, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 2 – It has now emerged that Prime Minister Raila Odinga lobbied and even managed to secure a work permit for Kenyan midfielder McDonald Mariga from the UK Home Office, but it was too little too late.
Mr Odinga said he spent close to three hours on phone talking to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown\’s office, the Africa Office, office of Culture and Sports, the Home office, and to Mr Mariga himself.
"The FA President David Triesman assured me that with a UK work permit now in his hands, Mariga could join FA in May when another transfer window opens," Mr Odinga told a news conference in Nairobi on Tuesday.
The PM however said he was disappointed with the turn of events after Mr Mariga failed to secure a place with Manchester City due to the work permit hitch. The player was however signed by Inter Milan late on Monday for four years.
The Premier said that all was not lost as the as the FA president had assured him that Mr Mariga could join the FA when another transfer window opens.
Mr Odinga said that Mr Mariga’s failure to join Manchester City hit the country hard adding he had received a number of calls from concerned Kenyans who felt the government should intervene.
He noted that a delegation from the civil society and human rights was the first to go public with their demand that his office do something to help Mr Mariga attain the UK work permit.
“I would like to assure soccer fans and all Kenyans that together with the British High Commissioner to Kenya Rob Macaire, I have done what I could to get Mr Mariga into Man City FC and all is not lost," The Premier said.
He decried the low football standards in the country and called on all the stakeholders to come in and assist the government in its effort to improve standards.
"The government requires the support of all the stakeholders especially the media. If the media continues to poison football fans against coaches then we will not go far," he remarked.
He assured football lovers in the country that the government will invest more in football for meaningful results to be realised.
The Premier also said that Kenya was ready to host the Africa cup in 2016 as the government had put in place mechanisms of upgrading all stadiums.
The PM acknowledged weaknesses in soccer management in the country which he attributed to wrangling in the national football governing body, Football Kenya Limited (FKL) and Kenya Football Federation (KFF).
Earlier, the Chairman of the Kenya Football Coaches Association Ricky Solomon had appealed to the PM to disband the two bodies that had failed to manage football in the country.
The vice chairman of the Kenya Human Rights Commission Hassan Omar said that his organisation was unhappy with Mr Mariga’s predicament owing to wrangles that had dogged our football denying the youth an opportunity to develop their talent.