that follow including the re-opening of the secretariat is a decision now between the government and Fifa because Fifa has to give a greenlight. Once Fifa gives a greenlight, things will move as agreed.
“As the government we know what to do, we have already talked to key stakeholders and we are now ready to abide by the Fifa demands. “
The clubs’ officials further requested the Sports CS to adopt the recommendations by the Fifa Council that the CS should repeal the decision of November 11 2021 which appointed the caretaker committee in lieu of the elected FKF Executive Committee.
And for Sofapaka chairman Elly Kalekwa, AFC Leopards’ Dan Shikanda, Kakamega Homeboyz’ Cleophas Shimanyula, Police’s Chris Oguso and Nzoia Sugar’s Evans Kadenge, the new Sports CS will help to restore Kenya’s lost glory in football.
They all feel the current situation could have been avoided if the former CS had consulted the stakeholders.
“We are grateful to have a CS who understands sports and loves football. We have unanimously agreed to reinstate the federation and the secretariat reopened. We are more than excited because we will no longer be playing friendly matches again,” said Kalekwa.
“Right now Kenyans have hope and football is back and there’s now going to be a good working relationship between the ministry and the federation.”
Oguso said: “I thank CS Ababu for giving us an opportunity to meet and listen to us. Compared to the last regime we didn’t meet the former CS because brokers blocked us. We had a fruitful meeting with him and we have agreed to meet again later to streamline matters relating to football in this country.”