Kenya Footballers Welfare Association (Kefwa) President James Situma is confident the next crop of local football leaders will be highly qualified former players who have the game at heart.
Situma, a former international, is happy that Kenyan footballers are embracing education after 16 players, 10 men and six ladies, took up scholarship opportunities at Zetech University as part of the partnership between Kefwa and the institution. They will be on 20 percent scholarship.
Notable names include Gor Mahia midfielder Clifton Miheso (Degree in International Relations), 2011 Kenyan Premier League (KPL) top scorer, Stephen Waruru (Diploma in Criminology), Wycliffe Opondo (Diploma in Electrical Engineering), former Harambee Starlets goalkeepers Samantha Okeyo and Pauline Atieno (Diploma in Counseling and Psychology) and Gaspo star forward Winnie Mugechi (Certificate in Tourism and Hospitality).
"The partnership is just one year old but we are happy with the progress we've made. Even getting one slot would have been a plus but 16 is really encouraging. It's a good thing that players are planning for life after football by going back to school. We can't all be coaches or trainers, some of us have to move into management," Situma told Nation Sport.
The 35-year-old, who is also a student at Zetech pursuing a Diploma in Business Management, is impressed by the number of former footballers who have offered themselves for elective positions in this year's Football Kenya Federation (FKF) polls.
"It's a positive sign when footballers come out to vie for these positions. With good education, we will have footballers bringing something to the table because they are the right people to lead our football. It will place them in a better place to bring the change they want and not speak from the sidelines like in the past," noted Situma.
Zetech University's Vice Chancellor, Professor Njenga Munene, is optimistic that the partnership will bring forth all-round players who can positively impact the game through skills acquired at the institution.
"Education is what sets talented people apart from their peers and teaches them to not only manage their careers but also life skills and entrepreneurship. Our work with Kefwa has generated increased interest with players, with over 20 footballers enrolling for our September 2020 intake," said Prof Njenga, adding that programmes such as Sports Science, Business and IT are popular among players.
Since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, the university has visited community-led sports centres including the Slum Dunk Academy and the Mathare Goalkeepers Academy which was founded by Zetech Titans Goalkeeper and ICT student, Levis Otieno Ojuok. Highlighting the need to challenge young players to value education and stir in them the desire to learn, Zetech's Corporate Affairs Director Moses Maina said:
"All over the world, we see exemplary sports men and women pursuing higher education and we have taken it upon ourselves as Zetech to go to the different communities and encourage players in this country to enroll for online studies."
Zetech University has for over seven years invested in a sports scholarship programme, spending millions to ensure sports players grow their talent and get university education. Apart from football, other sports teams that have offered scholarships to players are basketball and rugby.