About Kenya’s Football Factories

Right now I am in the middle of a coffee buzz. possibly the best thing in the world to inspire writing. Anyway, I read this article on the rise and fall of a certain famous, and storied German Football club and it got me thinking. How does the state of Kenya’s leading football clubs reflect on the state of Kenya’s Harambee Stars and the wider state of Kenyan football?
Many writings I’ve seen that address this issue of Kenyan football history will immediately rush to recall the glory days of the 198os as though they were some kind of footballing ‘garden of Eden’ from whence we are now forever banished. But why?
It is true that this period was one which Kenyan Soccer hit new heights. At least in the men’s game. Harambee Stars were finalists in the All Africa Games gold in 1987, three consecutive CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup trophies, and even qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations 1988 edition (a tournament which stood out becuase in that year it was for only 8 of Africa’s best football nations).
How did Kenya’s premier football clubs Gor Mahia and AFC Leopard do in that season? Very well actually. They were winning the CECAFA club championship with regularity, both made semifinals appearances in Continental Club competitions, with Gor Mahia winning the Mandela Cup in 1987. So how are these successes connected to one another?
Except for a brief period in the 1970s, the football academies that are the centre of the article I mentioned at the start of this piece, have not been a central part of Kenyan football clubs source talent. Indeed, aside from Mathare United, this bloggers is not aware of a top level football club that directly controls a football value chain, all the way from when their are in their early teens to when they finally graduate into the senior ranks as is common with the above mentioned football club as in the case in most of Europe.
Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards historically sourced their players from networks of football clubs in their ‘hinterlands’ and in today’s KPL, it is becoming customary for these two teams, together with Sofapaka, and Tusker FC, to cynically poach the best performing players of their rival clubs from the previous season, as though these teams were nothing more than academies for them.
But I digress, if you look closely at the past, you will notice, that an overwhelming majority of the players that were at the heart of those 1980s Gor Mahia, AFC Leopards, and from there Harambee Stars, had been seasoned (if you will) through working out in a series of Olympic football centres set up by a German coach by the name Bernard Zgoll in the 1970s. these centres used to scout regional teams, and bring in the boys they felt were going somewhere, and then expose them to the highest brand of technical training available in the land. these players would then transit to the big football clubs and from their into the history books.
When Mr Zgoll left, his Olympic centres died, and it was not until Mathare United became that upstart Nationwide league team, which insisted on embarrassing AFC Leopards at Moi Golden Cup Finals, did the concept of specialist football academies come back into the football mainstream in Kenya.
Mind you this article is not about fetishizing football academies in particular, because as I have stated earlier, AFC Leopards, and Gor Mahia, were quite good without directly controlling football academies and in any case, even with their football academy, nowadays Mathare United see to merely existing in the Kenya Premier League rather that trying to win any kind of accolades on the field.
The real loss, if you put the fancy football academies to one side, is the breakdown of the traditional, feeder clubs that community based teams used to partner with as talent identifiers on the ground, because to be honest, even these academies like JMJ and the like also need to get their raw talent from somewhere.
Right now, what amounts to a squad the best of Kenya’s locally based footballers plus filler, are contesting the CECAFA challenge Cup, against the best local talent from across the region. They might very well win. They were finalists in last year’s edition and we are hosting the event. However, how much refining have the gems in today’s Harambee Stars before hitting the big time, compared to the Harambee Stars squads of the 80s? Is it any wonder that the current Harambee Stars always seem to hit a brick wall when trying to turn the occasional big win, or surprise draw into a successful World cup qualification?
I’m not going to pretend that I have concrete answers to these things, but wouldn’t bringing a bit of that old 1980s preparation back into the Harambee Stars supply chain help, because simply shelling out for an expensive coach to make a scape goat out of when that brick wall gets hit isn’t working

The New Rage in Kenyan Football!

