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What FIFA Ban Means for Kenyan Football

The move by FIFA follows a protracted power struggle in Kenyan football

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World football governing body FIFA on Thursday, February 24 announced the indefinite suspension of Kenya from all international football activities.

Explaining the decision, FIFA President Gianni Infantino cited government interference. Also suspended on the same basis was the Zimbabwe Football Association.

The decision will have several implications for Kenyan football, although a path remains for the country’s status to be restored. But how did we get here in the first place?

The move by FIFA follows a protracted power struggle in Kenyan football that has left lovers of the sport disillusioned. The Ministry of Sports in November 2021 disbanded the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) and appointed a caretaker committee to run the affairs of Kenyan football for a six-month period until fresh FKF elections were held.

FKF President Nick Mwendwa was arrested twice on graft and abuse of office related charges. He relinquished his powers and handed over to Vice-Chair Doris Petra even as the caretaker committee took charge of the local game including the Kenyan Premier League (KPL).

The FKF officials were barred from accessing the premises at Kandanda House. FIFA raised concerns warning Kenya of a potential ban as government interference contravenes FIFA statutes binding member associations. A large section of Kenyan fans, however, backed Mwendwa’s ouster citing the decline of Kenyan football in his tenure – including the exits of multiple sponsors and broadcasters over incessant wrangling.

FIFA officials began engaging the ministry to find a way to resolve matters. But it became clear in January 2022 that the cracks were deeper than they appeared when Kenya’s Harambee Starlets failed to play an AWCON qualification match vs Uganda because FKF CEO Barry Otieno wrote to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) informing them of their inability to organize the match as the recognized federation.

Desperate efforts by the caretaker committee to get CAF to reverse the decision were unfruitful, meaning Kenyans missed out on watching one of the most exciting generations of Kenyan women’s football due to petty, bureaucratic contests.

Now, Kenya stands effectively locked out of Kenyan football. Optimists hope it will be the spark that helps reinvigorate the sport in Kenya while ushering in a new era of professionalism, proper management and success.

At present however, its ramifications for the sport are devastating. Here’s what the ban means for Kenyan football.

First, Kenyan clubs and national teams will be unable to participate in international competitions until the suspension is lifted. This means no World Cup or AFCON qualification matches for Harambee Stars, and no CAF Champions League of CAF Confederations Cup action for Kenya’s league and cup winners this season respectively.

FKF and its members or officials will also be barred from benefitting from FIFA development programmes including grants and other initiatives. It will also impact clubs ability to complete international transfers.

FIFA broke down what it would take for the suspension to be lifted in a letter from FIFA Secretary General, Fatma Samoura.

She stated that the ministry decision forming the caretaker committee would have to be repealed in addition to FKF officials being granted access to their offices.

Samoura also maintained that FIFA would support any corruption investigations against FKF officials.

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MARTIN SIELEhttps://loud.co.ke/
Martin K.N Siele is the Content Lead at Business Today. He is also a Quartz contributor and a 2021 Baraza Media Lab-Fringe Graph Data Storytelling Fellow. Passionate about digital media, sports and entertainment, Siele also founded Loud.co.ke
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