In everyday life we deal with numbers, in football- I would say its fast turning into a way of life. From match day statistics, player/team statistics to rankings of clubs and players based on financial and performance based criteria, let’s not lie to ourselves it’s not going away anytime soon- in fact, it can only get better.
On 20th of Nov 2013- I alongside several other people gathered at the Safari Park hotel to pay homage to some of the greatest performers of the 2013 KPL season, one thing was evident- the numbers mattered a lot. From the number of goals scored, least amount of goals conceded, number of games played and even the famous number 11(129-118) jump- ‘people don’t seem to appreciate.’
But that’s not just for numbers; numbers attract attention. So much attention that when it was the turn of most speakers to make their remarks- they all pointed out at the increased numbers of fans to the stadiums, increased number of sponsors, increased number of tweets and so on and so on.
Getting into a closer analysis of most of the dynamics presented- one would agree, Kenyan football has in the past few years made substantial growth and that can only get bigger and bigger. One thing though getting bigger is the desire to finally have a stake in the day to day running of the game in this country. The president noted though that there is need to popularize the game by increasing the number of community clubs as at it stands now- only two teams command a substantial following. Two years; the ultimatum for institutional based clubs in the country to convert to community clubs.
A clap went around, a few tempted to join the frenzy but soon a few stopped. I wonder what the reason was and then I realised, not everyone bought the idea.
Winning the League and Cup Competition by Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards respectively suddenly exposes some of the greatest weaknesses of the ideologies that run this game. Talks of the game has improved and community football returning to its best is not the best of truths. Over the last few years, the two clubs have invested so much and it’s not a coincidence the two are up there at the moment. The interest generated around the teams by the fans has been as a result of some valuation and identity of the various fan groups to the clubs.
Institutional based clubs have won these league and Cup competitions over the years, some with even better players and points but the fact that they never drew huge crowds to them, blurred the ‘improvement’ aspect now being showered on the two giants.
A quick look at some of the institutional clubs in the past and even today that won the various leagues and cup competitions in this country, they drew some good and fanatical support to their sides. The defunct Mumias FC for example drew huge crowds to its side even though they were sponsored by Mumias Sugar Company. Thika United today, which is a community based club barely, attracts 2000 fans to its home games.
The idea of community clubs though shouldn’t be entirely dismissed, actually some of the biggest clubs in the world have a communal base, either based on location or values and that’s what Kenyan Football needs to distinguish.
Not long ago in the papers, I read a piece that called for each ethnic community in this country to have a team of its own- I laughed, the dynamics of promotion and relegation would fast do away with such a criteria besides, corporates wouldn’t buy to such a divisive idea.
Well, the community based clubs idea is a school of thought that maybe seeks to incorporate more fans into the day to day running of a club and give them more power on decision making and on club financial stability- that we must all applaud. Looking at such a set up today, it would mean proper structures set up, showing the fans some valuation before they buy into the idea and even thoroughly defining the boundaries of communism i.e. today a group of bloggers/group of contractors/group of journalists etc. would form a community.
While the game would be looking for more numbers for clubs and seeking a way out of institutional owning- we must all appreciate the following three factors
- We cannot assume the impact of institutions/group of people who created the clubs today we call institutional based clubs.
- Communism needs to be defined in detail (values, location and even structures).
- Style/Mode of transition, from Institutionalism to community based ownership of clubs.
But while the above still is deliberated (hopefully) – the numbers game shouldn’t be pointer and an ascertation to instant growth. Selling an idea and values to human beings can be one of the greatest and hardest things in our generation. Communism has grown from the (ethic) based school of thought to a more sophisticated idea of value based involvement, economic empowerment among others with the view of no disregard for race, colour or tribe.
Careful- the numbers game is a very tactical one. While fan involvement is a way of drawing more and more people to the game- the ‘political’ view is that where the crowds are, there is the kill.
So while the whole 2013 KPL awards was done and dusted- one thing comes to mind, we are all in a battle of ideologies. Like the Cold War, football is always at war with itself- whether to keep the institution based clubs or go the community based way, the answer found might never be right and too might never be wrong.