Lawyer Ambrose Rachier has been Gor-Mahia football Club's chairman for close to 10 years, since 2008 and was given fresh mandate by the 'Green Army' in December 2016 to steer Kenya's most successful football club for another four years a period he believes will be his last term at the helm of the club. During his 10 years at Gor-mahia, and in particularly the last six seasons, Rachier has won the League three times and finished second in the other three making him the Kenya Premier League Limited Chairman for three straight years and Vice Chairman for the other three. Rachier has also tried on two occasions to ascend to football's top most office in the country but both attempts were unsuccessful. Ambrose Rachier gave an Interview for the Kenyanstar of the week column incidentally on the morning he was slapped with a ban by FKF for 'bringing the game to disrepute' ...
KS: In Brief for those who do not know you, who is Ambrose Rachier?
I'm a loyal Kenyan Citizen, 68 years old, a family man, a lawyer, Scholar, Teacher, Sports enthusiast, A fan of Gor-Mahia but most above all a leader... Of-course i tried my hand in politics but swore never to go back there after the lessons i learnt.
KS: How long have you been in football administration?
Since i took over Gor-Mahia leadership in 2008
KS: Let's talk about Gor-Mahia, You've been at the helm for a long time now, This is the 10th year i believe... Has it been a success story for you.
Gor-Mahia has had tremendous improvement! I Insist Tremendous improvement under my chairmanship and i can outline various areas where these improvements are there for all to see.
When i took over the club had just a handful of active fans and no funds at all. We now have a phenomenal return of the fans or what we like to call the green army and you can see, this in itself is a source of income for the club. We've also had a number of sponsors come on board since then, We've had Tuzo, Sportpesa and Crown Larger.
I took over when the club was narrowly escaping relegation, Our performance on the field of play has since improved and in the last six years we have either won the league or unluckily finished second. One of these league wins has been unbeaten the entire season.
We have improved corporate governance and introduced structures, we now have a fully fledged secretariat with a CEO running the club and we now hold well organized elections.
We have been steadily improving player welfare through better pay and simple things like a club bus to ease movement. We are also acting like a spring board, providing young players with opportunities to play in better leagues out of the country. You will remember George Odhiambo, Aucho, Olunga and most recently Erick Ouma.
Last but probably very key is that i helped in founding and setting up of the Gor-Mahia Sacco which is very key to the Gor-Mahia Family. The Fans, players and even officials can save funds and access credit facilities via the Sacco.
KS: Some people... most people agree and are happy with your record but they think you have steadied the ship and should allow someone else to sail it to harbor.
Of-course Samuel I'll not be Gor-Mahia Chairman forever, this is probably my last term and i still have a lot to offer a lot to offer especially if i get the tranquility in the last four years...
KS: What do you have up your sleeve? Say a five year plan...?
Three main things that need to be done...
For starters we plan to develop an academy and run a very solid youth team. Our football will go nowhere without investment in academies. There is no country in the world that has done well in football without investment in academies, even the much talked about Ghana National team they have been playing together from a very young age. The big players you hear about, the likes of Mesut Ozil and his Germany Teammates have been in academies from the age of five years.
Secondly i plan to launch a Gor-Mahia stadium project... And this is not just a stadium but a soccer village that will also include a residential area for our players and staff. So a player signing for Gor-Mahia would mean that among other things they get a house for the entire duration of their contract. Infrastructure is another very important necessity in football and unless we invest in Infrastructure we are headed nowhere.
Lastly i intended to put a lot of effort into player welfare at Gor-Mahia. Things like insurance cover should be include on the sign-up package for Gor-Mahia. Football is largely about the players so if we don't invest in them then we will have no football to enjoy.
All these are achievable and i intend to go forth with them, they are not just pipe dreams.
KS: When you say solid youth team, what does it mean with regard to what you currently have? The one that takes part in the KPL youth Tournament.
That is an Ad-hoc youth team that we recruit mainly from the schools and largely on a need basis. Most of the other times they are on their own. I talk of a youth team that will be part of the club with a substantial budget to run it. This will also lower our cost of recruitment because it is expensive to recruit players.
