SWILA: Fifa ban too grave to contemplate; FKF elections must not drive us down the drain
Published on: October 26, 2019 02:50 (EAT)
Isaac Swila There is a lot of political mudslinging as the clock ticks to the eagerly anticipated Football Kenya national elections primed for December 7. The heat is palpable as opposing camps maintain hard line stances ahead of what should ideally be a free, fair and credible election. Figure out this: Football Kenya Federation president Nick Mwendwa is battling to retain his seat after presenting his nomination papers to the Electoral Board on Wednesday amidst pomp and colour. However, in a bizarre development, not any of the candidates who had shown interest of unseating him presented their credentials. Former FKF chief Sam Nyamweya, the man who ruled with an iron-fist for over 20 years and soiled our game, taking it to the sewers, is showing thirst of returning to complete his incomplete job while former Vihiga governor Moses Akaranga has also shown immense interest of also taking leadership of Kenya’s football. However the duo failed to submit their nomination papers on Wednesday by 1700hrs effectively missing the deadline set by the Board. According to the duo, the playing field is not even as the Board overseeing the elections was picked by the current administration and also housed at the FKF headquarters and submitting their testimonials would be akin to rubberstamping a flawed electoral process whose outcome is already predetermined. For starters, the controversial electoral code was passed by the FKF national executive committee (NEC) and rubberstamped at the federation’s annual general meeting (AGM) held on October 5 in Nairobi. However the electoral code which requires candidates gunning for the FKF presidency to receive endorsement from at least five branches hasn’t gone down well with other candidates with the incumbent Mwendwa having also received the endorsement of all the 20 branches, effectively locking out the competition. This means that he could be elected unopposed, pulling a first one on his political mentor and friend turned foe Nyamweya. But even so, two cases have been filed challenging the process – one at the High Court and another at the Sports Disputes Tribunal (SDT) – are yet to make a pronouncement. The aggrieved parties in my view should have sounded out Fifa using the laid down football procedures for redress rather than dragging the matter before a court of law as this is contrary to the football laws. According to Fifa Statues, football matters must never be dragged before a country’s judicial system as the world soccer governing body has maintained “autonomy” and zero intolerance to political interference or otherwise. But even as the shadow boxing continues, Fifa – one not keen on the diplomatic card whenever its jurisdiction is under threat– has already read out the riot act in a strongly worded letter addressed to FKF General Secretary Mr. Barry Otieno warning that they could sanction Kenya should third party interference be witnessed. This could be the likely scenario should the courts offer ruling(s)/ direction(s) deemed unpalatable to the football body. But what are the likely repercussions should a Fifa ban be visited upon us? Firstly, Kenya will be banned from participating in international football meaning that our national football team, Harambee Stars, will locked out of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers and also be barred from challenging for a slot in the 2021 African Cup of Nations qualifiers. Cecafa matches will be a past tense and so will be international friendly matches. The same fate will befall the national women football team, Harambee Starlets, and junior sides such as the Emerging Stars and Rising Stars. At club level, Gor Mahia and Bandari who are participating in continental club championships will not be able to compete in such championships and will also be barred from playing any international friendlies. Our referees who time and again have been picked to officiate international matches – at club and national level– will also not be able to officiate these matches while football journalists yours truly will also be banned from covering any international football assignments. Lastly, the Fifa development funds will be frozen and no penny will be wired to the FKF accounts making an already dire financial situation worse. While the petitioners may feel aggrieved, it’s imperative that their grievances be heard and determined within the ambit of football laws to avoid dragging Kenya into the murky waters as has been witnessed in the past when in fights between the defunct Kenya Football Federation (KFF) under Nyamweya and Football Kenya Limited (FKL) under Mohamed Hatimy brought much shame to our football and the flag at large. For those not in the know, Fifa suspended Kenya from all football activities for three months in 2004, due to the interference of the government in football activities. The ban was reversed after the country agreed to create new statutes. As things stand, football stakeholders are following keenly on the likely direction the cases will take as Fifa’s shadow towers in the background. With sectarian interests palpable, this column calls for sobriety to ensure that Kenya does not lose out. Our game has suffered in the past resulting from Fifa bans and we do hope that those vying for leadership positions will put the country’s interest and most importantly football interest above everything else. The author is a two-time winner of the MCK Print Sports Journalist award and Radio Sports Editor at Royal Media Services.