Ode to our Game.February 22, 2015
Yesterday, amid all the hullabaloo, the 2015 season of the Kenya Premier League kicked off at various grounds in the country. For me, that fact is priceless. Yes, do not take it for granted that our domestic league evaded the clutches of the republic’s dark forces of football and rolled on once more this year. We thank God. We really do.
For the past few months, apart from the usual suspects – insecurity, corruption, tribalism, high cost of living, it is the limbo state of our game that has done its fair share of jostling for headline pieces in the mainstream print, radio and television media. You wake up in the morning and every morning show you tune to asks for your thoughts on what ails Kenyan football, or what can be done to end this seemingly monstrous impasse. We don’t mind one bit about sports, and indeed football dominating public discourse, but when it is all negative and disheartening, it elicits disillusionment. And that is no good for a people.
Last week my friend Sylvanus did send me a 55-page AfriCOG report on the crisis of football management in Kenya, titled Foul Play. The intention was that I go over it and insulate myself with cold hard facts for this piece, lest you all tear into me for misleading the public with half-baked and inadequate information. One thing we both didn’t foresee is that I am irredeemably lazy. I only skimmed through the Foreword by Gladwell Otieno, and for good measure. The current power struggle is so disgusting, I didn’t need to read all of the fifty five pages to find something to write. I’m sorry, but I’m that good at this. Eventually I’ll read it anyway. Drop your address in the comments section so I can email it to you, if you want.
It doesn’t take much thinking to know that this supremacy battle between the country’s football governing body, Football Kenya Limited (FKL) and the custodian of the domestic top flight league, Kenya Premier League (KPL) is only to the detriment of the game. What beats me is, why do they have to do this? Why? This is not the first time we have had to contend with these adolescent tantrums by the people charged with looking after the game we love so much. It didn’t help at all at that time and as sure as hell it will not help now. Oh and by the way, I don’t shy away from taking sides. I am fully pro KPL. They are not saints themselves but at least if today was Judgement Day they would end up in purgatory, quite unlike those spawns of the Devil at FKL who would definitely be Satan’s guests in the very depths of the inferno in hell.
Just what is FKL’s deal? What do they want? Who hurt them? Why do they have to do this to us? Why this time after KPL has done its best over the last few years to make our league a product worth every football lover’s time? I struggle to understand, and not for want of trying. I first heard at the end of 2014 that the FKL president, Sam Nyamweya thought it was an inspired idea that even the wise King Solomon would agree with, to promote four teams from the Nationwide Division One to the Premier League, replacing the two relegated teams from the concluded season. Two out, four in. I’m trying to picture that kind of substitution in a match. Madness. Utter madness. For a nation as progressive as Kenya, in a century as advanced as the 21st Century, we sure are treated to unforgivably orchestrated shithousery (yes, shithousery is a word now). As a result of FKL’s visionary thinking, the top flight this season would be composed of 18 teams, up from the usual (and definitive) 16 teams. Also, FKL would run the league, and KPL would have to resort to our elites’ newly found favourite pastime, private develop-ing(ment) to eke out a living for themselves.
So I decided to dig a bit into why good old Sam, football administrator numero uno would want to force this 18-team scam down our throats. Of the four teams to be promoted, one is Shabana FC, the pride and joy of Gusiiland. Also, in totally unrelated happenings, that place happens to be where Brother Sam hails from. I was like aaah, bingo! Eureka! Don’t play that tribalist card on me – it’s my turn so I’m playing it first! Shabana did not merit promotion cleanly. I don’t care what you think. They did not. I’ve checked their promotion campaign of the previous season and it is full of dog poop. That is why it is now four teams being promoted, so as to appease those hard done by. Come think of it, if Shabana were genuinely one of the two clubs due for promotion, why would those unseen forces push for the inclusion of an addition two teams? What would it benefit them with?
Wait, no, come on, I am not against Shabana. Okay, I don’t like them, but neither do I like AFC Leopards, or Tusker or Sofapaka or any other team that is not Gor Mahia, the father of all teams. I always want Shabana and Ingwe (AFC) in the top flight because they are a community club, with a huge following. Gor playing Shabana always has an extra tinge of spice and for the good of this league, we need that. But not in this manner. Not in the way strings have been pulled in the boardrooms to have them bulldoze their way past deserving but influentially paper-weight victims. No. No freaking way! That is tantamount to killing our game, logging off trees of progress for the coffin and digging our footballers’ turf for the final interment. We cannot accept this to happen.
And really, I’m more than delighted the Kenya Premier League kicked off yesterday. Luckily I squeezed time to catch the champions Gor Mahia’s season opener against Mathare United. Gor won 4-2, but what gripped me was the spirit of the game and the passion exhibited by the indefatigable Green Army, singing and roaring their team to a famous win. I mean, KPL are doing the job. Let them be. Why do you want to deny those vociferous fanatics precious 90 minutes of every weekend when they can forget about all their problems and just roar, groan, sing, whistle, chide and praise and have a great time? Why? For what gain?
It’s about time we the people who love football stood up to be counted. This lovey-dovey going slow on the enemies of football is not helping at all. We should not kid ourselves by being nice with those robbing us of the dignity of our game. Football is a game of merit. You’re either good enough or not – and if you are not, you try and try and try till you hack it. Granted, we would like even for there to be a 20-team league like it is in other established leagues. But when even at 16 teams, there’s not enough stadia to accommodate every club, and we want to force it to 18, we’re being imbeciles and doing a bloody good job at it.
Finally, I won’t be one of the thousands of voices telling FKL and KPL to come together and come up with an amicable solutions. I don’t believe in amicable solutions. I believe in the best solutions. Let KPL continue running the league. FKL should do what every other football association does – organize the domestic cup competitions and manage the national team. You heard me.
Let us not be clever with each other by playing the good cards on top of the table while hiding the dangerous ones below the table. – The Late Vice President of Kenya, Michael Kijana Wamalwa (2003). Honestly I don’t know if the quote fits, but it’s a good one and I just wanted to use it.