Football Kenya Federation: Transforming football through Branches

On the back of mismanagement in past regimes, Football Kenya Federation’s refurbished administration, under the leadership of President Nick Mwendwa, was, in 2016, welcomed with open arms.

The new-look Federation resorted to among other issues, strengthening leagues as well as capacity building in training coaches, referees, and of course the long term project that is the Centers of Excellence.

These went down as FKF strengthened the national teams’ setup by constituting age group national teams as well as improving how the teams’ logistics were handled, in a bid to churn out positive results.

Mwendwa’s success however, seems to be judged in the public domain by the success of the Senior National team, Harambee Stars.

2019 Africa Cup of Nations

2018 has no doubt been an eventful year, notwithstanding the numerous court cases filed against the Federation as well as the withdrawal of key sponsorships, leaving it in a precarious financial position.

Harambee Stars head coach Sebastien Migne guided the team through the 2019 AFCON qualifiers successfully with the federation's support
Harambee Stars head coach Sebastien Migne guided the team through the 2019 AFCON qualifiers successfully with the federation’s support

The senior national football team, Harambee Stars, is in pole position for a place in the 2019 African Cup of Nations, courtesy of back to back wins on home soil against Ghana and Ethiopia. Their women counterparts, the Harambee Starlets, are set to grace the African Women Cup of Nations (AWCON) for the second consecutive time, having made the maiden bow, against all odds, in 2016.

The expansion of the African Cup of Nations to 24 teams, coupled with growing belief in the national teams as witnessed in Kenya’s matches against Ghana and Ethiopia, football stakeholders will expect consistent qualification to continental competitions moving forward. AFCON qualification will actually be a bare minimum.

These successes, however, directly depend on the investment FKF lays in the development of youth structures as well as capacity building in the training of coaches and referees at the grass root level.

FKF Branches, which play a key role in grass root football activities that influence the success of the national teams, will thus be pivotal in the execution of the Federation’s long term football development agenda.

FKF Branches

Owning slightly over half of FKF’s voting bloc, branches are definitely an influential party in the football ecosystem.

20 Branches are thus spread out across the country with the mandate of running football at the grass roots through sub-branches, which are their building blocks. The branches are run by elected officials, who oversee day to day operations as well as source for funding for their activities.

This as they also oversee the execution of policies agreed upon at the FKF head office’s level.

Among the roles the branches partake include running of youth leagues, coaches training and referees training as well as managing tournaments sanctioned by the federation, such as the Chapa Dimba na Safaricom Youth tournament.

Youth Leagues

One of Nick Mwendwa’s bargaining positions in the run up to the 2016 elections was the development of youth structures as well as junior national teams, which form the backbone of the senior teams.

Upon his successful bid, FKF rolled out the strategy to set up youth leagues in each sub branch across the country. The first step was player registration, effected by the Federation’s Youth Desk. Each player was issued with a player-card, whose motive was to not only uniquely identify the players taking part in the leagues, but to also track their progress in their formative football years up until they get to senior level football.

30,000 players from 1500 teams in 54 sub branches have since been registered over two years in the U13 and U15 categories, and are actively participating in the youth leagues, run by the branches through sub-branches. The leagues culminate in a National Youth Championship, contested annually over the holidays by eight teams from eight regions across the country.

The championship gives the FKF Technical Department a pool of talent to select the national U13/U15 teams that take part in select assignments. Out of the 13/U15 team, players can then rise through the ranks to the U17, U20 and U23 teams, a structure that ensures players are ready, and better prepared when they eventually feature for the senior national team.

Coaching courses

Aside from the Youth leagues, FKF also initiated the Basic/Advanced Coaching Courses, which targeted grass root coaches who have previously never been exposed to coaching information.

Coaches have been able to advance their knowledge under the FKF program of coaching courses countrywide
Coaches have been able to advance their knowledge under the FKF program of coaching courses countrywide

The courses, rolled out through the Federation’s Technical Department under the tutelage of the then Technical Director Andreas Spier, were conducted in each of the Federation’s 20 Branches. Close to 2000 coaches benefited from the first phase of the program, with information on the Federation’s official portal indicating that 2000 more coaches will be trained in 2019.

A further 200 coaches would benefit from the CAF C License course, which is a step up from the Basic/Advanced Coaching course.

These courses, which had in the past not been given priority, go a long way in seeing to it that young players taking part in the grass root leagues are handled by qualified professionals. They have also been crucial in bridging a gap that had seen local coaches denied opportunities both locally and abroad on account of deficiency in skills and expertise.

Chapa Dimba na Safaricom

June 2017 welcomed the launch of the Chapa Dimba na Safaricom Youth Tournament, a brainchild of FKF’s partnership with leading telecommunications company, Safaricom.

The tourney targets players under 20 years, who contest in a knockout format at the sub-branch level, with the winners proceeding all the way to the regional level. Eight regional winners, in both the male and female category, eventually get a chance to contest the final championship where the overall winner takes home a KES 1 Million bounty.

The return of Safaricom to the local scene is another milestone that the current federation can look back to with pride

Further, the FKF Technical Department conducts coaching seminars in each of the eight regions prior to the Regional Finals. Coaches whose teams participate in the tourney are the main beneficiaries of the seminars, which act as crash coaching courses to those who have never been exposed to the trainings whilst refreshing the knowledge of those who previously have.

Branches, through their respective sub branches, successfully coordinated the inaugural 2017/2018 edition, whose final was held in March 2018 with Kapenguria Heroes downing favorites Gor Mahia Youth to emerge champions. Their exploits earned them a trip to London courtesy of tournament sponsors Safaricom, aside from the KES 1 Million prize.

The second edition is currently underway, with Western Branch and North Western Branch having already staged over 150 matches in the preliminary rounds.

What these mean for the senior national team

The Youth Leagues, Youth Tournaments as well as the Coaches Trainings have an impact on the overall performance of the national team.

Players have a better chance to showcase their talents at an early age, unlike in the past where only a handful of academies would offer such an opportunity. When they grow older, they are thus more experienced and already have competitive mindsets.

They also get to learn the soft skills they need earlier in their careers. Cases have been reported of skillful players who could not make it abroad as they lack the skills they essentially should have learnt in their formative years.

When these players make it to the junior national teams, a conveyor belt of talent is formed in such a way that a player in the senior team has had a considerable feel of competitive international matches prior to their senior debut. This way, the player is better prepared physically, tactically and mentally, which directly translates to a better performing senior national team over time.

New structure for branches

With the new system of Government that has seen resources devolved closer to the people, there is a proposal to align the FKF Branches to the counties, and sub-branches to the constituencies.

This translates to 47 Branches from the current 20, and 290 Sub-Branches, up from 84.

The proposal rose out of the need to not only get football infrastructure and services closer to the people but to also make it easier to lobby for resources from County Governments and Constituency Development Funds.

It is evident that branches are a crucial bloc in the execution of Football Kenya Federation’s development agenda. They thus need not only adequate funding but also requisite oversight to see to it that they fully execute their mandate for the good of our national teams and our football structure at large.