Step forward, Hussein Mohammed, the 34-year-old CEO of Extreme Sports Limited, the company credited with rolling out the annual Super 8 tournament that has played its part in unearthing latent football talent.
Mohammed, who last year chaired the Harambee Stars fund raising board, traces his roots to the birth of the mobile telephony in Kenya as one of the pioneer distributors for Safaricom.
For the past year, he has been engaged in a glamorous campaign for the top seat in the country’s football bringing what his ardent followers at social networks term as ‘swagger’.
His campaign chorus has been simple. It’s time for the old folk that have been managing the sport to step aside and allow young leadership to take over.
“I have proved to Kenyans that I have a credible track record and among most candidates, I pass the integrity test. Over the last ten years we have run a programme that has been so successful in tapping talent at the grassroots level and given the opportunity, I’m confident I can replicate this across Kenya,” he asserts.
In a campaign featuring the glitzy launch at KICC that was supported by a concert featuring some of the biggest acts in Kenya’s contemporary music such as Jua Kali and Nonini to shiny ads, Hussein has struck a chord with the Kenyan youth.
“It’s been a difficult campaign and I have lost 10kg,” the visibly exhausted Hussein admitted. “But it has given me the opportunity to meet many Kenyans and gain their views on how they want their football governed.”
“I love football and when I started Super 8 ten years ago and I did not do it for any position, I did it because there was a gap at the grassroots. I wanted to give opportunity to young people to earn a living from what they love most, football,” the FK chairmanship contender said.
His compelling campaign received a shot in the arm when Sammy Sholei, the former Harambee Stars and Tusker FC midfield stalwart who was also attracting his fair share of the youthful support ditched his ambitions to become Hussein’s running mate.
“Our vision for the future development of football is shared and being a former player, him more than most understands what players need and that is why we merged our efforts instead,” Hussein said of his running mate.
The established order as expected did not take the entry of the suave, well-spoken youngster into the race for the top seat.
Hussein who was among the most vocal proponents for clubs to be involved in elections as well as the process to be conducted by the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) found his campaign almost come to a premature end in June.
That was when the Independent Electoral Board (IEB) the body that was formed by the Government and world body Fifa in December last year to organise the polls dropped the 35- year age limit for any contender for the chairmanship bombshell.
However, the hue and outcry against the decision that found its way to the floor of parliament besides social and news media for a led IEB to expunge the requirement from its Code of Conduct.
The elections themselves have been delayed on four occasions in the past year in what has been read as attempts to give some contenders time to catch up and also, knock the stuffing out of the robust campaign of the Hussein team.
“At times, it has been so frustrating. Kenyan football is not easy and there are those fighting you all the time and unfortunately, our youth are dependent on the culture of handouts so in the end, it could boil down to who has the most to buy votes,” he lamented.
However, win or lose, Hussein feels his campaign has gone a long way in changing the face of the country’s football leadership.
“We will take the silver lining since we have had opportunity to educate many voters and raise credibility issues among candidates. This will be an election of firsts and we are certain the leadership that will come in will be more accountable.
“Even if I do not win the seat, I will continue being in football like I have always done but from now on, things will never be the same.”
Should his quest for the top seat hold sway, Hussein pledges to transform the country’s football in line to international standards.
“We want to have a new devolved system of football in Kenya. We need to stop playing in Nairobi and focus on Kenyan Premier League alone and we will need to have active leagues in the grassroots. There is a lot of talent out there and it’s only that youth have not been given a platform.”
Hussein Terry (Coast Representative), John Gitari (Rift Valley), Dorcas Nyambura (Nairobi), Eric Obura (Nairobi), David Otieno (Nyanza), Hudson Ngaire (Central) and Maqualate Atieno (women representative) complete Hussein’s line-up for the FK National Executive Committee.
HUSSEIN CAMPAIGN HIGHLIGHTS
– Devolved system of football
– Giving clubs larger say in running of football
– Turning Kenyan Premier League into an 18 team affair
– Development of youth football at grassroots
– Establishment of viable women leagues
– Stringent management and adequate funding for Harambee Stars