19 March 2018

Kenya: Unpaid Wages and Dues Is the Curse of Our Football

opinion

In 1987, Gor Mahia football club played Esperence de Tunis in the finals of the Africa Cup Winners Cup (Mandela Cup) and lifted the trophy in the most satisfying fashion.

Club fans were elated at conquering the continent. They chanted and sang songs of praise to the team.

The officials too must have added that crowning glory to their CV's and must still be patting themselves in the back for what happened because they 'organised it. That is just what they want you to see but there is more when you look deeper.

Some years ago, I saddened when I read a long interview with the then Gor Mahia captain and club legend Austin Oduor. He narrated the campaign from the beginning to the end.

The trials and tribulations the players went through, the unpaid dues that accrued, the folly and disorganization of the officials... the legend laid it bare for all to see. Those players did the thing they did simply because they were willing to and in the end they triumphed. They did it in spite of their shortsighted officials who were hogging all the glory!

At the end of the match, the officials took the trophy and forgot about the players who were still in the changing room. Everybody had gone home except the players!

They had done their part and were no longer useful to the officials. Like a true captain, Austin Oduor chucked out his own money - mercifully the officials had not stolen that too - and bought one crate of beer for his victorious and sad comrades.

That interview has stuck in my mind and bothers me until today! At least in those days, most of the players were employees of parastatals and were thus not totally dependent of salary and allowances from the club.

That was three decades ago. All good things have happened to the club but the officials are still the types that get annoyed whenever salaries and allowances are to be paid to the players.

About two weeks ago, K'Ogalo yet again faced Esperence in a crucial Caf Champions League match. This time it was in Machakos.

The players delayed coming out of the hotel to face the Tunisians. Your guess is as good as mine: unpaid allowances and salaries.

Eventually, the players were somehow 'persuaded', or maybe threatened, to play the match.

In the second leg played Sunday in Tunis, Gor Mahia missed the services of some key players over the same issue.

One would be mistaken to think that the club officials care whether the players have paid their rents or are thrown out of their houses.

Truth is, they don't care at all! The best they are doing at the moment is to belittle each other in social media and display their trashy egos for all to see.

For once can we pay our players or just fold the clubs and do away with them if they are that poor!

Kenya

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