Kenya: Why Lower-Tier League Matches Could Be Exposing Players to Health Risks

Football Kenya Federation (FKF) has admitted to failing to adhere to some of the return to sports protocols recently issued by the government, in a move that places footballers at risk of contracting and spreading Covid-19.

FKF Chief Executive Barry Otieno told Nation Sport Thursday that players and officials competing in the second and third-tier leagues, commonly known as the National Super League (NSL) and Division One respectively, were yet to be tested.

The NSL has 20 clubs, while the Division one league has 30. Each club has a contingent of 40 members of staff, including players, members of the technical bench, and administrators.

"The cost of testing a player is expensive, and we are appealing to the government to chip in and accelerate the vaccination of all players," said Otieno.

Ministry of Sports protocols indicate that all players and officials must return a negative test result before playing matches. According to the protocols, the tests should be done regularly.

The government measures have also barred football matches other than those involving national teams and top-tier leagues, known as the FKF Premier League and Women Premier League, from taking place.

However, NSL and Division one matches have been taking place.

In some cases like the Betway Cup, the federation has allowed NSL and Division One players to play against those from the FKF Premier League who have been tested, risking contamination in the event of a positive case.

The Women Premier League players have also not been tested or vaccinated.

"We have been waiting for the jab but FKF and the government seems to not have a comprehensive arrangement to ensure all players receive it," a club official from Naivasha, who did not wish to be named for fear of victimisation, told Nation Sport.

Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed has warned the government will not hesitate to shut down sporting activities for a third time if there is a spike in Covid-19 infections.

"We are monitoring (the situation) very carefully," she told Nation Sport on the sidelines of her visit to the Olympic Games-bound Team Kenya at the Kasarani Gymnasium.

"We do not need any spike in Covid-19 infections as a result of sports activities because when there is a spike, we will have to be much more stringent than we are. So everyone should stick to the protocols to make sure that we are not overstepping."

FKF had undertaken to conduct these tests. In the past year, FKF received close to Sh150 million from Fifa for carrying out tests and for other purposes. Kenya is ranked seventh in Africa in the list of countries with the most Covid-19 cases.

The country has recorded 173,000 cases, and about 3,000 deaths so far.

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