KS: Gor has done well locally over the past six years, twice near champions, then champions three times in a row, unlucky not to make it four but then, What is the secret? What ensures you stay at the top level?
I think it's good leadership, and not just from me but most of the people elected into office with me over the last years have shown great leadership so credit to all of us and also to those who have been electing.
KS: Having said that, Why isn't this performance not replicated in continental competitions? Fair to say not just by Gor-Mahia but by most Kenyan teams with few exemptions?
Thank you, that is a very important question and there are two reasons for it ...
First is our calendar. We need to align our calendar with all other major leagues. The thing is when continental competitions begin, most other leagues have been ongoing and are probably halfway while for us we haven't even started, we are just getting off pre-season. our teams are therefore playing teams that have already jelled and worked out functional formations. While not impossible, it is very difficult to win against a team that is already in rhythm while you are only starting.
Second, is lack of support from the federation. It is very expensive to compete in the continental competitions and support from the federation would go a long way. Federations in other countries support their clubs.
KS: You have been KPL Chair for three years, Vice Chair for another two and this year is your third as Vice Chair. The other chairmen on the council must also appreciate the challenge our calendar poses with regards to continental competitions, why hasn't this been fixed once and for all?
Because this is the responsibility of the federation.
KS: Mr. Rachier, What challenges do you face as the Chairman of Gor-mahia? What challenges does Gor-Mahia as a club face
There are three main challenges;
For starters finances are still a major challenge as we try to implement our programs and still compete effectively.
Secondly hooliganism is a big challenge for us in two ways. One because it endangers the lives players and peace loving fans and two because it hinders the growth of our fan base in terms of the actual fans who would like to come and support the team at the stadia.
The third challenge is the tendency by our fans to try and micromanage people they have elected into office. This is a big drawback to our corporate governance practices. Our fans need to be educated and to understand that when you give someone a job you have to allow them to do the judge them on the Results, Do not give someone a job and show them how to do it at every stage.... Why then did you give him or her the job in the first place?
KS: You mention Hooliganism, who does the back stop with?
The law enforcers. The police need to provide security, arrest the few hooligans masquerading as fans and have them pay with their time. Unfortunately even when these people are arrested they are allowed to walk the next day. The clubs don't own the stadium so it is difficult to task them with security.
KS: Most clubs only fire a non performing coach. A coach who can't win trophies for them. Gor-Mahia has parted ways with a few title winning coaches, One who won it unbeaten .....
Samuel, the circumstances are different for all of them for those we have fired over the last few years. I can mention a few cases without names. One, sometimes back we fired simply because he wasn't performing, Another one we lost to the National team so there was very little we could do and another one we fired on grounds of indiscipline mainly because in Cohort with a few fans he held the club at ransom with outrageous demands contrary to our agreement and contract. These kind of acts undermine our corporate governance efforts and we had to act promptly.
KS: In addition to not winning the league, does losing all three pre-season friendly matches so far pass as underperformance for Ze Maria? Should we expect to see him fired soon?
No you can't fire a coach because he's lost in pre-season friendly matches. Nonetheless I have had an elaborate meeting with the coach and he explained all these losses. He is still getting to understand our new players. In the first match he had just jetted in and very little training had taken place, In the second match it wasn't about winning, he actually played all the 26 players in that single match and in the third match, the one against the Ugandan side like i said this is a team playing in an ongoing league while we are still in preseason. We have however set target for the coach and we can only judge him or take action based on these targets.
KS: Is it a good or bad thing when Erick Ouma leaves Gor-Mahia for Georgia?
While i wish Erick all the best at his new club i still believe that this move is ill advised. In my opinion the best for him would have been to stick around, even if not at Gor-Mahia then locally for another one or two seasons to assert his game and probably attract better opportunities. One problem with our football is that we have people calling themselves agents who are not even registered and they are miss-advising these young boys. Sometimes you engage a player and the moment you invite him to take his sign-on fee he arrives with a bunch of people claiming to be his agents.
