Football Kenya Federation (FKF) CEO Robert Muthomi is at the centre of an illegal transfer saga involving the departure of Kenyan international John Avire from Sofapaka.
The woes compounding the football boss emanate from a letter he wrote to the Egyptian embassy in Nairobi, dated July 12, asking them to process Avire’s visa to allow him travel to Cairo to watch the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) as a fan. The letter was written just days after Avire competed in the continental competition as a player.
Despite the fact that Avire is contracted with Sofapaka until December 2020, the striker was absent from training as Sofapaka began their preseason training on Monday, and Sofapaka chairman Elly Kalekwa has now accused the FKF of illegally meddling in the transfer of his key players.
“How can the FKF CEO write him a letter claiming that he is going to Egypt as a fan, yet the club is waiting for him to report for preseason training? Avire was at Muthomi’s office last Thursday and they even left together in his car. What was he doing with my player? Interestingly, the termination letters from Dennis Odhiambo and Avire are similar in the wording. That tells you the source of these letters is the same.
“We received a letter from Avire on Tuesday last week requesting to terminate his contract over unpaid dues and we asked him to be patient as we had a plan to clear his dues within a few days. We cleared his three months arrears on Thursday last week, and he even acknowledged receipt of the money in his account, but he insisted on terminating his contract with the club. Fifa laws are very clear that even in the event that a player has not been paid for three months, he must issue a notice of termination.
“The person mentioned in the letter (Augustine Ramaita) is a known football agent. So if they are really going to watch the Afcon as fans and the final will be played on 19th, what will they be doing there until the 26th?," posed Kalekwa.
Due to the gravity of the matter, and the obvious conflict of interest it portends, and the severity of punishment if found guilty, Muthomi has declined to comment publicly, directing us instead to FKF head of communication Barry Otieno.
"We have received a complaint from Sofapaka in regards to Avire and other serious allegations touching on the office of the CEO. We are treating the matter with high importance, and have already rolled out investigations through the FKF Disciplinary Committee. This is with the view to guarantee justice for both parties," said Otieno.
“In the meantime, we would like to state clearly that Avire remains a Sofapaka player until 2020, as per his contract, and no transfer document has been issued to him," he added.
Avire received his maiden call up to the national team two months ago, and this was met with widespread uproar from fans, the media and pundits. This is because it came at the expense of Allan Wanga and Jesse Were who had by far recorded more impressive seasons with Kakamega Homeboyz and Zesco United respectively.
At Afcon, he featured twice for Harambee Stars against Tanzania and Senegal, and is believed to have attracted interest from an unknown Egyptian top tier side following his exploits at the continental tournament.
According to Kalekwa, the Egyptian club had reached out to Sofapaka over a transfer but they suddenly went quiet after being misled that they could land him as a free agent. This is because Sofapaka had not paid him for three months.
"We were in negotiations with the club and they had agreed to pay us Sh15 million in transfer fees. But Muthomi wants to hijack the deal so that Avire can move as a free agent. This is totally unacceptable from a football administrator holding such a high office. It is conmanship! I always give them my players for national team duty in good faith but it turns out they have their own ulterior motives.
“This is not the first time Sofapaka is having issues with FKF. From the time they hid behind club licensing and threatened to relegate this club, to the allegations that our striker Stephen Waruru’s had double signed with Tusker. If they have a problem with Sofapaka they should let me know," offered an exasperated Kalekwa.
According to Sofapaka team manager Hillary Echesa, Avire had not yet reported for preseason training by Wednesday morning despite being given ample time to rest after the Afcon.
“We were expecting him today since the rest of the team resumed on Monday but he has not shown up. He has not yet communicated with us so we don’t know where he is,” said Echesa.
Avire joined Sofapaka last December from Mount Kenya United and scored seven goals in the league in his first season with Batoto ba Mungu. He now has four national team caps.