The Voice of the Voiceless in Kenyan Football

Girls, in African tradition, were for many years left at home to take care of their little siblings, fetch water and generally do all the household chaos. Africa has come of age in almost every sector empowering the girl child who has been neglected and exposed to many challenges in life for example, early marriage, lack of education just to mention but a few. In the 21st century Africa has tried all ways possible to change some of the out-dated traditions, and for that effort even if it is a small percentage, we need to celebrate our continent as we continue to address gaps that still exist without endangering the boy child.

In Africa sport was a taboo for women in terms of participation or any leadership role. You could rarely see any woman attend a football match in the stadium, participate in playing, or even participate in safari rally competition among other sports. Many changes and challenges have happened in the women’s sports arena with local and international organizations strategizing on how to cube different types of exploitation and gaps that keep on rising as whenever the opportunity presents itself. There are many youth institutions in Kenya that strive to empower the girls in sports and education for example MYSA (http://www.mysakenya.org/) , Chrisc Kenya (http://chrisckenya.org) just to mention but a few.

On the contrary, in 2011 Kenyans had hopes for tremendous changes for better in Kenya football which included the women. Even though there has been some positive efforts like the Kenya Premier League (KPL) a lot is still left to be desired, worst of all the women’s football. I remember vividly the energy and professionalizing expressed during the launch of the women’s leagues at City Stadium.

This positive energy demonstrated at City Stadium hasn’t lived the test of time and the question is what is happening or what did go wrong? People would expect with the new officials things should change for better but somehow this isn’t true. As a leader you need to inculcate a new spirit, systems and culture of working for a common goal, and thus in most cases you can’t solve today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions. I am one of the many people whose hope has been fading as the clock ticks closer to the next football elections. Someone should urge the officials to increase the gears in addressing the issues affecting footballers in my great country Kenya.

Flashing back, there were tournaments like Sakata sponsored by Safaricom, Extreme, tournament among others which have ceased in the football arena due to legislation that was put in place to have the checks and balances of any tournament organized. As a former footballer, I see this move was well intended, but it also needs to accommodate promotion of football from the grassroots by having reasonable rules for sponsors willing to support different tournaments. The hard fact is that not everyone can play in the lucrative Kenya Premier League (KPL). We need good leadership and management at the grassroots level too.

On the other side, last year there was a women’s premier league that was played all over the country promising the ladies better things to come, and maybe make football a career of their choice. The sad story is that almost one year now last year’s champions haven’t been rewarded. So the question is where is the award promised? When is it going to be given to deserving women who spent their time and energy playing in the scorching sun in Matuu, Machakos County and rainy fields in Western Kenya? Who will come to the rescue of the dying talent in the country that is untapped, and worst of all abused?

Even though there is some light in the tunnel with a new sports act in place, and the new government inaugurated this year, we have renewed hope that they be in the forefront in supporting the women in sport . A case in point is Mwanaisha Mwae from Kayole who started playing football since 2006. Football has helped her interact with different people , keep fit and healthy, avoid idleness, avoid peer pressure and bad company. On the other hand, Kate Syprine has also played football in all most all the regional tournaments and she has participated in the Norway cup in Olso, Norway. Football has helped her support her education, keep healthy and most of all shape her future. I featured Kate’s story in 2011 and here is the link http://wilsenx.blogspot.com/2011/09/unknown-heroes.html

These are just a few examples of the potential the girls to have. It’s very sad that we only see the women’s football highlighted when they play for our national team with only one weeks preparation before facing the likes of Nigeria, South Africa and Nigeria who have invested tremendously in girls’ football by having football academies. The coverage always doesn’t go along way, or get featured in all media because as soon as our national team gets eliminated from the international or regional tournament qualifications, you hardly hear a thing mentioned about the women’s football. I hope by sharing this article someone out there would see the potential to support Kenyan women’s football, and as a football fanatic I will try everything within my reach to keep on encouraging the women in my areas of intervention.

Much thanks go to the corporations that have been in the forefront in supporting sports for example; Super sports, EABL, Safaricom, Airtel, Brookside, Kenya Airways, and many others. We need everyone on board especially in sporting the women’s football.

Lastly try to imagine, if every corporation would have a team of their own, wouldn’t that be a source of employment? These and many more options are what we need to think about to come up with innovative ways of tackling the gaps in the society. Remember not everyone can be a pilot, lawyer, accountant etc. So, what are you doing to support women’s football in Kenya and participation in other sports?

Written by the founder – Wilsen Initiative (WI)

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