PIC: Kenya striker Allan Wanga (L) controls the ball as Namibia's Jammal Mohammed looks on during their 2010 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Nairobi September 6 2008.
Guys, things could never have been better for local soccer!
Sometime mid this year when this blogger decided to publish a story on this forum highlighting on the efforts of the Minister Raila Odinga to revive soccer and sporting in general, not many people took it seriously. At that time, many saw it from a myopic political point of view.
How wrong they were, because as I type these lines, it was announced yesterday that national team Harambee Stars’ FIFA ranking has skyrocketed to an all time high position 68th globally , 14th in Africa and the best amongst the CECAFA region. Needless to say, this is the highest ranking Kenya has ever achieved in history. As it is, Kenya are the biggest African movers in the FIFA world rankings table, jumping 17 places to 68th.
Even as we celebrate this remarkable achievement, politics aside, we should not forget that were it not for the personal intervention of Raila and his one-on-one meetings with Sepp Blatter of FIFA, Kenya could in all probability be serving an indefinite suspension from world football today.
What does the new ranking mean? It means that Kenya footballers can now sign for what is arguably the most exciting professional league in world football - the English Premier League - because the British government only issues work permits to players who originate from countries that have ranked 70th and below. Not only are players highly paid at this league, the standards of the game are very competitive and English teams regularly reach the finals, semis and quarters of the European Champions League – again arguably the most prestigious soccer competition in the world after the FIFA World Cup.
All this could translate into raising standards locally, like has happened to other countries whose players turn out for the EPL. Professional football is not just big business for agents, promoters, marketers and governments, it is also in today’s world a career in itself. The news comes at a time when Harambee Stars are poised to play final qualifying matches for the 2010 World Cup and also when the team have just reported to camp for the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup to be held in Uganda from December 31. From the “Russia Stand” of the stadium, bloggers please join me in yelling Oliech, Obama, Odinga!!!!
Hongera to the Harambee stars and their head Coach Francis Kimanzi. Clap Clap Clap.
View Harambee Stars FIFA World Ranking History here
View the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking Table Here