I’m Surprised Nobody Is Thanking Me For Giving Footballers The Covid-19 Relief Token, Says Mwendwa

FKF President Nick Mwendwa says he is shocked by the silence of club officials and players whom the federation gave Sh5,000 each to cushion them from Covid-19.

He says it was strange that nobody had come out to thank the federation after it partnered with online betting firm Betika to come to the rescue of the clubs.

Mwendwa’s administration had earlier received a heavy hiding from critics who accused it of failing to find ways of cushioning teams affiliated to FKF from the financial implications of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, federation CEO Barry Otieno wrote to clubs participating in the Kenyan Premier League (KPL), National Super League (NSL), Kenya Women Premier League (KWPL) and division one sided for both men and women to forward names to his office so that those specified may benefit from government assistance.

The letter kicked up a dust of criticism from players and officials of teams participating in the lower tiers as well as referees who all felt left out.

Come Friday morning and Mwendwa had a surprise package for KPL and NSL players as news went round that Betika had handed over a cheque for Sh5.3 million to FKF to cushion the clubs.

The FKF president is however disappointed that nobody has come out to thank the federation even after details emerged that the money had already been disbursed directly to individual beneficiaries.

A random check by Tony Bloga Mballa confirmed that all the players and officials of teams in the KPL and NSL whose names were forwarded to FKF had received their share via SMS by Friday noon.

Although not much, the token will be a great relief for a huge percentage of the players, some of whom had taken to doing odd jobs to survive. There were incidents whereby some players were locked out of their houses by impatient landlords over rent arrears.

Some of the players I spoke to expressed their gratitude for the fine gesture exhibited by FKF and Betika but appealed to the federation to take the women league’s into account in the next disbursement.

“Personally I’m really grateful because I was actually broke. Even though it’s not enough, it will enable us to do a few things. It’s much better than not having a single coin. It would also be good if women footballers were to be considered next time,” said a KPL player.

“I can say it’s a good gesture because if someone chips in to assist during a tough time like this it helps you push on with life. Through such an initiative, Betika and FKF have displayed their genuine concern for Kenyan footballers. That’s good, and they should extend the same kindness to players in the loser league’s because we all struggle to survive,” said another player.

“Such assistance is necessary to keep players away from engaging in crime. With the situation being as it is, some footballers may tempted to resort to theft as a last resort to put food on the table,” he said.

Mwendwa says that it was not out of spite or contempt that women footballers were left out.

“When Betika offered to cushion players from Covid, we asked them if they could consider women footballers as well. They said that given the restrictions on their budget they were only able to cushion KPL and NSL players at the moment, and may consider cushioning women later” said Mwendwa.

Sources say that Betika had initially planned to come to rescue of players in the NSL (the league the firm sponsors) but later thought it wise to rope in KPL in their plans after realizing that a majority of players in the league also relied on football to survive.

The FKF president refuted reports that his administration had neglected the women league, pointing out that the federation actually met the cost of most of the activities in the league.

“We use 38% of our money to fund women football. We meet the cost of ambulance, we pay for the field and pay the referees. The only thing we don’t do is to pay them their salaries.”

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Written by Senior Editor