For some strange reason, the football (and general sporting fraternity) in this country takes little interest in sporting activities organized by the counties. This is understandable given the little importance that the devolved governments give to football wherever you go. Instead of treating the game as an important part of their societies, counties make any slight involvement look and sound like a favour and players have to clap continuously if a governor or MCA makes as little effort as attending a match.
You’d think, thus, that counties would go about their mediocre design of organizing competitions without disturbing the main stem of serious footballers and fans. But they don’t.
What they do instead is try to insult true football at every turn. Whenever they organize any sort of competition, they are quick to hop on the rooftops and start shouting how they do not want players from the professional leagues to participate. As if professional players are dying to participate in these games!
Most times, such screams are met with indifference and the silence with which you would respond to the chattering of small harmless monkeys. That annoys these county games’ organizers to no end, so they make even more effort to insult.
You will find the latest such insult in documents bearing rules for the upcoming KYISA games. It’s alright, you are not obligated to know what KYISA games are, or that they are upcoming. Allow me to fill you in for the purpose of this article.
KYISA is an acronym for ‘Kenya Youth Inter-County Sports Association.’ The association will be holding another edition of games in Nandi County between 17th and 22nd December. The festival will comprise football, volleyball and basketball competitions for both men and women. A chance for all sport-loving youth there, right?
KYISA have their own definition of ‘youth.’ Their games will only admit players of between 18 and 25 years.
Within this bracket, they will exclude players who are playing in leagues higher than the county league, those who have been in national teams of any kind and institutional teams (e.g., in their words, KUSA and colleges). They will also not admit players who have honoured international call ups. I might need clarification about what international call-ups are.
So, who exactly are these games for?
These are games for a segment of youth who are not in school and have not played in a national/ international set-up.
If you ever got called up for, say, Under 17 nationals, you’re out.
If you dared cross the 25th birthday mark, ole wako!
If, after form four, you went to college, made an effort and are currently in the school team, big mistake!
This last one is what has been eating me up since I read that communique. I have tried to look at it from all dimensions and, 24 hours in, it still doesn’t make one iota of sense to me. I mean, bar bad circumstances, when kids clear form four, they join tertiary institutions, no?
If they are talented and/or love the game, they seek to join their institutions’ teams. Why then would their effort be used as a basis to discriminate against them? Mediocre sounds like the right word, but its meaning is not weighty enough to describe what this really is.
Are we saying here that talented kids should not go to college? Or is it an offence for them to play while they are in college? Classic case of the outdated ‘you came here to read, not play’ phrase. Or are these games for players of little talent; those that do not make the first team cut? You know, like Consolation Festival.
I am probably being dramatic, I don’t know for sure. But I really need someone to help me understand this rule. It is, to say the least, an insult to talented players, to football, and, by extension, to education.
For benefit of the doubt, I am trying to assume that what KYISA means is that the competition is not for professional players. But if that’s what they mean, they need to communicate exactly that. College/institution teams are not professional. Being over 25 years of age is not necessarily being a professional. Let them tell us what it is that they really mean, and what exactly is the purpose of these games.
I also would love to hear Football Kenya Federation’s take on this, and on county governments’ contribution to grassroots football in general. Anyone? CEO Bob? President Nick?