This is how we can become a football force in Africa and the world
The historic qualification of three clubs from the same country to the Confederation Cup group stage recently was like an eureka moment for me.
Al Ahly Shandy, Al Hilal and El Merreikh, all from Sudan, made it to the lucrative group stage. My revelation moment, though, was why Kenyan football clubs no longer ruffle feathers in Africa.
Matters got even clearer for me when Kenya champions Tusker ingloriously exited the Cecafa Club championship in the group stages without winning a single match.
You just need to look at the Sudan situation to get it. Al Hilal and El Merreikh, over the past decade, have been doing very well in Africa, regularly making the group stages.
You can trace their good run in Africa to their dominance at home. Looking at records from 2000, the two clubs have between them won all the Sudan Premier League titles to date. The two clubs boast the best players featuring in the Sudan league that translates to strong squads that can hold their own in the continent.
It is the same for all the successful clubs in Africa. Look at Al Ahly of Egypt, easily the most successful club in Africa in terms of titles won. Since 2000, Al Ahly have won the Egyptian league every year except in 2001, 2002 and 2003. No wonder they clinched African Champions League from 2003 to 2007, then in 2009 and 2010.
When the ebullient TP Mazembe was ruling Africa towards the end of last decade, they had some of the most exciting players in DR Congo. Mazembe won the Champions League in 2009 and 2010 before being kicked out from the next edition over use of an ineligible player. On the domestic front, They won the DR Congo league in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011.
KPL touts itself as one of the best run and competitive leagues in Africa. So competitive indeed, that any one of the 16 teams in the league has a realistic chance of winning it. From 2000 to date, we have had six different KPL winners! And therein lies our flaw.
The best KPL players are scattered among the 16 clubs, making the clubs competitive locally but when one of them ventures to the continent, they just can’t measure up because of their diluted quality. Our clubs’ performance over the last decade bears this out. They have been ejected in the early stages of continental competitions as easily as collapsing dominoes.
Our clubs can’t even make the best 32 in Africa in all competitions. This is such a contrast to years gone by when the local league was dominated by AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia - and to a lesser extent Tusker, who commanded the best players locally, translating to good performances in Africa.
It was no coincidence when Gor, featuring almost an entire Harambee Stars squad, won the Confederation Cup (then Cup Winners Cup) in 1987.
Until the day one or two top dogs emerge in the KPL, the best our teams will do in Africa will be to make up the numbers.