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.

Devolving Football? What Sofapaka and Tusker FC’s moves portend

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.

What is the way forward For Tusker and Sofapaka?
What is the way forward For Tusker, Mathare and Sofapaka?

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.

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?

Much ado about nothing…well almost nothing #Harambeestars

Its now about one week to Harambee Stars scheduled World Cup Qualifying match against Malawi. Kenya’s most recognizable players, Dennis Oliech, and MacDonald Mariga, are unavailable. The former is ‘retired’ over a much publicized marketing row and the latter is healing from knee ligament damage suffered playing for Parma in the Italian Serie A. In spite of the unavoidable fact Kenya are so much stronger with both, from the build up one would get the impression that Kenya are doomed without them. This is not th case. True in the last round of World Cup and Cup of Nations qualifiers Kenya’s midfield ran through him, the emergence of his younger brother, Victor Wanyama should give Kenya enough cover. Based on his role in Glasgcow Celtic’s league triumph, this blogger reckons that should Kimanzi give him defensive lynchpin responsibilities in tandem with one or two creative outlets, then Kenya’s midfield should be fine. As for Oliech’s absence, this might actually be a blessing in disguise for any one of 3 locally based strikers in form. Kepha Aswani especially has blossomed with Thika United’s attacking style this half of the 2012 season. He is among the top scorers this half of the season and his predatory instincts could be a welcome addition to a strike force that has off late lacked for goals. However to get that chance he’ll have to get Kimanzi to promote him ahead of the AFC Leopards duo of Allan Wanga and Mike Baraza, not to mention Sofapaka’s veteran John Baraza. All in all Kenya has more depth than we give ourselves credit for, so come June 1, this blogger has no fear about Kenya’s midfield or striking even without Mariga or Oliech.

KPL 2012 Season: My tips.

Rather than wind on about expectations and speculations about the 2012 Kenya Premier League season, I’ll cut to the chase and state who I think will win what. I am tipping Sofapaka to win the league, with Ulinzi Stars, Tusker FC, Gor Mahia, AFC Leopards, Daima Rangers , Mathare United and Karuturi Sport (in no particular order) being the 7 other teams who will qualify for next season’s Super 8. As for relegation I reckon Muhoroni Youth and one of either City Stars or Oserian will go down. Tusker will win the FKL Cup provided there isn’t another boycott, and This season’s Super 8 will be won by AFC Leopards. If you don’t like these predictions or feel you can do a better job, let of know in the comment section of this post. Oh! I almost forgot, Gor Mahia will win The DSTV cup.

Are Messy Break Ups Necessary

    No, this blog has not been secretly turned over to the discussion of romantic relationships. No this is about another kind of relationship altogether. This is about one particular relationship that exist right across the spectrum of team sports in Kenya. This article is about the relationship that exists between corporations (normally government parastatals) and the teams  they sponsor in various national competitions.
    This relationship is responsible for some very successful teams such as Tusker FC/Kenya Breweries (football), Ulinzi Stars (football), Kenya Pipeline (volleyball) various Kenya Commercial bank teams in all manner of leagues and off course the role that Kenya’s disciplined forces have in Kenya runaway success on the track at the Olympics.
   However underneath that success, there is the string of institutional clubs that have folded over the past few decades because their sponsors suddenly grew cold feet and took off without much warning. Most recently there was the case of Rangers FC. With just days to the beginning of the season the club now known as Posta Rangers, lost the backing of Posta Kenya, for reasons known only to the corporation.  Aside from creating a colossal gap (estimated in the press to be between ten and fifteen million shillings), the club was also plunged into a leadership crisis that had only just been resolved as of 9th March, 2011. And they are the lucky ones. It’s not entirely unusual for teams that go through this experience to simply fold.
    No doubt if a corporation can no longer bear the cost of  running a team then I am not putting a gun to their heads and saying COVER THEIR COSTS OR ELSE! All this blogger is asking is that there has to be a less painful way of doing things than simply upping the stakes and walking away.  All sports teams, whether founded by institutions, or run by the community represent a means to uplift the communities around them through the sporting activities, so in this blogger’s mind, the more practical thing to do would be to pass ownership of the team straight to the community it exists in. with a bit of fore warning it allows the teams officials more time to source for sponsoship and perhaps ride the inevitable tough times that lie ahead for ex-institutional clubs, following a break up.
Your thoughts on this?

KPL Review:Ulinzi Stars March On

Ulinzi Stars consolidated their position at the top of Kenya’s premeier league table, sweeping away Posta Rangers 3-0. The erstwhile surprise package of this season’s campaign were swept away by an army unit looking to wi n their first league title since 2000? Ulinzi Stars (38 points) have been the form side of the second half of the season and now lie 2 points ahead of, 2007 champions, Tusker FC. Defending champions, Sofapaka (35 points) are now third. A brace from the evergreen John Baraza enough to keep them ahead of Mathare United and Gor Mahia (both on 31 points ) in 4th and 5th place respectively.
At the bottom end pf the table, Mahakama, down and out at the start of the second leg, have suddenly got their act together. From wallowing 6 points adrift at the bootom aof the table, they now lie 14th, outside the relagation zone on goal difference. Their revival, which oddly mimicks one by AFC leopards last season has made the relagation dogfight alot more interesting. Red Berets, Chemeli Sugar and even the once mighty Sony Sugar now involved.
The big match pof the weekend was Gor Mahia’s match with Mathare United. With both teams lacking in fire power from trhe absence of u20 stars, the match eneded in a 1-1 draw. The result leaves bot teams further adrift of the leading pack with the league just coming to a bloi with 10 games left. Gor Mahia on the one hand are in the middle of their most promising league campaign in years and with the youth of the team they put out week in week out, all sign apoint to a renneissance for Kenya’s biggest football club. Mathare United on the other hand have yet to really take off . without rediscovering the avility to close out victories their efforts to regain the KPL title may simply fade away

Kpl results 14-15/8/10 (as listed on the official KPL Website)
Gor Mahia 1 Mathare United 1
Thika United 0 AFC leopards 0
Western Stima 0 Red Berets 0
Tusker FC 1 Karuturi Sports 0
Ulinzi Stars 3 Posta Rangers 0
Sony Sugar 1 Chemelil Sugar 0
Nairobi City Stars 0 Mahakama 2
Sofapaka 2 KCB 0