Wake-up call for Harambee Stars

Kenya’s national football team, the Harambee Stars, lost to newbies South Sudan 1-0 in a friendly match on Tuesday at Kasarani.

This result came less than a week after the Stars famously edged out 2022 Fifa World Cup host Qatar 2-1 in Doha, prompting celebrations that even saw President William Ruto congratulate the team and rally fans to turn up for the match against South Sudan.

The interest shown through the impressive turnout for the midweek fixture at Kasarani demonstrates the hunger for such high-profile matches that have been few and far between, largely thanks to world football governing body Fifa’s suspension of Kenya due to “government interference.”

The truth of the matter is the country’s football is still in doldrums. Bad leadership over the years caused the game to stagnate and that is why many supported former Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed’s decision to disband the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) in November 2021.

Amina’s successor Ababu Namwamba might have reinstated the FKF office to trigger Fifa’s lifting of the suspension, but his own admission that he had suggested to Fifa to appoint a normalisation committee to run the game speaks volumes of the turmoil. Mismanagement of football shouldn’t continue at Kandanda House as perpetrators continue to hide under Fifa rules and regulations that deter “external interference” of the federation’s operations. That is why the upcoming FKF elections in February next year ought to usher in people with the right morals and integrity to help breathe freshness and professionalism in the federation.

While the Harambee Stars and the national women’s team, the Harambee Starlets, missed out on their respective Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers because of the Fifa ban, our neighbours Tanzania have already qualified for the men’s championship. Nonetheless, it is great to see President Ruto rally support for the Harambee Stars, and we should build on such executive goodwill to develop a sober federation leadership, build a winning team and qualify for the 2026 Fifa World Cup finals in the US, Canada and Mexico.