Mwendwa, Kenya has what it takes to excel in football

Saturday February 20 2016

Football Kenya Federation (FKF) president Nick Mwendwa, casts his vote during the FKF Special Annual general meeting elections on February 10, 2016 at the Safaricom Stadium, Nairobi. I am relieved that we finally have a new team at the helm of Football Kenya Federation. With proper management, funds and consistency, we can build a good national team. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |

Football Kenya Federation (FKF) president Nick Mwendwa, casts his vote during the FKF Special Annual general meeting elections on February 10, 2016 at the Safaricom Stadium, Nairobi. I am relieved that we finally have a new team at the helm of Football Kenya Federation. With proper management, funds and consistency, we can build a good national team. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Dear Nick Mwendwa, I am relieved that we finally have a new team at the helm of Football Kenya Federation.

Delegates opted for change and voted you president as you romped home with a new squad. Now the biggest question is: What will these elections mean for football in Kenya? Is it the start of a new dawn in our national pastime?

Delegates picked a team of men and women who care about the beautiful game, men who share in the passion rather than the money.

I can only hope that you will live up to the expectations and extinguish the hues and cries of the football fraternity.

Football in Kenya has taken some desirable strides and I can bet that a game between Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards, or Gor Mahia versus Tusker, has never been more interesting.

With the increase of foreign players in the league, stiffer competition amongst the teams and the interest from corporate sponsors, the competition is far better than it was 10 years ago.

However, I will not play the politics of the Ostrich, there is still a lot to be done. The new management has to be creative and focused.

INFRASTRUCTURE

There is need to improve our stadiums, put more money into infrastructure and attract more corporate sponsors.

I was really disappointed to learn that the match between Simba and Yanga in Dar es Salaam, attracts almost twice as much revenue as our ‘Mashemeji Derby’. We can do better.

First, let’s develop infrastructure. Instead of having two-thirds of the clubs in Nairobi, you can advocate for decentralisation into the counties.

Bandari in Mombasa, for instance, spurs development at the Coast. We can also have a team in Marsabit, Meru, and other counties.

That way, sports infrastructure will develop across the country and more money will get to the clubs.

What about the players? The tide turned in Kenya with Dennis Oliech in France and McDonald Mariga in Italy, and then Victor Wanyama in the English Premier League.

Today, unlike 10 years ago, playing football is a career choice. Parents can be proud of their children playing professional football.

However, there’s still much to be done. Players need improved pay and allowances, they need insurance cover for injuries and better training facilities.

Better management of our clubs and the federation is the way to go.

HARAMBEE STARS

Then there’s the national team Harambee Stars. Kenya is currently placed 99th in the Fifa World rankings, a position that we do not envy or deserve.

The last time we had success was in 1998 with Reinhard Fabisch (now deceased). What did the German do that we cannot replicate?

He came with a plan which he implemented. I believe that for the national team to do well, we must start at the grassroots.

I may not be a football coach but I have seen that consistency is the way out.

The Super Eagles maintained a consistent team with manager Stephen Keshi and it gave then the African Nations Cup in 2012.

The reigning African champions, the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire, have also been consistent in their team and management.

The Chipolopolo of Zambia took time to recover from the tragedy in 1991 and, with consistency in management and team philosophy, won Afcon in 2010.

With proper management, funds and consistency, we too can build a good national team. Will the new federation show us the way?

If there is one thing we should learn from the English Premier League is that football is a multi-billion-shilling industry.

If we take time to develop football in Kenya, we will also be building the economy. Football is also no doubt a good way of bringing people together and helping solve conflict.