OKAKA: Why FKF president Mwendwa deserves another term

Even the most ardent critics of the current FKF administration acknowledge albeit begrudgingly the fact that in the last four years, the state of football in Kenya has improved in many aspects.

These include Football Kenya Federation (FKF) president Nick Mwendwa’s political opponents.

I too subscribe to the school of thought that Mwendwa’s first four-year term at the helm of Kenyan football has been a success and what he now needs is to take the sport to the next level even as he aspires for re-election.

Upon assuming office, FKF and Mwendwa set up sound financial systems that led to the sport’s world governing body FIFA to lift an embargo it had been imposed on Kenya from receiving grants meant for the development of youth and women football.

FKF’s headquarters at Kasarani is a sharp contrast to its pre- Mwendwa sorry state, thanks to its rehabilitation and resuscitation by the current administration.

Before, the then secretariat used to squat at the Nyayo Stadium swimming pool area to perform duties.

Also, the men’s national football team, Harambee Stars, successes culminated in qualification for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Egypt after a 15-year absence.

Kenya’s qualification was made possible by the exposure the team got by playing many international friendlies, coupled with high level coaching.

Under the previous regimes, little regard was given to women’s football. Indeed, there appeared a lack of concern for women in Kenyan football. The Starlets were constantly short-changed with non-payment of allowances, coupled with inferior, sometimes dangerous, working conditions.

But then, Harambee Starlets, qualified for her first-ever Africa Women’s Cup of Nations in Cameroon in 2016.

And last year, Starlets dethroned Council for East and Central Africa (Cecafa) champs Tanzania Queens in Dar es Salaam to lift their first-ever regional title.

To maintain a consistent conveyor belt of talent to the senior national teams, FKF has since constituted junior national teams that have remained active in international competitions. Introduced the U13/15 Leagues in sub-branches – aimed at giving young players a chance to showcase their talent – as Kenya’s future.

In an effort to sustain this success, the federation, in 2019, actualized its National Centre of Excellence where players are put on a home-schooling program.

For the first time in Kenya’s history, FKF secured a sponsor for the second and lower-tier leagues which is a great effort in promoting grassroots football. The federation has also managed to bring on board various sponsors- four gaming firms, Safaricom, Bamba TV and Wadidegla.

FKF has endeavored to build the capacity of the technical wing of football through coaching courses where over 3,000 coaches have been trained free of charge, obtaining CAF D and C licenses.

This has not only gone a long way in ensuring that players at the grassroots are handled by qualified personnel, but also helped bridge the capacity gap that has denied coaches job opportunities.

The current Federation has been conducting free referees training and physical endurance tests, an initiative that has resulted not only in a steady rise in the number of matches officials picked for international assignments but also the level of officiating.

Apart from a few cases which are expected during any FKF election period, squabbling in the federation has become a thing of the past. This is due to the increased democratic space and an all-inclusive administration.

The author, Ken Okaka, is FKF’s Media Officer