On Thursday at 10am, the Kenya national amputee football team made their way to the Sports ministry offices to present their participation trophy after a stellar performance at the Amputee Football World Cup in México.
“But shock on us, we were not even welcomed. The reception itself was wanting and we were told to wait near the lifts,” said Mr Dalmas Otieno, the team’s captain.
The team had just returned from Mexico on Wednesday night where they had been for two weeks and they emerged the second top ranked team from Africa after Angola. The team is number 12 in the Amputee Football World Cup rankings.
They qualified for the second round behind Turkey but were eliminated by Russia, who are the former world champions, the team captain said.
“We had gone there to represent Kenya on national duty. So we wanted to present the trophy and give a report on our performance, opportunities and challenges in Mexico,” Mr Otieno said.
But on arrival the team was denied entry into the offices, he added.
“We were told to wait at the lifts as the officials were not in their offices. We then asked if the players can be allowed to get into the boardroom and wait there but access was denied,” he said.
“We were not welcomed and we are a national team. Not a single official congratulated us, yet we put out a promising performance that would have impressed the ministry,” said Kevin Lumbasi, one of the footballers.
Mr Otieno, together with the other team officials tried to talk to the ministry officials, but “nothing was forthcoming.”
So, the players, eventually managed to get into the boardroom, where they spent the night.
“They players were told to leave, but to where do they leave to? Most of them had been accommodated by well-wishers and do not have fares to return home. They have been away for two months and their families are not expecting that they go empty-handed,” Mr Otieno
Since going to Mexico, the players have not been paid a single cent. Yet, they had spent a whole month training at the Parklands Sports Club.
“Government was supposed to provide resources for local training for the players to get into a residential camp, but they did not. Yet some players had come all the way from Mombasa, Bomet and Kisumu and have no relatives in Nairobi,” he said.
With no money to cater for their own accommodation, some players and the team doctor had to accommodate them into their own homes, providing meals and transport.
“As such, most of the team members have run into debts and on coming back, they are expected to settle these debts. As the team captain, I paid Sh19,000 for Visa for six players,” he said.
The team had presented their Sh14 million budget proposal to the Sports ministry in March for all 14 players and four officials. The Sh14 million budget was to cater for the players’ local residential camp, kits, travelling expenses and player allowances.
“A week before travelling, we came to the ministry and the officials told us that they had no money. This is when they had revised down our proposed budget to Sh6.6 million,” Mr Otieno shared.
The team officials tried explaining that the players’ participation had been confirmed in Mexico, their accommodation had been paid for and that local transport from hotel to where we were preparing and accreditation for the whole team had all been planned.
“According to the World Amputee Football Federation, if we would have forfeited going, we would have been banned from participating at the amputee football world cup for the next eight years as it would have inconvenienced their planning as other countries that would have wanted to participate would have missed out,” Mr Otieno says.
“We would have also lost out participation right at the Africa Cup of Nations in 2019 and the Confederations Cup in 2022,” he added.
The team had to camp at the Sports ministry offices for the night, lobbying for support.
“The ministry only gave us air tickets a day before we travelled. We got playing kits from Kusco and tracksuits from Nacada,” he said.
Even though it is always a tradition whenever a national team flies out to represent the country for government official to accompany them, the amputee football team travelled on their own.
When the team arrived from Mexico on Wednesday evening, only Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko welcomed them at the airport. There was not a single representative from the Sports ministry and their transport to town was arranged for by Sonko.
“It is sad. We had flown the Kenyan flag, yet we could not even be congratulated or given a seat. We were just told, ‘Kaeni hapo nje’(sit outside),” Mr Otieno said.