City Stars boss Korir joins chorus disapproving gov’t ban of sports

Chief writer football

Nairobi City Stars Chief Executive Officer Patrick Korir has implored the government to move with speed in reviewing the ban on sports activities in the country, which has all but stopped the Kenyan Premier League for two weeks.

While Korir notes the entire sports industry is bleeding following the executive order aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19,  and which led to the ban on sporting activities, his precise concern is the blanket ban without due consideration to the fidelity exhibited by the football fraternity in observing the laid down protocols against the virus, when the league was in session.

According to the CEO, Football Kenya Federation (FKF) and the member clubs especially at the top level showed total commitment by obeying the protocols since the resumption of the sport in November 2020, having been halted since March last year.

“The protocols were strictly adhered to and that’s why we didn’t have any crisis in the league until it was stopped. No player or official would be allowed into the stadium without a certificate showing their status after the tests. Those who tested positive would not be allowed to train with their respective clubs leave alone attending a match.

“For example, at City Stars, any abnormal temperature before training meant sending the player or official for an immediate test which would inform the decision of isolating or welcoming them back. This was the case with the other clubs as a standard practice,” claimed Korir.

Playing without fans has been a major test of adherence to the protocols according to Korir, adding that the federation and the clubs managed the unprecedented situation splendidly.

“We have never played in such a situation before and it was a big challenge because a match felt like a mere training session. Questions were there before the resumption after the first suspension of the league, if the fans would refrain from coming into the stadium, but it was not a big challenge to implement.

“Only a maximum of 40 fans for every club was allowed in for a match, with strict monitoring of the list provided by the club to the security team which consisted of GSU officers at the gates. Still, it was easy to enforce the social distance rule inside the stadium, of course, with the small number,” he explained.

With only 16 rounds played in the current FKF-PL season, there is no existing rule to determine the winner if resumption is delayed to an extent that completion of the season is deemed impossible.

This would be possible if only 75 percent of the matches have been played so that the leader at such a point is declared the winner. The second option to determine the winner and teams to be relegated is considering the standings at the half season (match day 17), which was not yet played.

Korir thus emphasizes the need for a quick restart, as further delays could force the federation to nullify the league.

“If we don’t resume soon, it will mean players out of action for like two months will need a kind of preseason once the ban is lifted to regain basic fitness for competitive football. This will translate to like three months hiatus, meaning the calendar could be more complicated to adjust hence force the federation to nullify the season,” he explained.

Besides loss of income for players and potential loss of sponsorships in such an event, Korir cautions even the national team Harambee Stars whose 2022 World Cup qualifiers kickoff in June would be significantly affected.

“Our players are now surviving on salaries only, as their transport and match allowances have now been shelved. City Stars train for about 21 days a month, you can imagine what the players are missing. It is worse in clubs where paying salaries is a problem,” he concluded.

FKF Communications Manager Ken Okaka on Wednesday afternoon confirmed to Citizen Digital the Ministry of Sports is yet to respond to their request to resume the league, despite the positivity shown by the CS Amb. Amina Mohammed a week ago.

“We wrote to the Ministry committing to strictly continue observing the protocols as we were doing before the suspension once we are allowed back. We also pledged to vaccinate our players and officials before resumption. The Ministry was from the onset positive about our request, but we have not been answered officially yet,” stated Okaka.

Upon their return from Togo for their failed 2022 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers last week, FKF president Nick Mwendwa said Amina was keen to have the premier league back following their conversation on the same.