Does football help explain the Kenyan society?


Over the past few years, I’ve come across so much football literature but none to date has ever made so much sense to me like “How soccer explains the world, an unlikely theory of Globalization” by Franklin Foer. It’s not just the historical examples he gives or the ever depressing sinister nature of the fans associated with it – to me it’s more of ‘How soccer excuses bad behaviour’. In actual sense, a deeper insight into this book will leave you with lots of answers regarding why, what and when some things take place in a society- not just for soccer.

I find it so easy to relate the whole book to the Kenyan system except for a few instances where ‘passion’ and out-right fanaticism’ as depicted in the book- are given as examples to romanticise the game despite its sinister side.

The story begins bleakishly but flourishes ultimately into optimism, something over the last 50 years or so- Kenyan football can thoroughly relate to.

Soccer has been a big part of Kenya’s sporting history and as lovers of the game world over would tell you, it reflects a society but just like the society, needs lots of cleaning up. A few by now might have ideas of what I’m trying to drive towards but to me wrong is wrong and must be clearly stated and without an ounce of ambiguity.

Rule of Law

You are going to allow me use the most recent cases and why the future dream of a ‘Kenyan Soccer Empire’ might just remain that – a dream.

Not so long ago on this same blog, I wrote about ‘the system failing the fans’ and why violence has suddenly taken over what in ‘THE FIFA LAW BOOK’ is clearly stated and spelt. Sometimes though, in all honesty- it doesn’t need even a law book to differentiate right from wrong but in a country where several interests pegged on certain cases and score lines, it’s laughable what ‘we’ applause when ‘they’ frown in fury.

When FKF (The governing federation) overturned the KPL ruling of the abandoned Sony Sugar v Gor Mahia tie, what I saw would be best described as a ‘goal post shift’ and an outright ‘popularity contest’. Not long ago and having been the gospel for a while now is the fact that the body in charge of the league is an independent body and that it’s decisions must be respected. FKF having requested for the match report and made its own decision overruling the KPL one (which I still never concur with) suddenly opens up to the country- the power struggle the two bodies have to overcome.

While FKF taking the decision might have meant stamping authority on the Kenyan game- ultimately the signals sent mean something somewhat different. It means for every decision made by the league body, its simple- you only need the chair of the federation on your side and it’s won. FKF in its earlier statement before the final ruling set out to stop the ‘perceived precedence’ the KPL decision would set but in real sense- who was in this case now setting precedence?

I wouldn’t want to visit the ‘hooliganism’ issue again- it’s a foregone conclusion. The game involves the actual hooliganism act, accusations and counter accusations and then the ‘verdict’ that is more than often dragged- suddenly, it’s a political matter- up for debate and then? and then what?……… it’s a cycle.

So many more examples can be given but it’s certain the rule of law has lots of loopholes which the ‘enemies of the game’ are ready to pounce on and each time for their personal (political not football) gain may sway them to appease the numbers.

Impatience/Quick Fixes

Yes, let’s applaud ‘good’ when we see it and properly so- to the extent it deserves. In football just like in any other sport/sphere of life, success levels are viewed differently in other words, one’s success (according to the individual) can still be put to the critics table and suddenly called failure.

It’s the case world over; every single step in football management must always be properly evaluated. It’s a gamble at times but the end results thoroughly matters.

In Kenya, a win today seems to wipe out all the past records and future failure swept under the carpet and past successes celebrated way past their time. It’s thus not shocking to note a single win in a ‘dead rubber’ match suddenly raises hopes when we clearly know it’s significance and a thorough lack of plan for the future.

Silly season is here I would call, but entirely can’t blame it on the coaches. I’ve watched the AFC Leopards, City Stars, Karuturi, Sofapaka drama just to mention a few – we are in an administrative crisis. Crisis mostly started by our own administrators who instead of owning up, seek to find a way round the problem. Look at it this way: we can’t have coaches getting fired even before a proper evaluation is done on the playing unit over a period of time, we can’t have clubs held at ransom by politicians in the name of elections and again we can’t have clubs run by  ‘know it all’ owners and sponsors who never have long term solutions.


I’ve listened to two football shows (very popular ones) over the last one week and one theme cuts across them all; the levels of sycophancy are appalling. I’m already looking forward to a few other popular blogs, but I’m sure none will try raising the Gor Mahia Sony Sugar FC issue. If you thought it’s not that serious yet, watch how football in this country is reported- not by the ‘small guys’ but by who is who in the footballing sphere.

To the normal Kenyan football fan who really doesn’t care but just wants to consume, a perfect picture has been painted of how the game is rising, more investors and proper administration is making headway into the game but all this I would say hold just a pinch of truth.

While a few characters are not questioned and when a finger raised, their greatest supporters butcher you online, it should be a sharp pointer to what to expect ahead. While holding that piece of microphone or sitting in that high-end office guarantees you a living- always ask how much the game benefits or loses?

Five years or less from today, the fans frustrations will boil over when suddenly decisions that went their way come to a halt. The promises of a World Cup/AFCON appearance will soon haunt the office holders and revolutions will begin. The fanatics will have nowhere to hide, they shall pretend how much they tried to help but the bosses couldn’t give in. They shall have gotten their daily bread but forever we shall never view them as the starters of something good but the robbers of our earlier years – years we could have invested in developing the game.

So for now, enjoy the sun while it shines, bash your critics and bed your demigods but know that one day when finally your eyes open,  we shall have gone to the deepest of pits, struggling to rise from several years of underdevelopment and cursing those we thought helped our personal causes.

It’s another world in itself; the weak are oppressed, the disregard for rule of law scary, quick fixes here and there to serve certain interests and the media- seems to be an ever failing organ of the society. Can’t be prophesying doom for a game I love so much but for what I love, protecting it is what I’ll stand for.

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