NAIROBI, July 3- The battle between Kenya and Ethiopia on Saturday has spilled from the field of play into an all out broadcast war.
On the eve of the game, Football Kenya Federation (FKF) officials and police barricaded Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium to allow crew from their new broadcast partners Star Times to rig up to televise the match.
This show of brutal force was meant to keep rival South African pay television service providers, SuperSport away from the game venue with police officers manning the stadium under firm instructions not to allow any of their trucks of crew to set up.
SuperSport announced Thursday they had acquired rights to beam the match across Africa from Confederation of African Football (CAF) authorised marketing firm, Sport Five.
The extraordinary events of Friday are the latest soap opera in Kenyan football that will only end up by embarrassing the nation.
Reporters coming to cover Harambee Stars final training sessions were stopped at the gates and asked where they were going before one of the Sports Stadia Management Board staffers told them, “SuperSport people will not be allowed here, things are bad.”
“What I know about SuperSport is when their people are told not to come to cover anything here, they won’t come,” the staffer who was baffled by the heavy security presence added.
Soon, crew from Vivid Features who are meant to shoot the match on behalf of StarTimes arrived with their cameras and started marking out the positions to rig their equipment under the watchful eye of FKF chief executive, Michael Esakwa and former journalist turned federation media official, Milton Nyakundi.
Earlier, SuperSport who announced they would air the game last night confirmed in a statement they had acquired the rights to show it in Kenya and across the continent.
“Broadcasting the CHAN qualifiers shows our commitment to the growth of football in Kenya, not just at club level but also with the national team.
“Kenyans love their national team and we are making it possible for them to enjoy their favourite players from the Kenyan Premier League do battle on the international stage,” Auka Gecheo, SuperSport East Africa, General Manager, said in the statement.
“We know exactly what we are doing, we know what we own. StarTimes is one of the largest cooperates and they know their line. They are not going to pop into other people’s life.
“The national team is not about Sam Nyamweya or Robert Asembo (vice president), the national team belongs to Kenya and we are not going to stop our mandate of supporting our national team,” FKF president, Sam Nyamweya said Wednesday when they rolled out their USD5m five-year package in Nairobi.
It was at this function where the federation and Star Times boss, Gary Rathbone announced they would air the match.
In a series of three letters, CAF had cautioned FKF against violating broadcast rights by engaging partners to air CHAN, AFCON and World Cup qualifiers outside those sanctioned by continental governing body.
“Reference to our correspondence dated the 14th of May and in conformity to the provisions of articles 47 of the regulations of African Nations Championships, the television and publicity rights, of matches of the first and second round of preliminaries of the African Nations Championships as well as the final phase belong to CAF and all marketing and television rights of the Orange African Nations Championship, RWANDA 2016 will directly and exclusively be commercialised by CAF,” the CAF letter signed by Marketing and TV Director, Amr Shaheen, read.
Amid all this drama, there is a football match to be played with Kenya needing three unanswered goals to progress after Walia Ibex hit them 2-0 in the first leg in Ethiopia.
Should the turnaround be completed, Harambee Stars will sail through to the second round of the qualifiers where Sudan await with a ticket to Rwanda 2016 finals up for grabs.