“When you see a toad out at noon, know that someone is after its life.” That is one of Chinua Achebe’s literary gems. The state of the Kenyan football scene lacks lustre that one may think you cannot get a polished gem from it. That is far from truth, if you look again you will notice some unique stuff in the Kenyan football mire. Hooliganism is said to be a thorn in the flesh of Kenyan football.
This is not a special in the world of football; there are worse cases of hooliganism. Turkey is one country where goons rule the football scene. Liverpool FC fans are another hooliganistic lot. If you go to South America then you are bound to forget about the child play hooliganism of Kenyan fans.
If you take a second look at hooliganism, when we fail to consistently market our clubs and football, it finds a way to market itself. That is when hooliganism becomes news, because getting real news from Kenyan football is like trying to milk a donkey. The goons in a way market our football. The people who cannot come to stadiums get a reason to comment about the local beautiful game.
Inbreeding has led to the extinction of our strong football gene of the eighties. When you close up a society to external influence, you end up with choking the system. Kenyan football got a serious case of inbreeding in the nineties. Coaches would move around with specific players. The same old players stayed longer in the clubs, only rotating each season. This led to transfer of mediocrity and the same level of thinking.
Another conspicuous factor in Kenyan football is that talent is natured in the regions then it all comes to concentrate in Nairobi. Out of the sixteen teams in the top flight, seven or about forty percent are based outside Nairobi. Two clubs are in Nakuru, four in Western Kenya the remaining one is Bandari from the coast. Thika can be classified as a Nairobi suburb and Thika United has shifted base to Nairobi this season.
This concentration of sixty percent of football activities where about only thirty percent of top flight talent comes from is detrimental to football development in Kenya. This has led to efforts and resources being channeled to Nairobi leaving the breeding grounds of talent to take remnants.
In connection to centralization, Kenyan football is too institutionalized. The few clubs that are not institutionally owned are so averse to internal structures you would think they are running away from a strangling norm. Parsatatals and corporate have done a good job in sponsoring these clubs and keeping them afloat. The good intentions can only go thus far, and the road to hell is also paved with good intentions.
Football is not the core business of these institutions, so clubs tend to run on auto pilot. There is little change and the caretakers are always happy when the status quo is maintained. With a few liberal initiatives like what KPA did to de link Bandari FC management from the ports administration albeit on paper, we will see some shifts in club football.
Lastly, Kenyan has a growing number of women centre referees. This means that players will have to tone their voices when agreed by the decision of these officiating ladies. Then again, they have something else to chase with their eyes and admire on the pitch apart from the ball. With more ladies, our players will soon be enjoying the game more than the spectators.
When the writer is not thinking about Kenyan football, he works as a groundwater consultant