Its FOREIGN COACHES! Well maybe its not so new but since, a Dutchman named Jan Koops brought total football to AFC Leopards leading the much storied club the top of the Kenya Premier League table, the demand for foreign coaches has spiked. I’m not just saying coaches who’s passports aren’t Kenyan, but non African, European wherever possible coaches. Let’s put aside the fact that over the past two seasons Ingwe have shelled out more money in revamping their squad and technical bench than pretty much the any single club in the rest of the league. Let’s put aside the fact that, together with their rivals Gor Mahia, they have been the best two clubs at turning the renaissance of Kenyan club football into massive gate receipts. Since the arrival of Koops, Gor Mahia, and the national team, Harambee Stars, have gone for foreign coaches and according to press reports Tusker FC and Sofapaka, both who recently sacked Kenyan coaches, will be looking abroad for replacement tacticians. The thing that strikes this blogger is that all these clubs have considerable financial clout, relative to the rest of the league. Sofapaka are backed by the personal fortune of Elly Kalekwa Gor and Ingwe have their massive fan bases and millions of shillings of corporate advertising it draws, whilst Tusker are literally owned by East Africa Breweries Limited, one of the largest corporations in the East Africa region. They unlike other teams in the league have the muscle to actually pursue foreign coaches and the attendant costs of sustaining them. Also these teams either have lengthy traditions of success (see Tusker, Ingwe and Gor winning 33? out 48? Kenya Premier League Titles between them) or have very imposed very high standards for success in the case of Sofapaka. The question now remains is that will these coaches bring the desired success to ties clubs through their sheer foreign-ness or is their something about the way coaches are developed out there that makes them worth the extra investment for clubs that can afford it?

Gor 3 AFC 2

After two penalties and plenty of drama that was the result of the first league clash between the old firm in over two years.

The result takes Gor Mahia up to 6th in the 16 team Kenya Premier league with 6 points whilst Ingwe find themeselves rooted to the bottom of the table with only a single point from their 4 games.

Its good to know that despite the relative lack of strength of these two teams on the local scene, they can still serve up a feast of thrilling football when they collide on the pitch

The Big one is back

This weekend marks the first televised KPL matches of the season on Multichoice’s Supersport Select channel. (For those of you withe DSTV its should be one of those bonus channels on the Ku4 band though I am not 100% on that)

The big match on offer obviously is the encounter between Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards at 3pm (E.A.T) at the Coca Cola stadium. Given the events at World Hope Centre and he Coca Cola stadium’s unfortunate history with unruly mob I can only wish the stewards and match officials in charge of the fixtures on the day are at the top of their game


Mystery Match Part 2

After digging around for information I have been able to garner the following about the mysterious Cup final in my previuos post.

-Indeed the match in question was the final in which Gor Mahia prevailed 1-0 to effectively stand as Kenya’s representatives in next years Africa Confederations Cup. (More an enormous financial burden than an opportunity for them)

– Gor Mahia were the only KPL team who bothered entering this years edition with everybody else citing the costs of participation as the main hindrance.

– This is the third year in a row Premier league clubs have withdrawn from the competition en masse.

Being as this is effectively the only facet of the game in Kenya which the KFF are actually involved in the hands on running (Both the KPL and Harambee Stars are run by separate companies on the KFF’s behalf) it is not exactly the sort of that neither of the haggling factions should be particularly proud of with elections coming up soon.

Mystery match

A few days ago I saw a photograph (see below) in the Daily Nation apparently from this year’s final of Kenya’s main foorball Cup competition, The President’s Cup (Formerly known as the Moi Golden Cup).

So far I am still to find out any further details on the issue in any of the Kenyan publications that have a web presence.

Given that the winners of this competition I assume would still end up representing Kenya in next years Africa Confederations Cup is it not weird no one seems to care what happens?

They seem pretty happy with themselves,Pity not many others seem to be celebrating(photo from Daily Nation)

Gor fans at it again.

Hooliganism once again reared it head in Kenya’s premier league when angry Gor Mahia fans forced the abandonment at half time of their match against top of the table Gor Mahia. As reported here in the Daily Nation, Gor Mahia fans took offense to among other things,the referee’s decision to award Mathare United a free kick in the first half which resulted in Mathare taking the lead thanks to Austin Makacha. At half time the enraged Gor fans blockaded the official’s dressing room refusing to let the referees out for the second half forcing the match to be abandoned. In other action Tusker’s defense of their league title continued to fade away as they fell 2-1 to Western Stima.

Not for the first time, Mathare United found themselves victim of the passions fans of one of Kenya most established football clubs as only a few years ago AFC Leopards fans accused Mathare United fans of witchcraft when a stray dog wandered on to the pitch at half time in a deadlocked match between the two sides. Needless to say Mathare nicked a late winner, which AFC fans blamed on the actions of the afore mentioned dog whilst it was on the pitch and proceeded to cause general chaos.

While it is encouraging that institutions like Gor Mahia, which are the heart and soul of Kenyan football still have a very passionate following surely there must be an agreement that that kind of action demonstrated at the weekend is no longer acceptable in this day and age.