In Summary
  • Mwendwa said he inherited most of these debts from his predecessor Sam Nyamweya who has, however, responded calmly
  • Mwendwa and his team have been put to task to account for Sh244 million received from government to prepare Harambee Stars for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt
  • Other funds received by Fifa to the tune of Sh100 million each year, are channelled towards payment of staff salaries and PAYE at a cost of Sh7 million a month

Four years after Nicholas Kithuku Mwendwa was elected Football Kenya Federation (FKF) president, all indicators suggest he is beginning to feel the strain that comes with the responsibilities of this role.

This past fortnight, the 40-year-old joined several other federation heads to train guns at Sports Principal Secretary Kirimi Kaberia.

While addressing the media and also appearing before the Sports Committee of National Assembly chaired by Machakos Town MP Victor Munyaka, Mwendwa appeared angry and frustrated.

He accused Kaberia of deliberately refusing to fund both Harambee Stars and Harambee Starlets preparations ahead of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations and 2020 Tokyo Olympic qualifiers.

The government is required by law to fund all national teams and athletes competing in international engagements.

"I have tried everything to handle this situation diplomatically but the PS just refuses to respond to all my letters and phone calls. I was left with no choice because these teams have to play. The boys and girls are on my case," Mwendwa told Nation Sport.

Also, the youthful football manager is facing a headache of containing and repaying a ballooning debt by the federation totalling Sh350 million.

Of these monies, Sh160 million is owed to former Harambee Stars’ coaches Bobby Williamson and Adel Amrouche.

The remaining amount is payable as taxes to Kenya Revenue Authority, legal fees, to service providers and a host of other former employees who have since moved to court.

Mwendwa said he inherited most of these debts from his predecessor Sam Nyamweya who has, however, responded calmly.

"I thought he [Mwendwa] knows when one marries a widow, he has to also take responsibility of raising her children from the previous marriage," says Nyamweya.

Sports federations chiefs, seated from left, Andrew Mudibo (table tennis), Paul Mutwii (athletics) and Nick Mwendwa (football) appear before the Committee on Sports of the National Assembly at Parliament Buildings on November 5, 2019. PHOTO | POOL

Sports federations chiefs, seated from left, Andrew Mudibo (table tennis), Paul Mutwii (athletics) and Nick Mwendwa (football) appear before the Committee on Sports of the National Assembly at Parliament Buildings on November 5, 2019. PHOTO | POOL

And while this is happening, the season of football politics is here with us with delegates expected to vote in a new FKF president and other officials on December 7.

There is a thin difference between the intrigues and drama in football and national politics, so we already are witnessing a myriad of legal battles, flying accusations at press conferences, and “boycotts,” as FKF's Electoral Board, led by Professor Edwin Wamukoya, says Mwendwa and his deputy Doris Petra are unopposed heading towards the election.

Other challengers seeking the presidency including Nyamweya, seasoned politicians Moses Akaranga and Alex Ole Magelo, plus Nairobi businessman Steve Mburu, claim the incumbent has erected hurdles in form of “draconian” rules aimed at barring them from contesting.

This stand-off has in turn resulted in three court cases on the matter lodged at the High Court and Sports Disputes Tribunal challenging the electoral process.

And finally, there are increased calls for the scrutiny of FKF's expenditure and specifically the hundreds of millions of shillings the football body receives from international affiliates such as Fifa and the Confederation of African football.

Specifically, Mwendwa and his team have been put to task to account for Sh244 million received from government to prepare Harambee Stars for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt earlier this year.

He is also hard pressed to account for the whereabouts of an Outside Broadcasting Van the federation bought with funds from world governing body Fifa to the tune of Sh135 million.

"These [allegations] are all about politics David," Mwendwa begins to explain as we settle for an interview inside his Kasarani-based Kandanda House office this past week. "We have been in office for 45 months. I have worked with three Cabinet secretaries and none of them has questioned our expenditure. My National Executive Committee has also approved all our funding."

SIMPLE DRESS CODE

Popularly known us “Nick” in football circles, Mwendwa is a talkative fellow, one likely to express himself more than anyone at a round table.

He prefers a simple dress code.

Those who claim to know him better say he is made some good money offering system-based solutions to corporates and government.

He also has deep political and business connections, they say.

Make no mistake, he can be friendly and unfriendly in a nutshell, depending on who the customer is. What cannot be argued is his passion for football.

The father of three says he has been involved in the beautiful game from his time in High School and at the grassroots level for the better part of the last decade and a half while serving in various capacities, including as a coach.

His passion most often comes out when he is stressing a point.

He also suggests these strong feelings contributed to his achievements in office during his first term.

These include Starlets’ qualification for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon for the first time in the country's history.

The team is now three games away from qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics. They drew 2-2 with Zambia on Saturday in their penultimate fixture, and play the second leg in Lusaka on Monday requiring a win to face either Cameroon or Cote d’Ivoire in the final round.

The national football men’s team Harambee Stars won the 2017 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup in Kenya, and also qualified for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt for the first time in 15 years under Mwendwa’s watch.

Kenya Under 15 players celebrate scoring in a past friendly match at the Camp Toyoyo grounds. PHOTO | COURTESY

Kenya Under 15 players celebrate scoring in a past friendly match at the Camp Toyoyo grounds. PHOTO | COURTESY

He has also overseen the formation of the Under-15 national teams dubbed the “Centre of Excellence,” the Under-17 team, women’s youth team, and women’s Premier League.

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