Arrest of Kenya’s Football Chief Scares African Soccer Mafia

Although Kenya Football Federation (FKF) President Mr Nick Mwendwa is presumed very innocent until proven guilty of corruption charges over which he was arrested on Friday, the bold move by Kenya government to throw him in the cooler for the weekend is real cause for concern for all African soccer managers who have been regarded as untouchable because of FIFA protection.

It has for long generally been believed to arrest or take legal action against managers of national football associations affiliated to FIFA can lead to expulsion or suspension of the country from all international soccer affairs.

Indeed FIFA has already protested the move against Mr Mwendwa and invoked the independence of its affiliates but the country’s high flying Sports minister (formerly in Foreign Affairs) Dr Amina Mohamed is unfazed and actually went ahead to suspend other top FKF bosses and instead appointed a caretaker committee headed by a judge to run the country football affairs.

Before his arrest, Mwendwa called a press conference at which he declared his innocence and cried out that the minister was bent on removing him and his management team yet they have not been found guilty of any crime. After his arrest, his colleagues called the BBC foul.

Amina instead took the matters a noth higher and had Mwendwa arrested and thrown into jail. She stated categorically that she was not probing FIFA funds but  Mwendwa’s team has failed to account for taxpayer monies disbursed to them by the Kenya government.

The Kenyan action has not passed unnoticed as reports indicate that national football officials are closely monitoring Mwendwa’s fate as he is taken to court . For while national governments have always let rogue soccer managers be because of the feared FIFA ban, Kenya is determined to show that messing with cash only stops at FIFA funds but does not cover other funds sourced from the country.

Legal arguments aside, a government needs to tread carefully when moving against national football bosses who are “elected” as FIFA stresses while defending them. A government can however derive strength from its weakness to take on a FIFA protégé. And that is what Kenya has done.

For after performing poorly, the country has nothing to lose for the rest of the international season. For Kenya will not be in the January AFCO and has no hope seeking to qualify for the World Cup in 2022. So the government feels safe enough to annoy FIFA as it cleans up national soccer management over the next couple of years.

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