KS: Gor-Mahia has won the league three times in a row... We still see your matches with a stadium only quarter full, what will it take to have more people attending Gor Matches?
The main issues here are our calendar again and the hooliganism. We cannot ignore the fact that we are competing against elite leagues like the EPL, Bundesliga, Laliga and others. By the time our league starts all these league have gained momentum and it becomes very difficult to convince someone to forget about chelsea and come watch Gor-Mahia even if you get everything else right. It would be much fairer competition if our league started at the same time with all the others. And like i said with hooliganism still an issue then most would be fans would rather stay away from the stadium.
KS: AFC Leopards Vs Gor Mahia, is this rivalry just a fans conception? As the chairman of Gor-Mahia does it give you more pleasure when you win against Leopards than when you win against any other team?
Football cannot be sweet without a derby so yes there is a lot of Joy in winning against Leopards and a lot of sadness when they win against us.
KS: Talking of AFC Leopards, they are one of the biggest clubs in the country, why do you think they have been struggling in the past few years?
I think it goes back to lack of tranquility and not allowing elected officials to do their job. Every fan cannot be the club chairman so we have to allow elected officials do their job and replace them when the right time comes.
KS: Talk to us about you FKF Presidency bid. What did you want to achieve as FKF president that you couldn't achieve as KPL Chairman.
To answer this you have to understand the different roles of the two organizations. KPL is only the league manager...
KS: So what did you have in store as FKF President?
A lot of things and i hope they can still be done. Unfortunately i'm past my sell-by date because i don't think i'll run again but my agenda revolved around four issues; Development of youth football, Development of Infrastructure, development of women football and Transparency in management.
KS: Has you being past your sell-by date has anything to do with the ban you've been slapped with?
No it's a personal decision i made after my second unsuccessful bid. The ban does not benefit our football in anyway. It is not about individuals, If you ban me today and someone else takes my position tomorrow he will find the same same issues on the table. So the correct thing to do as a leader is to have a discussion with all involved parties and solve outstanding issues.
KS: So would these same issues be on the table today had you been elected president?
Not necessarily because what we are seeing today is lack of leadership. It is important that we emulate best practice as it is done elsewhere globally. We need to be very clear in interpreting roles of KPL and the federation and we need to respect existing agreements because we have been discussing these issues with the federation for some time now. So if i were the president i would offer leadership and will not engage in this discussions with a fixed mind.
KS: Why is CAF licensing an issue for some KPL clubs?
It is not an issue. The issue is it's execution. The rules are very clear on what should happen to clubs that fail to obtain this license. There are sanctions, penalties but relegation is not one of them! Relegation and promotion should be purely on sporting merit so we have to question the integrity of some of these decisions. Why for instance should a club that hasn't played in the league for all these years suddenly being fronted for promotion at all costs immediately someone becomes president?
KS: What are the arguments against an 18 team league?
The federation is in no position to set the number of teams to play in the league, it needs to take advise from the league manager and when deciding who gets promoted and relegated it has to be on sporting merit and not political expediency. We are not opposed to an 18 team league but we have shared with the federation the impact of the expansion starting with the additional 66 matches.
KS: So what would be your message to the FKF President when he reads this?
I plead with the all powerful leader of football in this country to rethink his decision. We are powerless and do not want to defy him. We also do not wish to engage in a fight with him. We are getting late for the commencement of the league and any further delays will make it difficult for us to have a successful season. The constant wrangles are not good for football. We need leadership from the top. As a leader, you cannot be crying foul always. What is the problem? Good leaders bring harmony and find solution to problems
KS: These issues around sports administration across all sports federations and organizations in Kenya seem familiar. What do you think is the major problem?
Samuel, There is someone who is the overall in charge of the Industry and answerable to the president, what has been his input so far? ..
KS: What has been the impact of the sports act on our sports and football in particular?
I think there has been no impact and i also think most people do not understand it. I think there should be a complete overhaul of the sports act and simplify it for the benefits of our sports organization.
KS: Thank you for your time Mr. Rachier ...