Nick Mwendwa, FKF president
Nick Mwendwa, one of the most divisive figures in Kenyan football leadership. Will he vacate the seat in 2024? | Image: Mozzart sport

Per the Sports Act, 2013, the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) elections should be held in February 2024. By then, the current leadership of President Nick Mwendwa should have completed its two-term limit. That said, Mozzard Sport reported that the polls could be pushed to 25. The postponement would be a make-up for the year lost during FKF’s dissolution by the sports ministry and ban by FIFA. This is news to most stakeholders in lower parts of the game, partly due to the scantiness of news in that segment and partly due to the opaque nature of operations in the Kenyan football administration.

Or maybe I am just speaking with the ignorance of a person from a football-marginalized area. 

On Monday, 7th August 2023, a Nation Article by Sylvester Habil spoke of the worry over the uncertain state of preparations for the February polls. Habil touches on important issues that are a cause of concern to stakeholders. Among these are the disbandment of the National Executive Council (NEC), random amendment of the FKF constitution, and corruption at the polls where campaign funding remains opaque. Habil worries that as things stand, it is impossible to say with certainty who will conduct the polls – if at all they will be there. 

I feel there are more concerns of equal magnitude.

FKF Disregard for Grassroots Stakeholders

The total disregard for grassroots stakeholders is appalling. Whereas the ideal model is to have polls from the bottom up, the last election was the inverse. It was a confusing model where many cannot state which came first – the national office (president, vice), NEC, or county offices. Many sub-county offices were ignored altogether. Elected county offices conducted moot elections to install ad-hoc offices. Holders of such offices have no say in the FKF chain. They have to dance to the county official’s tune. I cite Embu County as an example.

Grassroots involvement in elections is vital if we are to have a functional and accountable federation structure. The lowest levels of competition must be the first participants in the electoral process. They also need to understand what value they stand to gain from being part of the FKF web. I have repeatedly lacked answers to these two questions from sub-county teams:

  • What do we gain from FKF that justifies our affiliation?
  • How come we never get even a drop of the money that FKF gets from FIFA?

“At least the diocese tries to blind us by paying our Vicar,” one stakeholder joked. “Here, we affiliate, cater to our own transport, and pay refs out of our pockets. But there are no awards at the end of the season.” They were comparing the Anglican Church’s quota contribution to FKF affiliation. This concern discourages many teams from taking part in grassroots competitions. As a result, a lot of raw football talent goes to waste. 

Politics of Football

We are entering an era where the government wants to have a hand in everything. As a result, expect edging out of the faces you are used to if they do not align themselves with the government of the day. Or at least serious efforts in that regard. Pray that whoever gets into those seats has a genuine interest in football. And some decent knowledge of it too!

Football lovers must embrace the politics of football. It is the only way to protect the game from state interference and capture. The enthusiasm you have seen from the Sports CS towards stadium restoration (rightfully so). The embrace you have seen from politicians towards teams that had a successful so (rightfully so). Expect the overtures to slowly extend to football management through FKF. Talanta Hela football. Kenya Academy of Sports…think!

Therefore, football lovers must counter this by being active in football politics themselves and separating it from state politics. This should not be hard. After all, football administration has been used by many to transition to national politics. The two, however, can never dwell peacefully under one roof.

I always say that I see no problem with politicians being football fans – or stakeholders of any kind. However, bringing politics to football is a proven danger. It breeds exclusion and coercion in a game that should be free for all.

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