Hussein Swaleh M’Tetu, the departed FKF Lower Eastern Branch Chairman, received a befitting farewell from the Kenyan football family on Wednesday. Led by federation president Nick Mwendwa, stakeholders from all across the country converged at the Embu Municipal Stadium (Moi) to pay their last respects to Swaleh.
Swaleh’s praises rang loud in the event that ran from mid-day to around 5 pm, with speaker after speaker bemoaning the great loss to football. President Nick was waxing lyrical about Swaleh’s passion for football, highlighting the many turns at which he (Swaleh) made land mark contributions to the Kenyan game.
Top among the highlights was the role he played in Kenya’s qualification for the African Cup of Nations in 2004. “As the Secretary General for the then national body Kenya Football Federation (FKF), Swaleh was instrumental in taking us to the Afcon,” said Mwendwa. “He was a man who always pointed out mistakes whenever they occurred without fear of unsettling anyone.”
Mwendwa also spoke highly of Swaleh’s love for transparency, saying, “Every day, I keep remembering a word he always used in conversations – hujuma (oppression). In every issue, Swaleh was always quick to say that he would not accept hujuma. Be it oppression of players, managers or the federation itself, Swaleh always called it out.”
Swaleh the go-getter
It was an endless poem as Mwendwa also hailed Swaleh’s go getter attitude. “Initially, he was not on our team as we campaigned. However, he was clever and jumped on board when he realized that Team Change was the winning team. He fitted right in and was a great asset for us, whether in decision making, lobbying or defence of policy. When our campaigns ended, Swaleh’s did not. He kept pushing until he got the job of a CAF match commissioner, the final role which he played for football before his demise.”
Compromise and charm also stood out as praises for the man who died in the ill-fated Ethiopian Airlines plane on March 10th. Lowe Easter Secretary general Njue Nyagah, who played football with Swaleh in their formative years, described him as ‘a man who always smiled at the end of an argument.’
FKF CEO Robert Muthomi had the same sentiments for Swaleh, citing an incidence where Swaleh helped him fight for a player’s rights. “Once, during my time as a player manager, I had an issue of people locking the transfer of a player to a better place. He was super talented and everyone wanted to withhold him, but Swaleh prevailed as SG and helped him to go further his talent in the US.”
Regional NEC member Muriithi Nabea, who hosted the event, hailed Swaleh’s contribution too. He also called on the deceased’s family to hold together the unity that Swaleh had fostered. The family was led by Swaleh’s sons Faisal and Saddam together with his two wives and elder brother.
The issue of the Embu Municipal stadium also came up during the ceremony, with specific challenges sent the County government’s way. Patrick Njagi, the County’s Director of Sports, was once again urged to see to the speedy completion of the facility.
FKF Deputy President Doris Petra said that the poor state of the stadium was denying the entire country a chance for football development. “Teams are lacking pitches to compete on, Embu is missing out on football revenue and local talent id lacking exposure,” said Petra.
The Stadium has been under renovation since the county government came into force in 2013 and is yet to host any competitive match for the top divisions. Reports indicate that KPL and NSL sides like Ushuru, AFC, and Tusker have previously mooted using the ground for their league matches. They all withdrew due to the low speed and standard of renovations. Meanwhile, Machakos Stadium hosts up to five matches in a weekend, all of which generate handsome income for the local economy.
The memorial event was also attended by team representatives from Embu County, Lower Eastern Branch Officials, and members of the public from around Embu. Hussein’s remains are yet to be identified, with the airline due to produce a preliminary crash report today.