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Politicians killing Kenyan football

CHEMELIL-ULINZINAIROBI, July 2 – It has been claimed that the problem with Kenyan football is the lack of a properly defined program to cater for the youth.

The absence of a workable, focused, serious and all- encompassing policy worthy of implementation has been the bane of Kenyan football.

“Small wonder that we recoil with shame and horror when football extravaganzas such as the World Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations come up,” a Kenyan national team player commented.

“Lacking self-confidence, we have sought recourse in being ardent pawns of such football wizardry teams like Liverpool, Barcelona, Manchester United, Arsenal and hosts of others,” the player who sought anonymity said.

Incidentally, Kenyan youngsters’ confidence has been whitewashed thoroughly to the extent that most of the country’s budding teams bear foreign names.

What is intriguing however, is the side-splitting side-show that the local football scenario presents.

All over the country, tournaments have sprung up – Oparanya Cup, Kadosi Cup, Obwaka Cup, Bssanga Cup, Ramogi Cup, Koth Biro Cup, Nginyo Cup, Dick Wathikia Cup, Kariz Odida, to mention just a few.

These tournaments, which are wholly sponsored by individuals, are targeting the youth. In all respects, these tournaments are worthy of emulation and are highly commendable.

However, sobriety must prevail. To begin with, the main sponsors of these tourneys are indeed clever manipulators of public psyche and opinion.

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Any wonder that since the 2013 Kenyan general elections, the tournaments have been conspicuous by their absence from the local sporting scene.

With their eyes firmly glued on general elections, the tournament sponsors are deft at using football as a campaign vehicle.

“Of course this scheme is not an indictable offence, neither is it a novel idea. The regrettable bit about this circus is that it is short-lived,” Ben Musuku, former national football team player, said.

The lack of continuity is what ails most of Kenya’s sporting disciplines. Once the elections are over, such tourneys are never heard of again until the next polls.

“In as much as we would want to wish these politicians away from the pitches, they do appear to be a necessary evil. However, on a brighter side, one should not deny that they have indeed planted a seed,” Musuku said.

The question is who will water it, after the to-be-legislators and civic leaders take to hibernation in the ivory towers of power?

So much for the theatrical show taken to the pitch.

The situation is replicated in the national team Harambee Stars where political aficionados spring up with tokens whenever the team enjoys some form of success or when they are about to field in crucial matches.

Recently, 18 members of the squad consisting of locally based players returned from Brazil to watch a World Cup match between Argentina and Nigeria when they are scheduled to play Liberia in a two-legged knockout second round qualification tie for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations later this months.

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The trip was sponsored by none other by the Head of State, President Uhuru Kenyatta together with a local brewing giant who dovetailed for the publicity while in truth, they needed the huge outlay to be spent in preparing for Lesotho who knocked out the more fancied Liberia in the preliminary round.

Lesotho played neighbours Tanzania in a friendly last weekend to gauge the East African system of play as Stars soaked in the sun in Brazil as football once again took to the back burner.

Opposition leader and former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga and Mike Sonko, the sitting senator of the capital Nairobi, are other political luminaries who have given the national team or eminent local club sides such as Gor Mahia financial incentives for performance or ahead of crucial ties.

Former vice-president, Musalia Mudavadi is another associated in the ‘football for popularity’ as a patron of local giants AFC Leopards, a club that has seen former chairmen move on to parliament.

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