What you need to know:
- I don’t need to make a case for Oliech or Wanyama.
- Their impeccable footballing credentials are beyond this debate.
It appears the jury is still out on the little matter of football talent, or the lack of it, in Kenya as was recently alluded by the paramount football authority in this country.
While it is pointless to ruminate endlessly on this emotive debate, I couldn’t help but deeply reflect on some very interesting counter-argument from one reader who emailed me this past week.
“There is no football talent in Kenya capable of competing with the best, just the same way there is no talent in India and China,” a certain Tom Kigen wrote in response to my last column where I berated Football Kenya Federation leadership for its failure to set up proper structures needed to lift the standards of our game.
He goes on: “If there is talent in Kenya, then it cannot be in the traditional catchment areas of Kenya's football i.e. Nyanza and Western. It can only mean that the talent is to be found in yet to be exploited regions e.g. North Eastern, Samburu, Turkana etc.”
He further argued that talent, by far, predominates management – that you can’t teach or impart talent as a football administrator.
So maybe, yes, Kenya really doesn’t have any football talent worthy of mentioning. What now?
“Let's look for exceptional football talent in other regions of Kenya and if we can't find it, we just throw in the towel. We cannot after all be good in everything,” my esteemed reader proposed.
Oh, I haven’t even mentioned that Bwana Kigen went as far as branding the likes of Mike Okoth, Dennis Oliech, McDonald Mariga and Victor Wanyama as “average players.”
Impeccable footballing credentials
Very interesting perspectives, which, however, I largely disagree with.
First and foremost, I don’t know what he meant by “average players.” Does having a Uefa Champions League and Serie ‘A’ medals around your neck translate to being average, as is the case for Mariga? I don’t think so.
Neither do I think that someone like Mike Okoth, who spent more than a decade in the Belgian top division — and while at it paved the way for the next generation of Kenyan players in the paid ranks of European football — can be branded as an average player.
I don’t need to make a case for Oliech or Wanyama.
Their impeccable footballing credentials are beyond this debate.
On the issue of looking beyond the “traditional catchment” regions of Nyanza and Western Kenya for talent, therein lies the grand failure of our past and present football administrators. If there is the slightest chance of the existence of untapped talent in the said far-flung marginalised regions then, no other persons are best placed to unearth and nurture that talent than our football administrators. Which has not been the case.
And may I hasten to add that, true, India and China can never hold a candle for the great football nations of England, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, you name them. But the level of organization in these two Asian giants is way up there.
The Indian Super League, for instance, has in the recent past lured world class players such as Nicholas Anelka, Roberto Carlos, Alessandro Del Piero and Diego Forlán into semi-retirement to do what they do best while drawing their handsome pensions.
Tell me what you would call that, if not proper management.
That said, to each his own. We are all entitled to divergent views.
Anyway, thanks Kigen for recommending this book Competitive Advantage of Nations by Michael Porter that will hopefully give me a wider perspective on this subject.
I will surely look for it.