The reality of what it means to be banned by FIFA
By Doreen Nabwire
I was there when Vihiga Queens bested C. B. E of Ethiopia at Kasarani Stadium to win the Cecafa ticket for the CAF Women’s Champions League. It was a crowning moment for women’s football in Kenya, a journey of grit determination and sacrifice on the part of a generation of players who are determined to play this game, and make a life and living from it.
If the writing on the wall is correct, and government through the CS for sports is poised to try and take over the running of football in the country, a FIFA ban will definitely follow and that story up there, that beautiful story of a group of girls who have fought hard for their right to play will end in tears.
To make matters worse a majority of those girls are also Harambee Starlets players; a team that has also fought its own battle to represent the Kenyan flag, and a team that is within striking distance of the African Women’s Cup of Nations and 2023 World Cup Qualification. A FIFA ban means those dreams become nightmares.
Wait, there is more. The dream of every girl I know playing football is to go professional, to play at the highest professional level and have the opportunity to have all their dreams and those of their family come true.
A FIFA ban means no Kenyan player male or female, can make a move anywhere across the world. No Kenyan player can be transferred from one team to another. That means that scouts and recruiters put aside all Kenyan players and focus on other targets.
What I am trying to say is that a FIFA ban will take all the progress that has been made in the women’s game and pour it down the drain. The Women’s Premier League is about to start in a few weeks; what about the teams and players that have invested their time and resources to play, not for money-because the game has no sponsor and the Federation literally foots all costs, but because of passion and a dream.
I get it, Kenyans are upset after the 5-0 loss against Mali but the Harambee Stars is not the only football in Kenya. Football is bigger than that. After that loss the Starlets beat South Sudan 15-1 on aggregate to reach the final qualifying round of the African Women’s Cup of Nations.
Football is bigger than the Men’s national team, or the men’s game. I sit and watch the comments on social media as Kenyans cry that football is dead but the football they talk about does not include the Women’s game. I have seen comments suggesting that it’s okay to ban Kenya because the Stars can no longer qualify for the World Cup.
Such comments break my heart.
If these opinions are what the CS is basing her actions on, then football-the whole of it-will surely die but it won’t be the Federation that killed it but the government and their interference.
Everything that applies to the women’s game applies to the men’s game.
The Harambee Stars won’t play, no transfers and the continental aspirations of Gor Mahia and Tusker will also end in tears.
It also applies to all Kenyan elite FIFA referees.
Let us pause to consider the effects of our actions on the people who actually live, and breathe football-the players. Let us not kill dreams.
We are playing a dangerous game with the lives and dreams of football in Kenya. A FIFA ban is a possibility for the country but for players and coaches and referees it their entire reality.
The writer is a former captain of the Harambee Starlets, the head of Women’s Football at FKF and a member of the FIFA Technical working group on women’s football.