Ministry to challenge Fifa age rule

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NAIROBI, April 14- The Sports Ministry will petition world football governing body, Fifa to scrap the 35-year-old age limit requirement for aspirants of top posts in the forthcoming Football Kenya elections.

Terming the stipulation contained in the Electoral Code of Conduct released on Wednesday a violation of the country’s constitution, Assistant Minister for Sport, Kabando wa Kabando told parliament his ministry would submit an “immediate concern” to Fifa through the Independent Election Board (IEB) that is managing the polls.

Kabando was responding to a ministerial question raised at the floor of the house by nominated member, Rachel Shebesh, who sought whether the directive contravened the country’s constitution.

The now controversial code of conduct stipulation states candidates for the chairman and deputy chairmanship of the national body should be above 35 years but below 70 while other executive members must be above 30 years to be cleared to run.

“This regulation barring individuals below 35 from being chairman and vice chairman is disabling the opportunities for the youth of Kenya. It is ill advised, very unjust, very unfair and wholly unconstitutional,” Kabando told the august house in Thursday’s afternoon session.

One of the leading contenders for the top post, Hussein Mohammed, is disqualified from the race since he is aged 34 despite sinking millions into a nationwide campaign to secure votes.

The Sports Ministry’s take on the issue sets it on a collision course with Fifa whose article 35 of its statues strictly prohibits government interference in the running of football in its affiliate nations.  

“We expect no elections will be conducted before this petition is heard. If that is deemed to be government interference, indeed it is legitimate for the youth of Kenya,” Kabando charged as he accused IEB of overlooking the impact of such a requirement.

“Could be because of the eight members (of IEB), none fell in the bracket of the youth between 18 and 35 and since they did not want to arouse unnecessary controversy, there was an oversight on the importance of youth,” he added.

In support of the minister’s contention, former Kenya Football Federation chairman and Gatanga MP, Peter Kenneth took the floor to dismiss the age limit requirement as a prudent measure of seeking suitable candidates for the top football jobs.

“I became chairman and left after four years before I reached the age of 35. Some of my colleagues including the then Liberian Football chairman, the famous footballer, George Weah were under the age of 35.

“Kenya should not be an excuse for an extension of the old order of Fifa’s statutes,” Kenneth stated.

National, branch and sub-branch polls are set for the end of the month under the unregistered Football Kenya which will be turned into the governing body thereafter with office bearers given mandate to run the sport.

Fifa officials, CECAFA President Leodegar Tenga and Ashford Mamelodi were to arrive in the country on Thursday to discuss the election timetable with IEB and the Independent Interim Election Commission that will conduct the polls.

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