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THE JUGGLER: Kenyan football fraternity in mourning

The wrangling among top football officials that has so many times threatened to destroy the game has refused to dissipate, and all local football activities have come to a halt.

It has been seven months of frustration, anguish, and real madness, and football enthusiasts have their heads spinning as one of the worst contests continue to play out.

The Kenyan Premier League and the Football Kenya Federation have found it impossible to reconcile their differences and we have gone back to where we were seven years ago.

We now have two jaundiced national leagues; one utterly weak but legitimate, the other one stable as a rock but still missing the blessings of the federation and therefore only recognizable in the surface.

As predicted, we are living in the era of a double top flight league, and for players, the uncertainty has become too uncomfortable to just whisper within the confines of the changing room.

Early Monday morning, a day after both leagues had conducted separate matches, representatives of all 16 premier league clubs converged outside the City Stadium (after they were driven out of the stadium grounds for ‘logistical reasons’) to express their concerns.

It was a tear jerking scene to watch the players, the real stakeholders in the sport, and the people who stand to lose the most from the current stalemate, stand in the scorching sun and make a brief plea to sympathetic journalists. It is now even more depressing to realize that their pleas fell on deaf ears.

Led by Bandari FC captain Wilson Oburu, the players got off by urging the two bodies to reconcile their differences and allow them back on the pitch and finished off by threatening to boycott all further matches.

COURT INJUNCTION

If the federation refused to listen to their plea, they said, they would organize countrywide demonstrations and dishonor all fixtures; a child begging for sheer recognition.

They received some help with the second bit on that same day because the KPL announced that they have suspended their fixtures after FKF got a court injunction barring all matches from taking place.

As it stands, the Kenyan internationals have trained for an entire week without purpose, and they have sat frustrated and idle for another weekend when they should have been sweating it out on the pitch.

It is a situation that is subjecting the players to untold anguish. It is therefore understandable that the likes of former Harambee Stars midfielder Geoffrey Kataka, who recently joined Posta Rangers, has declared that his job (at the Postal Corporation of Kenya) comes first ahead of his football career.

The excitement usually associated with the commencement of the premier league has been dulled by the uncertainties surrounding the local football scene, and training sessions have now become a mundane and futile exercise for players and their coaches.

For potential sponsors, the local football industry has become unattractive, unfulfilling and even disgusting.

Safaricom Chief Executive Officer Bob Collymore has already made it known that no company or institution would “waste money” on a sport that continues to be run by officials who exhibit little value for ethics.

LIVELIHOOD CUT OFF

Local sports in general, and the football discipline in particular, is losing taste among potential investors, and it is impossible to understand why the two warring factions refuse to see this fact.

It is impossible to believe that just seven months ago, local football was as healthy as it had ever been, with a top flight league that was the envy of all neighboring countries.

The thought of having the few sponsors in the shapes of Kenya Commercial Bank, Real Insurance, Brookside Dairy, Mumias Sugar and KRA jump this sinking ship for other more rewarding avenues are frightening.

If this happens, and it will if we do not realize some change by the end of this year, the existence of most of the institutional clubs will be at stake, and the footballers involved will be most affected as they shall have their source of livelihoods cut off.

Broadcast sponsors SuperSport, who have had the most direct impact in the strides local football has taken since they stepped in, have picked their way carefully through all this, but it is no secret that they do not enjoy the shenanigans they are being rewarded with.

If they pack up and leave the country, which is highly possible considering the fact that the local scene no longer offers anything special compared to other East African countries, the flow of local players into pastures new will be greatly affected as there will be no avenue for talented players to be spotted by foreign clubs.

Still, the government refuses to step in and save our sport. Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario continues to give empty threats but folds his arms and loos away as FKF and KPL continue in their damaging ways.

So now we sit by and wait for March 3, the day when all the above matters will perhaps be put to rest once and for all through a High Court ruling. Yet, there is that silent voice that tells me that the end game is nowhere in sight.