Don’t blame match-fixers, blame the Kenyan society

Akhiad Kubiev, Bernard Nabende and Martin Munga Mutua

From left: Akhiad Kubiev, Bernard Nabende and Martin Munga Mutua at the Makadara Law Courts in Nairobi on March 13, 2023.

Photo credit: Joseph Ndunda | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • I got the impression that their empty and rumbling stomachs notwithstanding, the average Kenyan footballer lacks a moral compass to guide his or her actions for the good of the game, if not for anything else
  • Graft is the age-long vice that we love to denounce in public, yet we never miss an opportunity to abet the vice
  • The bad news is that corruption is here to stay, for as long as we keep romanticising it right down from our learning institutions where learners are coached on cheating their way to academic success


When three suspected match-fixers, among them a Kenyan national, were arrested last week, the shocking news was how football loving Kenyans and the general public attempted to justify and excuse the existence of this criminal enterprise in the local game.

The common logic in the argument was that Kenyan footballers have become vulnerable to match-fixers for one simple reason – Kenyan football doesn’t pay. Proponents of this school of thought argued, perhaps rightfully so, that all football clubs in Kenya, with no exception, are either incapable of paying competitive wages and bonuses to their players and technical staff on a regular basis or are merely CSR ventures by their parent companies.

So to put food on the table, most of these players would happily throw away one match here and another there for a few extra coins. Fair enough. However, what I struggled to comprehend is the notion that a vast majority of Kenyans football players are a dishonest and conniving lot with no iota of decency. I got the impression that their empty and rumbling stomachs notwithstanding, the average Kenyan footballer lacks a moral compass to guide his or her actions for the good of the game, if not for anything else.

Sadly, this is not just about local football players in the match-fixing cartel. Racketeering, fraud and dishonesty seems to run in the Kenyan DNA. To put it bluntly, Kenyans generally have a strong disposition to corruption. Graft is the age-long vice that we love to denounce in public, yet we never miss an opportunity to abet the vice.

At independence, the founding fathers of this nation made a commitment to fight hunger, poverty and ignorance – njaa, umaskini na ujinga, to put it in Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s famous word. Jomo should have known better. Fighting corruption is what he should have had in mind those many years ago. So while hunger, poverty and ignorance are still here with us, corruption has become Kenya’s biggest socio-economic threat.

The bad news is that corruption is here to stay, for as long as we keep romanticising it right down from our learning institutions where learners are coached on cheating their way to academic success. A student who cheated his or her way through high school, will most likely show up on campus as that dunderhead who squanders his or her parents’ hard-earned pittance meant for school fees on foolhardy ‘investments’ in the name of sports betting. It gets worse in learning environments where lecturers with rotten morals have no qualms in coercing their students into illicit sexual relationships in exchange for ‘good’ grades.

To put into context, that dishonourable player who dopes or conspires with a shadowy bookmaker to throw away a match is most likely the same player who many years ago falsified his age to play in an age group tournament that he or she was too old for.

Tragically, the Kenyan society has normalised such delinquent behaviour. Within the Kenyan education system, teachers have been known to abet bad sportsmanship on the field of play through age falsification and exam-cheating in the classroom.

How then do we expect to produce morally upright citizens? The corrupt leaders we love whining about did not land here from the moon. They were schooled, nurtured and socialised into being corrupt by a society that condones sleaze. Ditto the compromised players in the match-fixing network.

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