KPL this week sanctioned a proposal that will allow teams to field up to five foreigners in the competition. Local teams had initially been allowed to register five foreigners but could only field three of those in their match day squad of 18. The new rule though will allow a team to be able to field up to a maximum of 5 foreign players during a KPL match and the remaining 6 being Kenyan players.
The argument behind it as made by the KPL CEO Jack Oguda is that bringing in foreigners will increase competition and force our lads to up their game, not really sure how that turns out.
A little while back, somewhere in May 2008- the 58th FIFA Congress held in Sydney, delegates as part of the agenda approved the 6+5 rule. The rule was to be implemented in 2012 but as late as 2014, the EU wouldn’t agree to such a rule. The Spanish FA saw it as no reason to fear as most of their clubs had most home-grown players as the anchors of their success. The English FA though saw it as a means of trying to kill their league as the EPL seems to get its flavour and aura from using most players beyond the borders. Up to now, the debate is still on- the biggest explanation to this that I would recommend would be a read by Willie Gannon for Bleacher report on The Lisbon Treaty and the 6+5 Rule Combine to Change Football
Not so much debate has been built around this issue as no football has been kicked since the introduction of the rule. Preparation though and a thorough education of the situation needs to be analyzed before it actually kicks off.
In all honesty, football clubs need to understand they are the biggest shareholders of the game in this country. It’s from football clubs that the National team gets its players translating to international glory- a measuring rod for the football health of any FIFA member state.
While increasing the number of foreign players to 5, the probability of 2 players making the match day squad is much more reduced compared to when it was just 3 foreigners allowed. For a coach who ‘most of the time’ will be needing instant results and might not be able to get tactically gifted local players to fill the void, a much easier path would be to look elsewhere, that means, foreign.
With an influx of foreigners ready to fight their way into the core of Kenyan clubs and with no replacements in the name of youngsters bred locally (honesty means saying, Kenyan clubs have no proper youth structures), clubs will be forced to again look for the replacements outside the country.
Replacements and yes, quality ones can only be found when money is splashed all over the place. With no rule defining a proper price cap/ceiling the gap between the haves and the have-nots is bound to widen further. The level of competition over time then would be termed ‘boring’ as only a clique of clubs would be ready to keep up with the competition. The best local players though, despite their ‘affiliation’ to certain clubs regarded much smaller would be mesmerized by much bigger money and the much bigger probability of success and end up joining the clique.
You at this point realize the buck just doesn’t stop there- the best tacticians, scouts and corporates will want to be associated with the clique. The burden of the non-ability to hold to the best and attract the best shall suffocate the smaller clubs, the gap shall be much wider and the competition not even.
A different school of thought that aims to support the 6+5 rule, states that local players will be forced to up their game so as to fight for a starting berth in the clubs. With slightly over 6/7 available positions, assuming the club signs 5/4 dependable foreigners, local players will be forced to put much more effort to gain positions this translating overally to the improvement of the game at the national level, sounds kind of convincing, doesn’t it?
In a case where this does happen, it means- some local players might be deemed surplus as the coaches’ aim to build a unit that would challenge for trophies as well as reserves who could be called upon to help in dire circumstances. At this point, it’s again advisable to note that, a club with a well-organized academy set up, will not only have enough players to battle for senior team action but also have enough to sell as they fund a kitty for foreigners they feel would bring an X factor into the team. A club without a much bigger playing unit and funds to get the best, in the long run hurts from the ability to compete against the best as well as not being able to buy a ‘final puzzle piece’.
Kenyan clubs have over the recent years been known not to perform well at the continental stage and having in mind the criticism that has been labelled upon the technical ability of local players- building youth sides that are able to compete now is hard, the easy way out then would be? Buy and compete as you set up structures for that- an expensive and short cut venture in every way you look at it. So still for the competitions, a look at most of the if not all who’ve gone on and won the Continental Cups, the backbone of the teams have been made of home based players and foreigners just slightly in the mix of it.
Take a look at this table, it gives data of the nationalities of the first XI in each of the legs of the CAF Champions Leagues starting 2010 to date.
CAF Champions League
|20101st Leg2nd Leg||TP Mazembe9 DRC, 2 Foreigners9 DRC, 2 Foreigners||Esperance9 Tunisians, 2 Foreigners8 Tunisians, 3 Foreigners|
|20111st Leg2nd Leg||ES Tunis8 Tunisians, 3 Foreigners8 Tunisians, 3 Foreigners||Wydad Casablanca10 Moroccans, 1 Foreigner10 Moroccans, 1 Foreigner|
|20121st Leg2nd Leg||Al Ahly11 Egyptians11 Egyptians||Esperance9 Tunisians, 2 Foreigner10 Tunisians, 1 Foreigner|
|20131st Leg2ND Leg||Al Ahly11 Egyptians11 Egyptians||Orlando Pirates11 South Africans11 South Africans|
From the above- the likelihood of a squad based on Local players winning the CAF Champions League/getting to the finals is higher compared to a squad high in foreign elements. What does this then mean? There is never a way around winning these championships than by having players growing up together over time and these in most cases is having a local based squad.
Clubs like Ulinzi Stars have made it clear they are not going to sign foreigners, having won Championships in the past without them; will a change in the rule hamper their title chase? If it does, shall they be forced to abandon the strict military ways and conform to the foreign wave?
Kindly also note; even with the rapid integration of the East African community with common passport, currency and work permits now a reality, all players from the region would be considered foreigners unless they held Kenyan citizenship
Depending on what side of the debate you support. Do you think the 6+5 rule is a plus for the Kenyan game or a minus for the development of the game? Kindly leave your thoughts at the comment section of this blog