Re-opening Kenyan Sports: The Way forward for Football

Over the course of the next few posts I will be reporting on the current state of play concerning Kenyan sports, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. I will be looking at how each sport has been affected, what is being done to mitigate plans to restart, and possibly what the new normal will look like. This first post will look at the football, the people’s sport.

The overall picture

When the Covid-19 pandemic reached Kenya, the government was quick to cancel public gatherings of more than 15 people. Football Kenya Federation, following from that cue then suspended and then curtailed football leagues all over the country. This also resulted in the indefinite suspension of all scheduled National team matches that were scheduled to be held in Kenya across all national teams.

Local leagues
Because the curtailment decision appears to have been taken of the heads of the Kenya Premier league Board, there is a case before the Sports Dispute Tribunal challenging its legality. The decision of the tribunal is expected at the end of this month.

Players from Tusker FC and AFC Leopards in action (Source:

At this point in time, with restrictions on public gatherings of various kinds still in force, FKF has a tentative resumption schedule of October for football leagues, with a 12 week transfer window leading up to November 2nd, for teams to reorganize and strengthen their teams. At this point in time, these plans are only tentative though, The Ministry of Sports has only spoken about re-starting ‘non-contact’ sports, with a task force currently their primary concern.

Even before this transfer window was opened, several clubs have already started to shake up their playing squads. KCB FC released 10 players, Gor Mahia lost three squad members to Wazito FC, and Tanzanian club Azam FC. They have signed Levis Opiyo (a goalie) from Nairobi City Stars)
The new league will proceed with a new corporate sponsor (Nigeria’s BetKing), and will see some 1.2 billion shillings, over the course of 5 years invested into the league.

Harambee Stars

As for the national teams, CAF has postponed the Africa Cup of Nations men’s edition to 2021, and cancelled the women’s edition altogether, in favour of a women’s club champions league. Harambee Stars, like most other men’s teams, had 4 qualifying matches pending to qualify for tej Cup of nations, and it remains to be seen how these will (if at all) be re-scheduled

Off the field

While so much attention is directed to the pandemic, it is easy to forget that the FKF is now almost a year overdue national elections. When the pandemic struck, there was an ongoing dispute over the nullification of national polls by the Sports Dispute Tribunal. The latest developments are that the FKF Electoral Board will publish a roadmap on August 11, to break the impasse. Whether stakeholders are willing to run with it remains to be seen.

Déjà vu all over again: the FKF, KPL saga

Once again Kenyan football is making a whole bunch of negative headlines for itself. It seemed like a not-so-big-a-deal difference of opinion between the governing Football Kenya Federation, and the Kenya Premier League ltd, through which participating clubs manage the affairs of the Kenya Premier League.

Then it became a massive crisis threatening to grind domestic football to a halt, and putting Kenya’s football teams banned from FIFA activities again.

Sam Nyamweya, FKF’s supremo (Source: Michezoafrika)

On the one hand Football Kenya Federation wants an additional 2 teams added to the Kenyan Premier League. Perhaps it is to help get more fans involved, perhaps it’s a gimmick to shore up support ahead of October’s elections, or perhaps it’s something else.

KPL declined the ‘request’ because they felt it would mess the financial arrangements that they had with the sponsors. In any case such decisions ought to originate from the KPL itself.

FIFA came in to mediate, commissioned a report with recommendations, which it handed over to FKF, what with them being the body FIFA recognized. They were probably hoping that this report would guide a reconciliation that would allow them to go and worry about something else. Word on the street (nothing official has been released) indicate the recommendations side with KPL. That has not happened.

FKF then went ahead and launched the FKF Premier League, complete with a list of 18 teams, of. They then went and started tossing fines and suspensions at anyone working with KPL’s attempts to carry on regardless.

Here are some things that at I haven’t seen explored in the mainstream coverage of this saga

1. Bad Blood? The personalities in the center of this dispute are not colliding for the first time. When Kenya was last banned from FIFA activities, it was because KFF, then led by present FKF chief, Sam Nyamweya was at center of the crisis. Among other things, FIFA, backed by personalities now in KPL, was attempting to change the face of football administration in Kenya through the now dead Football Kenya Limited. Now the shoe appears to be on the other foot, as FKF appears hell bent on steamrolling over the KPL and anyone who sides with them

2. Bad Precedents? Over its tenure, in charge FKF has made a bad habit of intervening and overruling decisions of various bodies, in spite of their mandate to actually make those decisions. From overturning KPL, and IDAC decisions on disciplinary issues, to going over team the heads of national team coaches on squad selections. Could FKF’s decision making be the culmination of the contempt it shows the institutions it is supposed to be nurturing?

3. Bad Campaigning? Did i mention that the board of the FKF is up for re-election this October?. Maybe this is just a cynical mover to emasculate the only organization with the capacity to mobilize and follow through on the removal of Nyamweya’s team.

Whatever the real motivations for this crisis, it  certainly stinks of a  kind of brinkmanship that will take Kenyan football nowhere.