Baba's unplayed match: The ambitious reform for Kenyan football that never was

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Baba's unplayed match: The ambitious reform for Kenyan football that never was

Festus Chuma 12:35 - 04.04.2024

Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna has revealed Raila Odinga's ambitious plans to reform Kenyan football had he won the 2022 presidency.

Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna has unveiled a groundbreaking conversation that paints a vivid picture of the drastic measures opposition leader Raila Odinga was willing to embrace to revolutionise Kenyan football. 

Speaking on the Mic Cheque Podcast, Sifuna shed light on a previously undisclosed dialogue between him and Odinga that highlighted their shared concern over the state of football governance in Kenya, specifically relating to the Football Kenya Federation (FKF).

During a helicopter journey from Naivasha to Kisumu, after attending an Arsenal match—a team Odinga fervently supports along with FKF Premier League champions Gor Mahia and the national team, Harambee Stars—Sifuna and his party leader delved into the crises plaguing Kenyan football. 

"There was a time when we were together, Raila and I, discussing Kenyan football. As you're aware, there's currently a crisis in the sport. The FKF elections should be happening, but there are problems everywhere, with so many vested interests causing harm to football," Sifuna recounted.

In a bold proposition, Sifuna suggested that, should Odinga ascend to the presidency in the 2022 elections, they should accept a potential FIFA ban for a decade as a sacrifice for overhauling the football system in Kenya. 

Odinga, displaying his profound love and vision for football, countered with a promise that he would willingly allow FIFA to impose a five-year ban on Kenya to facilitate a comprehensive cleanup of the football federation.

"Right then, he solemnly promised that, if elected, he would allow FIFA to ban Kenya for five years to clean up the entire system. This way, by the time we return, we could aim directly for the World Cup," Sifuna disclosed.

This revelation comes against the backdrop of a decade marred by controversies and legal entanglements that have stifled the growth and development of football in Kenya. 

In 2022, FIFA lifted a nine-month ban it had imposed on FKF after the reinstatement of the federation's executive committee by Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba. 

The ban was a consequence of government's interference in FKF's operations and the appointment of a caretaker committee amid allegations of misappropriation of funds by the federation. 

Additionally, FKF president Nick Mwendwa faced accusations of embezzling millions and tampering with the federation's electoral processes, charges from which he was later acquitted.

Despite attempts to stabilise the federation, including scheduling elections in February 2024, legal hurdles persisted. 

The elections were indefinitely postponed following a court injunction by Lady Justice Olga Sewe, which further complicated FKF's governance crisis. 

FIFA, in response, issued a stern warning in March 2024, threatening to ban Kenya from international competitions if the federation failed to disregard the court order and proceed with its Annual General Meeting. This move underscored FIFA's strict stance against the involvement of the state.

Odinga's electoral loss in 2022 to President William Ruto left these ambitious plans unfulfilled casting a shadow over the future of Kenyan football. 

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