By Fredrick Nadulli,
Kenya’s oldest football club is facing a bleak future if recent developments are anything to go by.Certain underlying and disturbing factors are meekly playing below the surface.
Formed in 1964 as Abaluhya Football Club,the team incorporated the larger Luhya community with sub-tribes like the Maragoli,Banyore,Isukha etc.
The Abaluhya are Kenya’s second largest ethnic community and for a club that evokes emotions,naturally it has a massive passionate following.
Sadly and unknown to many,there are serious clan inclinations and simmering undertones that are threatening to rip the club apart.
In its formative years the club had in its large pool of players a huge chunk dominated by its own tribal sons.Those were the days AFC was predominantly Luhya and Gor Mahia predominantly Luo.
Players were expected to owe their total allegiance to their teams along tribal lines.
So deadly was the allegiance factor that William Obwaka,an ethnic luhya,had his rural home set ablaze by angry arsonists after his two goals in the final helped their traditional bitter rivals Gor win a regional club tournament in Sudan.
He was labelled a traitor.Over the years however the tensions gradually eased off as players like John Okello ‘Zangi’ and Dan Shikanda finally managed to exorcise that tribal ghost by playing for both AFC and Gor,a thing unheard of and even considered sacrilegious.
The tribal gap had been bridged,or so thought many.Alas not at AFC.
Gor Mahia moved on and lately has in its ranks key players from the luhya community including the likes of Timonah Wanyonyi,Haron Shakava and even Eric Masika who made his name at Gor before decamping to Leopards.
AFC on the other hand missed the bus.They have slowly and sub-consciously retreated to their ethnic cocoon.
It is for instance not uncommon to hear Banyore fans claim the club is dominated by Maragoli players and officials,or those from the Isukha sub-tribe demand one of their own in the club hierarchy.
This infighting and suspicion has so undermined the Kenya giants that recent chants from the stands make for sad reading.
‘ALATWA MASTI KO’;
A section of disgruntled fans was recently heard chanting ‘Alatwa masti ko’,literally ‘Aladwa must go’,in referrence to the club’s secretary general George Aladwa,and demanding their own clansman replace the beleaguered official.
So dire is the situation that before a vacancy is filled at the club,fans demand to know from which sub-tribe the prospective appointee hails from,qualifications notwithstanding.Its a shameful tug of war that is eating into the club’s fabric and splitting loyalties right down the middle.
The spillover effect is affecting the playing unit.
WHICH WAY NOW;
For a club that enjoys a rich cultural history and near fanatical following plus regional success,this should be a vice long dead and buried.
They boast of financial muscle to buy personel they wish for,players or technical staff.
AFC Leopards must outgrow the outdated mentality of kith and kin and pull in the same direction for the common good of the club.Someone must go the extra mile to educate and bring together feuding parties.
A club of this stature cannot be run on the whims of a few selfish bloated egos who cant see beyond clanism and/or cronysm.
Its time to lift off the tribal veil and see clearly good people!
N/B The writer is a former Kenyan International and Mathare United player
/ 11 months ago
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