Kenya’s 2014 premier league season starts imminently and aside from the usual ins and out, there have been two moves, or rather two incidences of a move that have struck as different. Over the Sofapaka Football Club, Mathare United and Tusker FC will be opening the season in new locations. The formely Nairobi based, Mathare United, Sofapaka, a shifted base to Machakos , and Tusker set out to move to Meru. The Tusker Move not beingwithout its controversies. The Stadium move being stalled first of all by KPL declaring the proposed Kinoru Stadium venue unfit to host premier League matches, only for FKF to interfere and muddy the waters further
Why did these clubs make (or set out to make)there moves? This post won’t attempt to give a ‘comprehensive’ answer to this but here are some hypotheses. Firstly, Its likely the two clubs did this because of market forces. Over the part decade, Tusker and Sofapaka have between them won more trophies than pretty much everybody else in the Kenya Premier League, yet in hue crowded field of Nairobi football, hearts and minds still very much belong to to Ingwe and K’Ogalo.
What do these moves mean for Kenyan football? Without pretending to offer a ‘comprehensive’ answer here are a bunch of hypotheses that I figured come into play.
Firstly, the two clubs are seeking new markets to grow their brands. Tusker FC is the third most successful football club in Kenya outright, and in the past decade or so and could very well have closed out other teams in terms of success on the field had a revival of corporate interest in the tow big community clubs (AFC and Gor) not happened when it did. Yet what do they have to show in terms of a fan base. To the best of this blogger’s knowledge their games continue to get minimal gate attendances and for an institution with all the financial backing that Tusker has, that just ain’t right!
Sofapaka, and Mathare United on the other hand are new kids on the block. Sofapaka backed by the flamboyant Elly Kalekwa, and Mathare Unieted by the MYSA. They have taken the league by storm, and though they have better crowds than Tusker, they too seem to have found that, the hearts and minds of most Nairobi football fans seemingly belong firmly to either Ingwe or K’Ogalo. So what do these teams do? Move I suppose.
On the other hand why Machakos and Meru and not say…Uasin Gishu and Murang’a ( hoe county of Kenneth Matiba, the founder of Tusker FC)? This blogger understands that the county governments in question were more than passive participants in the football clubs’ respective moves? What is in it for them
This blogger reckons that its not just prestige, but the possibility of drawing attention to use the teams as a centre-point to develop sports and cultural activities is what convinced Governor Mutua of Machakos, and Governor Munya of Meru to act on this opportunity.
Which benefits to they intend to harvest from this? Will the football clubs start developing local footballers for use their Premier League and continental assignments? Will the exposure on Super Sport TV draw interest to the wider opportunities that these counties have to offer?This blogger certainly hopes so.
NB: This post has been updated to reflect the controversy revolving around the Kinoru Stadium in Meru.