Harambee Starlets Olympic qualifier in doubt as broke FKF disbands camp
Harambee Starlets two-leg Olympic qualifier against Zambia now hangs in the balance after Football Kenya Federation on Tuesday disbanded the team’s camp due to lack of funds.
The first leg is primed for November 4 in Nairobi and the return leg in Lusaka, Zambia four days later.
This is the last stage of the long qualification journey with the aggregate winner earning a ticket to grace the 2020 Olympics set for Japan.
However, at a press briefing in Nairobi on Tuesday, FKF chief Nick Mwendwa said that he’s been left with no option but to disband camp blaming the government for failing to finance the team in the past one year.
The unfortunate turn of events follows a desperate caution by Mwendwa last week, that the federation would withdraw Starlets in the campaign if the Ministry of Sports failed to deliver funds for the team’s preparation for the Zambia match by Tuesday.
Further, Mwendwa has clearly said if no money will have been availed in the next seven days, the Zambia trip will be cancelled.
According to Mwendwa, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Sports Ambassador Peter Kirimi Kaberia “has been ignoring their calls” to release funds for the team’s activities, without any meaningful explanation.
“Since Starlets played in the African Women Cup of Nations (AWCON), we have been duly applying for the team’s funding in vain. We have incurred debts every time our team has been involved in international duties waiting to pay as soon we are funded, but it has never happened,” told an agitated Mwendwa.
According to FKF boss, they applied for Sh34 million in 2018 that is yet to be given.
In June 2019, the federation applied for Sh38 million, before applying for a further Sh18 million in August and a similar figure in October for the Malawi, Ethiopia, Ghana and Zambia matches respectively to no fruition.
“We don’t know why. It appears there is a problem with funding football, yet there is a commitment from the President Uhuru Kenyatta himself that national teams are to be funded by the Ministry. The worst bit is that there is no explanation given why the money cannot be released…” an irked Mwendwa added.
This means the efforts by Starlets to eliminate World Cup finalists Black Queens of Ghana in the second round of the qualifiers could go to waste, the federation also incurring debts for the previous rounds preparations.
“It is painful. I see the girls unable to cater for their basic needs and sometimes I’m forced to dig deep from pocket to help them yet they are owed by the Ministry. I simply don’t understand if there is a problem with funding especially the girls,” Mwendwa averred.
Already, auctioneers have come to FKF demanding for the monies owed to various service providers, including airlines, hotels and playing venues owners.
“The Cabinet Secretary Amb. Amina Mohammed has already told us everything to do with funds applied for we talk to the Principal Secretary. He has failed to talk to us. We have today reached the climax of this. If he answers us and shows us where the problem is, we will be ready to take the next action.”
He continued: “We have sent four reminders, yet there is no response. This is coming when I’m smelling we can make it to Olympics, having seen how the girls performed against Ghana. Painfully, we may end up being barred from participating in the next qualifiers including for the Awcon.”
Starlets are likely to go to Tanzania for the forthcoming CECAFA tournament, by bus, with Mwendwa still emphasising it will be another hard task with the current situation.
Poignantly, the men’s team Harambee Stars is set to play Egypt away to Cairo on November 10, and the federation is still in dire need of the funds to ensure the 2021 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) journey does not end before beginning.
Mwendwa says, without response from the Ministry, it will be impossible for Kenya to honour the match too.