SportPesa chief executive officer Ronald Karauri has added his voice to the growing chorus of dissenting views against the technical acumen of current Harambee Stars coach Stanley Okumbi.
Karauri, whose company is Football Kenya Federation’s main sponsorship partner, admits that he has his doubts with regard to Okumbi’s capabilities as national team coach before quickly offering that he remains guided by the federation’s decision.
“I’ll be honest and say that I have my doubts. I am not a football expert, but if we are talking about appearing at the World Cup in 2022, there are things we need to do,” he said with a light chuckle.
“I love Okumbi. But after we lost to Sierra Leone I remember called the FKF leaders and said look, we need to change something here."
“Our next match is a very difficult one, against Ghana. As a layman, I have my reservations about the technical bench. Obviously Nick (Mwendwa) and his colleagues know more football than me, so I will continue to support them in whichever decision they make. But that is just my personal view,” he said.
Okumbi has faced stern criticism from local football enthusiasts and pundits in recent times, and the reprisal reached climax last weekend when the national team lost 2-1 to Iraq and then 1-0 to lowly Thailand in away friendly matches.
This brought to four the number of winless matches presided over by Okumbi so far, after their 2-1 defeat to Sierra Leone in their opening match of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier as well as a 1-1 draw against Mozambique in another friendly match.
Courtesy of these results, Kenya’s standing in the World Fifa Rankings is set for a nose dive ahead of next year’s clash against Ghana in the 2019 Afcon qualifiers.
IN KENYA TO STAY
Karauri was speaking exclusively to Nation Sport Wednesday where he said that regardless of Kenya’s free fall in the Fifa World Rankings, his company is still committed to their goal of ensuring that Kenya makes an appearance at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
“There are many barriers to that vision, especially because we tend to identify talent very late, many times when a player is already in his late teens. In other countries, footballers are identified as young as seven years old so that is a challenge."
“As SportPesa, we are still committed to that mission and we shall continue to work with the federation to see how we can get on that course."
Asked whether his company still plans to terminate all sports sponsorships currently existing with clubs and federations when the proposed gaming tax takes effect in January next year, Karauri responded:
“SportPesa will be the last betting company to leave Kenya.”
“We are here for the long haul. Unless the business environment becomes untenable we shall remain here. We are still hopeful that things will change between now and December 31. There are very many betting companies and I can tell you that we shall make the decision to leave after all the others have left."
“The problem is that government doesn’t seem to understand how this business works, and how best to regulate this industry and so the future is quite uncertain at this moment,” he said.