BY KENYATTA OTIENO
On February 26 2018, soft drink giant Coca Cola in conjunction with FIFA brought the 6Kg pure gold trophy to Kenya as part of its 53-nation world tour. It is the third time the trophy came to Kenya having been here in 2010 and 2013. It is encouraging that FIFA has been choosing Kenya to host the trophy. The big question however is the capacity of Kenya to exploit the opportunity that comes with the hosting the trophy.
President Uhuru Kenyatta hosted the trophy at state house after a group of media personalities had accompanied it from Ethiopia. It was received in Nairobi by CSs for Tourism Najib Balala, Sports and Heritage Rashid Achesa their Public Service, Gender and Youth counterpart Margret Kobia and FKF President Nick Mwendwa. There were no current or former footballers in the team from Addis Ababa or at JKIA to welcome the trophy.
The irony is the media personalities who Kenya on social media christened as socialites defended their involvement in the party at the expense of football players. They defended themselves by saying Coca Cola is using the tour to market itself and they are better placed to do it. They also justified it by claiming they have thousands of followers on social media, which was crucial in publicizing the tour. Nothing could be further from the truth; they got into the party because no one thought about football beyond the hype.
The irony got a boost when CS Achesa and President Uhuru Kenyatta spoke at State House and said that it is time Kenya played at the World Cup. I doubt if they realized the gap between their reality and the World Cup dream. The truth is the trophy does not come to Kenya due to our prowess in football.
At the same function, one of the youths picked to grace the occasion and who played a friendly match with parliament’s Bunge FC got a chance to tell the President that NYS had grabbed their playing ground in Korogocho slums. Gender and Youth CS Margret Kobia led a team to Korogocho to evict NYS from the facility after asking them to renovate it. That is a clear sign that we can change our sports fortunes, what we lack is a vision and political will.
One thing that was very clear to me is that the tour was handled haphazardly. There was little if no prior thought beyond what Coca Cola had in mind. The global soft drink giant has a top-notch marketing team that knows how to milk every opportunity to push their products. Our football and sports gatekeepers are at sea in such matters. The so-called youths who were at State House apart from a chance to play football at the lawns of the House on the Hill appeared out of place in the set up.
The World Cup trophy spectacle shows what is wrong with Kenyan football in more ways than one. FKF has dealt with Coca Cola thrice in hosting the trophy, but have never learned from the soft drink giant why they do what they do, how they do it. That is why some Kenyans can justify their involvement in football matters by their social media prowess.
Our President wore a Coca Cola jersey thus endorsing their products but Kenyan football walked empty handed. That was a big loss; someone from FKF should have asked what we are getting for that big endorsement from a head of state. This was an opportunity to push for a sponsorship.
FKF has no standing Under 17 and Under 20 squads. This would have been a good time to ask the young footballers to spend a day with that trophy so that they can at least dream of fighting for it in Qatar in 2022. Where there is no vision for the future of our football, such ideas cannot grow. Even if we do not have the squads, mobilizing footballers from our high schools is not a daunting task.
Kenya has never featured in the World Cup but our son Divock Origi featured for Belgium in Brazil. He is the son and nephew of football legends Mike Okoth and Austin Oduor. We have Denis Oliech, the Wanyama brothers, Ambani and Mulama brothers the legends Joe Kadenge, J. J Masiga, among many others. We are not short of former, current and future football legends to grace such an occasion. The excuse that will be pushed is that it was a Coca Cola event. You never get what you deserve but what you negotiate for. This clearly shows the dearth in creativity at FKF.
The fact that those that are at the centre of the game are not recognized for such an event is a glimpse at what current players are going through. If you keep cows, you have to love and take care of your herd to increase milk production. If we do not look after our footballers well, then that dream President Uhuru Kenyatta has of Kenya playing at the World Cup might turn into a nightmare.
When the trophy landed in South Africa, it was welcomed by Leads United and Kaizer Chief’s legend and African Cup of Nations winner Lucas Radebe. This is what he had to say; “It was Africa’s time in 2010 to host the spectacular show, now it is Africa’s turn to lift the trophy.” That can only come out of the belly of someone who knows football well. We lost an opportunity but it is not the last time. We can take our eyes back on the ball.
The ball does not go in by chance
Every sport has an element of luck but the ball does not go in by chance. Current Manchester City FC’s Barcelona born CEO Ferran Soriano has written a book titled Goal: The Ball doesn’t go in by chance. Success on the pitch takes a lot of thought in several departments off the field. This is one book I recommend to all Kenyan football administrators. The World Cup trophy tour has proved that we may not be playing in the World Cup anytime soon.