NAIROBI, October 30- It’s two games to the end of what has largely been a gripping football season but instead of analysts crunching numbers to work out the destination of the title or teams desperately battling to evade the drop, the 2014 Kenyan Premier League (KPL) finale has served an embarrassing climax to the nation.
Kenyan football is reeling from two decades in the abyss, with the lowly Fifa ranking of 116 not telling the entire sorry narrative of how far this former regional giant has sunk.
In the past fortnight, football related violence, a crippling tussle between KPL and Football Kenya Federation (FKF), abandoned matches, heavy sanctions against clubs and inept officiating have turned the homestretch of 2014 top flight season into a theatre of the absurd.
Add financial woes crippling among them Kenya’s marquee clubs, champions Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards to the toxic mix and what promised to an fascinating season is primed to end in disarray with football secondary to the lunacy.
From this den of confusion, Kenya is supposed to produce two clubs that will fly her flag at next season’s CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup and save for a brief foray into the third round of the latter by Sofapaka in 2010; the country’s best domestically have been ruthlessly exposed on the continental scene, their tattered brand of football light years behind their African rivals.
This sad state of affairs has in turn escalated to the national team Harambee Stars where despite bagging the regional Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup last year (without convincing anyone amid allegations of ‘underhand’ tactics against their opponents in the final, Sudan) Kenya could not find her place in the seeded teams for the 2015 Afcon in Morocco.
The tiny state of Lesotho that unceremoniously bundled out Stars in the second round of qualifiers is being pummelled left; right and centre in a group containing Burkina Faso, Angola and Gabon and Kenyans can mitigate the humiliating loss spared them from further misery in the final phase of the race to Morocco.
– Multi-faceted problems-
With the penultimate round of KPL matches coming up this weekend, no one is certain where crucial fixtures featuring AFC Leopards and Sofapaka as well as Muhoroni Youth and Gor Mahia will be played for example.
Sofapaka and Muhoroni have petitioned authorities to switch the venues from Mumias and Kisumu, perceived strongholds of Leopards and Gor on security grounds as well as ensuring fairness in light of orgies of violence unleashed by Ingwe and K’Ogalo fans in successive weekends.
KPL fired a terse letter to FKF admonishing them for interfering in running the top flight after the latter twice overruled decisions following disputed matches between Tusker FC and Muhoroni as well as Leopards and Sony Sugar.
On the other hand, the federation has been steadfast in maintaining they are overlords of Kenyan football and hold sway over all matters pertaining to the game, subordinating KPL’s mandate to run the most lucrative arm of the country’s game.
Both administrators have turned their guns on security agencies and Government as a whole following deplorable scenes of hooliganism witnessed in Nairobi and Machakos leaving the country to flirt with another football disaster barely five years since five fans needlessly lost their lives at Nyayo Stadium during a tension parked derby between Gor and AFC Leopards.
In truth, summing the dearth in Kenyan club football in a single article requires mythical powers of an Arabian genie in a bottle since problems ailing the game resemble the Greek fairytale monster, Lernaean Hydra that had many heads and could contort into various shapes and form.
Since 2008, the KPL has been broadcast across Africa on SuperSport with investment running into hundreds of millions poured by the company in infrastructure, personnel and clubs to keep the topflight on the continental menu.
Sadly, instead of capitalising to sell the product of exciting flowing football that would make our players hotcakes for more endowed teams abroad, KPL has given Africa and the watching world a package of dour affairs with goals at a premium with ‘exciting’ moments being for example, shameful acts of a steward punching an opposing goal keeper, a referee playing a game with 12 players from one side on the pitch, police firing teargas to the stands, stoppages to contain unrest on the stands and controversial decisions.
Before the advent of SuperSport, few can remember clubs such as Sony Sugar winning the 2006 topflight title, powerful sides such as Mumias Sugar and Nzoia Sugar folding, Re-Union perfecting the act of avoiding relegation under the late Mark Ageng’, Leopards being relegated and Gor being saved from the axe by a boardroom decision in less than a decade during the dark age of Kenyan football.
Yet, those trusted in administering the game, club chairmen, misguided fans and on occasion an obliging press that gives acres of space to malpractices perpetuated in football are slowly but surely pushing whatever is left of the dilapidated sport to oblivion.
One shudders at the thought of SuperSport shipping out to look for a country that will give them pristine content to market their decoders.
It’s time all this madness stopped before it’s too late. The future of an entire generation of youth in a country grappling unemployment precariously hangs in the balance.