NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 29- On Tuesday, during his swearing in at the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani, President Uhuru Kenyatta issued a directive that citizens from the East African Community will not need passports to travel into the country nor permits to work in Kenya.
The discussion on the same has now been spilled into the local football arena with questions amounting as to whether East African Community players will be regarded as foreign players or not.
The EAC is made up of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan and Burundi.
Currently, the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) has capped the maximum number of foreign players a club can sign at five and this includes East African community players.
“Well, it is something that just happened yesterday and we are yet to know whether or not it is law. As KPL, we operate with the law of the land. We have a Governing Council meeting tomorrow (Thursday) and this will come up in discussion,” KPL’s head of logistics and operations Frank Okoth told Capital Sport.
In the event that the same is adopted, then it will open up a door for clubs to fish out for more foreign players from the rest of the continent to add on to the huge Ugandan legion that currently plies its trade in the country.
AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia who will represent the country at next year’s CAF competitions might see this as an opportunity to strengthen their squads to lift themselves into the same competitive levels as the opponents they will face.
“This is a good thing and a bad thing. Clubs with money will now have a chance of signing more players which might be good especially with the CAF Competitions. But on the other side of the coin, it might be suicidal for the national team football and growth of talent in the country,” AFC Leopards chairman Dan Mule said.
The same sentiments were shared by KPL’s Okoth who is of the opinion that an influx of players outside the country will water down the growth of local talent.
In their current squad, Gor Mahia has one Ugandan, three Rwandese and one Burundian and if the same is effected, their foreign quota will drop down to zero and they will head most likely to West Africa and fish for more players.
“You might find that in one instant, a team can field a squad of entirely foreign based players. That is not good for the country,” Okoth warned.
AFC Leopards assistant coach Tom Juma also sees this as an impediment to local football, if KPL takes this route.
“The national team will be hurt in the long run. If we have less players playing in the top league, then we won’t have good players for the national team. I believe we have enough talent in Kenya and we should not flood in more foreign players. Let’s build our players,” Juma, a former Kenyan international said.
An example where this is implemented is in Europe where players from the European Union are not regarded as ‘foreigners’ and teams can sign as many as they wish. It is more profound in the English Premier League which has attracted many players due to its commercial appeal.
The Football Association (FA) had brought this up for discussion a while ago, with their main concern being around their national team.