Going by Kenya’s performance in football, it has become almost impossible for local fans to mention Kenya in the same breath as the Fifa World Cup.
Yet two times in the last 10 years, referee Aden Marwa gave Kenyan fans a link, however loose, to the Fifa World Cup.
The 41-year-old Maths and Chemistry teacher at Komotobo Secondary School in Kuria, Migori County, was selected to officiate at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil as an assistant referee, and he was set to officiate in this year’s tournament in Russia until an error of judgement cost him his place among the 36 assistant referees for the tournament.
That short video clip produced by Ghanaian investigative journalist Anas Anas and published by BBC on Wednesday and which purports to show Marwa accepting the equivalent of Sh60,000 in bribe to influence the outcome of matches at the 2018 African Nations Championships held in Morocco effectively put paid to Marwa’s chances of officiating in a second consecutive World Cup.
I have heard arguments to the effect that the video clip lacks adequate context to incriminate Marwa as his would-be interlocutor says nothing. Marwa is seen stretching out his hand and taking a bundle of bills before saying ‘‘You know, thank you for the gift, but you know, the most important is that friendship, getting to know each other.”
His interlocutor either maintained deathly silence in the recording, or his voice was edited out, but we will never confirm this. Gambian referee Ebrimma Jallow and president of Ghana Football Association Kwesi Nyantakyi are also caught on tape receiving ‘gifts’, the latter who sits on Fifa Council stashing the equivalent of Sh6.5 million ‘for shopping’ in a bag.
It was naive of Marwa to accept the ‘gift’ of money since a referee of his standing should know that receiving any gifts in cash is against Fifa rules.
Marwa could not have risen to great heights in football refereeing (he was at the 2014 Fifa World Cup and has officiated in many editions of the Africa Cup of Nations, African Nations Championships, Cecafa Senior Challenge and the Club World Cup) chequered career in refereeing that features Fifa World Cup) appears to have been set up by Anas.
The timing of the release of the recording, coming just five days to the start of the World Cup, was meant to produce the greatest possible effect, and it did.
Kenyan football is the poorer without Marwa at the World Cup. But the incident, particularly Nyantakyi’s case, raises many disturbing questions.
Are Africans the weakest link with regard to integrity issues? How is it that all the individuals captured in the recording are members of football associations in Africa?
It must have been a long and lonely flight for Marwa back home, but it is a big blow to Kenyan football.
The sight of fans of Tanzanian football giants Simba FC shedding tears on Sunday after their team lost 2-0 to Gor Mahia in the final of SportPesa Super Cup in Naivasha reminded me how too seriously we sometimes take football.
In 2012, a video clip of Yanga FC fan Stephen ‘hujuma’ Samwel crying after his team lost 5-0 to bitter rivals Simba was posted online, and it immediately went viral. Easy! It’s just a game guys!