FIFA lifts ban on Kenya and creates new disputes between football clubs


By Marie V. Thesbjerg
A milestone in the never-ending story of football in Kenya was laid as Kenya's international ban from world football ended on 9 March 2007.

In November 2006, Kenya was suspended by FIFA for government interference in football and failing to abide by the world sport body's regulations.

The suspension came after sports minister Maina Kamanda dissolved the Kenyan Football Federation (KFF) and replaced it with a government-appointed caretaker committee although he had no legal authority to do so.

FIFA explains on its website that the suspension imposed on the Kenya Football Federation (KFF) was recommended by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and requested by the president ad interim of the KFF, Mohamed Hatimy due to repeated government interference in local football affairs and non-compliance with the agreement reached with FIFA on fundamental sporting principles such as the integrity of competitions and the principle of promotion and relegation.

Last week FIFA lifted the ban after sports minister Kamanda responded to the growing national and international pressure and made public commitments to stop interfering in Kenyan football.

A FIFA delegation went to Nairobi to secure a road map for the normalisation of Kenya football including a declaration from the sports minister not to interfere any further in the running of the KFF; respect for the agreements reached with FIFA and observance of FIFA's Statutes and principles.

“The FIFA officials had paid a courtesy call. We have discussed many issues of importance and I have told them that the Kenya government is happy with the lifting of the FIFA ban and also that it is the wish of the government that football returns to the grassroots,” Sports Minister Maina Kamanda said to Kenyan Newspaper Nation on March 16 2007. 

FIFA orders Kenya to trim league
But the saga continues and there seems no happy ending ahead. The FIFA delegation has ordered Kenya to adopt an 18-team Premier League starting in the 2007 season with a further reduction to 16 teams in 2008.

"This is not basketball. This is football and football rules have to be followed," Pascal Torres, who is in charge of FIFA’s development programmes, told the BBC.

"Those who don't want to follow FIFA rules should quit now because we have decided it is 18 clubs for 2007 and 16 clubs for the 2008 season" Torres added.

The decision signals a death knell for Kenya's oldest club, AFC Leopards, which has been fighting behind the scenes to survive in the Premier League despite being relegated to the lower division last season. Political manoeuvring and boardroom decisions have long kept politically-connected clubs in the Premiership despite their woeful performances and unsound financial standings.

Full of fraudThe clubs AFC Leopards and Shabana have petitioned KFF claiming that the league is full of fraud. In a statement the two clubs gives 11 grounds in which they base their dispute over the exclusion from the league and have called on the federation to clarify on the same. One of the issues tabled by the clubs is the existence of the Kenya Premier League Limited which they say is purporting to run the league. In a statement, the two clubs questions the legibility of Kenya Premier League Limited (KPL) saying it is not a recognised organisation, Kenya Times reports.

While trying to catalyze the clean up of corruption in Kenyan football, FIFA has also ordered the former head of the KFF to account for US$113,000 of development funding given to the country last year.

"We want [former KFF chairman Alfred] Sambu to provide an audit of how the money was used. Once he presents the report, FIFA will make it public," Torres told reporters in Nairobi.

The never-ending story is to be continued...


Background news and information on the Kenyan football saga:


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