Nicholas Musonye has announced he will soon stand down as the Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (Cecafa) secretary general after two decades at the helm.
In an exclusive interview with Nation Sport conducted yesterday at the Beausejour hotel in Kigali, the long serving football administrator further explained he plans to pursue a doctorate of philosophy (PhD) course.
He also confirmed his interest in trying his hand in politics.
“I have gathered a lot of experience, exposure and contacts around the world over the past two decades, and would wish to share most of it with my people in Kakamega while serving as their governor. I am certain they will give me the opportunity,” an emotional Musonye said.
“I have friends who have asked me to vie in Nairobi so I will think over it and make an announcement soon.”
The former Nation journalist joined football administration in 2000 when he was appointed Cecafa secretary during the Fifa General Assembly held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“It’s been twenty years since. A lot has happened.”
“From a shell of a competition and structure, we have worked very hard and managed to organise several high profile competitions including the Senior Challenge Cup and Kagame Cup.
“Our team secured relationships and sponsorships from blue chip companies such as Tusker, MTN, SuperSport, GTV, Serengeti Breweries and of course Azam TV. We also receive one million dollars (about Sh100 million) each year to organise youth and women tournaments, and about half of that to run our secretariat.”
“We groomed Mariga (Mcdonald), Dennis Oliech, Victor Wanyama, Michael Olunga, Dennis Onyango and other talents including half of the current national football team players who competed at the Africa Cup of Nations.”
“I leave Cecafa in good hands and request those who will take over to continue organising tournaments and showcasing talent. Despite the hard work, football standards in this region are among the lowest and we witnessed this during the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt. We have club tournaments and the Senior Challenge Cup in Uganda in December and I am urging national teams to register and participate.”
Founded in 1927 and with a secretariat in Nairobi, Cecafa consists 12 member football associations namely Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zanzibar.
During his stint as secretary general, Musonye has served under five elected Cecafa presidents including Tanzanian Leodegar Tenga, the late Farah Addo from Somalia, the late Ugandan David Obua and incumbent Jafar Mutasim from Sudan.
He will officially step down in June next year and asks that his replacement be named in conformity with the new Confederation of African Football (Caf) rules.
“There is a perception I have overstayed in office which is partly true,” the father of a son and two daughters explained.
“I also had challenges because all the four Kenya Football Association presidents whom I served under tried to remove me from office.”
Born 55 years ago in Muranda village, Kakamega County, Musonye attended Muranda Primary School, Ingotse Secondary School and Kolanya High where he studied his ‘A’ levels.
He developed his love for football in primary school and went on to represent Ingotse in the district and provincial football games as an attacking midfielder.
Musonye later joined Kenya Institute of Mass Communication in Nairobi where he studied print journalism, and later on the Management University of Africa.
He worked at the now defunct Kenya Times newspaper as a sports writer between 1983-1989 before in his own words, he was poached by the Nation and enjoyed a stint between 1989 and 1992.
“The best moment for me as a journalist was when I worked at the Nation under Wangethi Mwangi. He honed my skills and offered several opportunities for me to grow and make contacts,” said Musonye who lists Rwanda President Paul Kagame, former Presidents Benjamin Mkapa, Jakaya Kikwete, Laurent Kabila, Omar Bashir and the late Moshood Abiola among his close friends.
He also had a stint at the Standard and later with the BBC and Voice of America as the Africa sports correspondent while also consulting for Complete Football and East African Football magazines.
“During my career as a journalist, I got an opportunity to travel and cover the 1988, 1990 and 1992 Africa Cup of Nations and I am grateful to Nation for these opportunities. During these trips, I got access to then Caf president Issa Hayatou and we developed a rapport.”
“I did not look for the Cecafa job. Rather, in 1998, Cecafa rallied to vote for Lennart Johannsen as Fifa president rather than Sepp Blatter who was Africa’s ‘candidate’. This resulted in Caf disbanding Cecafa and banning then president Tesfaye Gebre Yunus and Kenyan Sammy Obingo who was secretary general for life from all football activities. Addo asked me to hold brief, but after a few months, I was confirmed for the job.”
Considered Kenya’s most experienced and senior football administrator at the moment, Musonye’s line of duty has led him to all African countries, bar Madagascar and Cape Verde.
He has also toured ‘very many’ European, American, Asia and South American countries in the line of duty, including covering and watching six Fifa World Cups and working for Caf’s media committee for 12 years.
“I have managed to fill up 59 passports during that time.”
Musonye has also urged Cecafa members to work together despite challenges and a fallout from the recent Caf elections where member nations have threatened to pull out.
He also promises to create time and support Kenyan football as a fan and stakeholder.