BONFACE AMBANI: Playing for a corporate club in Kenya is career suicide. The firms have no business owning clubs
Based on my experience, playing for a corporate club in this country is career suicide.
I played for the following clubs; Eldoret Cereals owned by Cereals Board of Kenya, Rift Valley Textiles mills, commonly known as Rivatex (Eldoret), Oserian Fastac FC owned by a flower firm in Naivasha and the Kenya Pipeline FC.
It was heartbreaking and demoralizing when you would leave your house headed for training only to receive a message, “Do not report for training”. A day later a message would come in or you would read on papers that, ‘The club has been disbanded. Thank you for your services and we wish you all the best in your future endeavours. Make sure you clear with the management of the team within the next 24 hours”.
And just like that, the playing career of 30 players cut short by a boardroom decision. Established players would get new clubs, but what happens to the rest? Many players have quit football just because of those boardroom decisions.
Anytime a corporate firm has financial issues, they look at departments that are either redundant or unprofitable. The Sports Department falls here. That’s what happened to promising football teams like; KCC Eldoret, Mumias FC, Kakamega Motcom FC, Transcom FC Nakuru, Bata Bullets Limuru, Kisumu Posta, Reli FC, Mountex FC Nanyuki, KTM Thika,j ust to mention a few.
Imagine if those corporate companies had supported community clubs with the locals having shares in the clubs? Soccer standards in the country would shoot up because of the competitive nature of Kenyan communities.
For example, AFC Leopards, Shabana FC and Gor Mahia, have weathered unimaginable storms and survived. We might feel they are not at the same levels as their international counterparts, but they have repeatedly proven that community clubs can survive.
From this, I think we should simply have a policy that does not allow corporates to own clubs.
A great example would be Bandari. One minute it’s well-run and doing well in local and continental championships, the next minute the club is almost being disbanded due to a change of guard at the helm.
Another example is Posta Rangers; a great club with excellent players but no stability or consistency. Then there was Sony Sugar FC.
It’s high time the government departments that are concerned directly or indirectly with sports in this country re-assessed this issue critically in order to streamline Kenyan Football.
I would hate to see the next generation of footballers experience what I went through as a player.
The writer is a former international footballer.