We'd like to apologise in advance if you're already well informed regarding 'The Jewel Of East Africa', if not, please read on. Welcome to IBWM Claudia Ekai.
The Kenyan Premier League (KPL)
Never heard of the name before? Relax, I won't skip the intro.
The League in summary
Founded in 1963, the same year as Kenya's independence, the Kenyan Premier League is the top league in Kenya and consists of 16 teams. The most successful clubs are Gor Mahia (aka 'Kogalo') and AFC Leopards (aka 'Ingwe'), both are community based clubs and have won 12 league titles each. Though, the league experienced a blackout in the 90s when fame and enthusiasm were notably absent, it took the work of a very talented player, a legend and one of the founders of Mathare Football Club (famously referred to as 'Slum Boys') to bring it back to existence. He also played for his youth club, MYSA (Mathare Youth Sports Association) who have won the street football title two times in a row (2006, 2010) at previous Football for Hope festivals.
Jack Oguda is the mastermind, the person who made it his business to see Kenyan football rise to unprecedented heights. He took over in 2005 and since then, success has been the road the league has been taking. The league has been characterized with credibility, cutthroat competition, sponsorships and a growing fan base. A lucrative multi-million dollar deal sponsorship from SuperSport - who now own exclusive broadcasting rights – is also in place.
Newly promoted sides Bandari FC and Congo United have been at the centre of controversy. The Nationwide league has frequently been associated with underhand decisions. These have seen other Nationwide teams lash out at the management, which is maintained by a different faction to the top flight. They have written a letter to the KPL citing irregularities and will not allow the clubs to kick a ball until a FIFA conducted audit over the promotion is evaluated. The entry of the two clubs to the league has come under scrutiny and hence, the KPL officials have to wait because they have no jurisdiction over the Nationwide League.
Shocking but true, 49 KPL players have been banned from playing in Kenya’s top flight. Just when the league is getting momentum, attracting massive viewership in Africa, and certainly increasing the fan base back home, it was a big blow to Kenyan football. High profile players such as Bob Mugalia and James Situma are very conspicuous on the list. KPL officials cite documentation irregularities as the main factor for their absence.
The Champions, Ulinzi Stars have to do without Allan Otindo - who doesn’t have a release letter from his former club - and Mike Baraza, who lacks an ITC (International Transfer Certificate). The most entertaining club, Gor Mahia, were not left out, they will miss the services of Edwin Lavatsa, Edwin Wanjala (lack of birth certificates) and Tusubira Boban (missing D.O.B). Seven Sony Sugar players weren’t approved by their team manager, while Hedmond Monda lacks an age amnesty letter. Tusker FC won’t feature their Nigerian import Joseph Emeka (who didn’t get a work permit) and Youthful Paul (no registration form).
I’d like to officially welcome them all to the terraces for the time being as they wait on deliberation over their cases. The reasons highlighted aren’t even funny, it’s hurting. It makes you wonder why Kenya doesn’t have people assigned to carry out such responsibilities, that is, to guide our players when it comes to transfers and other related issues. We don’t want them to miss the exciting clashes such as Ulinzi Stars vs. Thika United, Mathare United vs. Tusker Fc on the season debut.
We’ve come a long way, the hard work, effort put to revive the state of our football was immense, and we do not intend to throw this away.
The 2011 Season debuts on 27 February.
You can find Claudia on Twitter @Claudshavin