Joseph Okumu: Harambee Stars defender reads riot act to wrangling Kenyan football stakeholders

Joseph Okumu: Harambee Stars defender reads riot act to wrangling Kenyan football stakeholders

Joel Omotto 13:52 - 09.04.2024

Harambee Stars defender Joseph Okumu has voiced his displeasure at the current wrangles being witnessed within Kenyan football leadership, terming it a risk to players’ interests.

Harambee Stars defender Joseph Okumu has appealed to the football leadership in Kenya to avoid wrangling that will lead to another FIFA ban.

Kenya is under the spotlight again after FIFA warned of dire consequences last month after a court stopped the planned Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Annual General Meeting (AGM) over the legality of those who called it.

That decision slowed down the FKF electoral process as the AGM was set to roll out a roadmap for the polls and ‘Big Brother’ responded by warning Kenya against settling football matters away from FKF and FIFA statutes, saying it will not hesitate to crack the whip, which includes a blanket ban.

With Kenya having suffered a nine-month ban in 2022 over government interference, Okumu wants those wrangling to put the players’ interests first.

"[When] all stakeholders come together and make a proper plan to accommodate the players, we can move to the next level," Okumu told BBC Sport Africa.

"We have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot by getting suspended from football because it's a problem.

"It keeps affecting the country and up-and-coming players as well. It's crucial for us to head in the same direction for the good of Kenyan football.

"Until we get that right, it will prevent the country from competing against other top nations and be difficult for our football to grow."

The FKF elections are living up to the tag of a hotly-contested affair once more, with incumbent Nick Mwendwa believed to be angling for another term even though he has not formally declared his interest.

Mwendwa’s camp is at odds with the government after the Sports Registrar warned the current FKF bosses against seeking another term after serving for the last eight years, while Extreme Sports boss Hussein Mohammed, believed to be among the key candidates for the top seat, has also been engaged in a war of words with the incumbent.

Mohammed had been barred from March’s AGM with FKF insisting he was not eligible to represent Premier League side Murang’a Seal and a confrontation was in the offing before the High Court in Mombasa stopped the meeting after an application filed by journalist Milton Nyakundi, who challenged its legality and the eligibility of some of the members.

But with Harambee Stars shrugging that off and winning the Four Nations tournament following a 4-0 thrashing of Malawi before beating Zimbabwe 3-1, Okumu is wary of the wrangles rocking the boat as they row towards qualifying for the 2025 Africa Cup of Nations and possibly the 2026 World Cup.

"It's crucial to prevent another suspension," added the Stade de Reims defender.

"Playing in tournaments like the AFCON and World Cup qualifying gives most of the local players the exposure that they need to take their careers to the next level.

"I've benefited from that when we played the Africa Cup of Nations in 2019. So, I think it's crucial for us and all the upcoming players as well to get the exposure they require.

"We have the quality, but I think a lot of things need to be in place for us to be able to actually compete at the highest level.

“All the players want to do is give their best on the pitch by defending the colours of our country."

Harambee Stars’ next assignment is the twin 2026 World Cup qualifiers against Burundi and African champions Ivory Coast in Nairobi in June.

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