Mwendwa should just read the game right and call for a substitution

Wednesday May 13 2020

Football is indeed a sport for all. As successive federation chairmen - we now call them presidents - have found out, to their detriment, you cannot come into office and decide to run the Kenyan football body according to your whims.

The lovers of the game, and they are many, will not let you get away with it.

It also goes against Fifa’s much vaunted motto of “fair play,” and runs foul of the laws of the land

Did Football Kenya Federation (FKF) president Nick Mwendwa really expect to get away with what he has been brazenly trying to do - perpetuate his stay in office without even a modicum of free and fair play?

If almost every other player other than himself is complaining of the rules; if the sham elections FKF has pretended to conduct have been twice annulled by the Sports Dispute Tribunal (SDT); if Kenya’s top most sports arbitration body has recommended the setting up of a normalisation committee to oversee the election; then Mwendwa should have read the game and called for his substitution, or, as sure as day follows night, he will duly receive his red card.

And it seems “Team Change”, Mwendwa’s election slogan when he swept into office four years ago, did not consider one age-old saying attributed to Greek philosopher Heraclitus: “The only constant in life is change.”

And it is coming.

When cancelling the federation’s elections for the second time last week, SDT chairman John Ohaga ruled that the eligibility criteria for candidates was “unreasonable and designed to lock out potential aspirants”, terming it “a gross violation of the principle of free and fair elections”.

Ohaga also ruled that the term of office of FKF’s National Executive Committee had expired

The tribunal requested Fifa to set up a normalisation committee that would, among other things, oversee fresh elections that abided by the world football body’s statutes, the Kenyan constitution and the Sports Act.

Fifa’s riposte was to dubiously state the world football governing body was not bound by the ruling of SDT while inexplicably extending the long-expired term of the FKF NEC.

The managers of world football even loudly wondered why FKF had subjected itself to SDT, never mind that that is a legal requirement in Kenya.

Interestingly though, Fifa requested for a meeting of all concerned parties to hammer out a way forward.

Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, meanwhile, has said she is duty-bound to follow the laws of Kenya.

This was a throwback to circa 2004. The federation, then headed by Maina Kariuki had failed to hold proper elections before its term of office expired as stipulated in their statutes, forcing then Sports Minister Najib Balala to constitute a Stakeholders Transitional Committee to, among other things, lay grounds for fresh elections.

The committee under the chairmanship of renowned sport personality Dr Mike Boit, who was a professor of physical education at Kenyatta University, held several well-attended public stakeholder forums and was even in the process of setting up a new football body called Kenyan Football Association (KENFA) before Fifa banned Kenya.

Eventually, following consultations between the government, Fifa and stakeholders, the world football body agreed to the formation of a normalisation committee headed by Kipchoge Keino.

And just like now, the issues then had revolved around questions on the federation’s accountability, financial transparency, management and an expired term of office amidst huge interest from the football loving local population.

It is clear that after being given two chances to conduct legally acceptable elections, the FKF has miserably failed, and it does not make sense for Fifa to extend the office of this office in direct contravention of the laws of Kenya.

The federation, as it stands, has no legal standing to conduct business in Kenya, and Fifa should do the right thing and acquiesce to the setting up of a normalisation committee.

This will eventually lead to new people running the game of football in Kenya.

As they say, a change is as good as new, even though, going by our football history, we may again have nothing much to show for it after another four years.

Nyende is a Sports Sub Editor at the Nation Media Group. [email protected]