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Kenya’s Sports Secretary Ababu Namwamba pleads with CAF to reinstate Kenya in 2024 Afcon qualifiers

Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba has asked the Confederation of African Football (Caf) to be considerate and reinstate the national football team, Harambee Stars, in the ongoing 2024 Afcon qualifiers.

Kenya was grouped in Pool C alongside Burundi, Namibia and Cameroon but was soon banished to the football cold in February last year by the world football governing body, Fifa, following the disbandment of the Nick Mwendwa-led Football Kenya Federation (FKF) by then CS Amina Mohamed.

Namwamba appealed to the African football governing body not to punish the players for the ‘misdemeanours of others but to take into account the particular circumstances of the country, which led to a standstill in football activities.

“We are very keen to see Harambee Stars back and firing. The issue of how they are going to progress in the qualifiers for the 2023 Afcon is a matter that will be discussed by the federation when they meet this delegation (of Caf and Fifa). I believe that both Fifa and, especially Caf, will be considerate of Kenya’s special circumstances and allow them to participate in the qualifiers,” the CS said.

With the continental showpiece, initially set for this year in Ivory Coast, postponed to next year, the next round of qualifying matches (Matchdays three and four) is set for March.

Namwamba bemoaned the fact that Kenya’s suspension, which was lifted in November last year, had cost the country’s various teams the opportunity to compete in multiple international competitions.

“I would actually ask Caf not to punish the team for the misdemeanours of others. Obviously, that is not our call but we would be asking Caf to take into consideration the special circumstances under which we found ourselves in this situation. It (the suspension) cost our women’s team, Harambee Starlets, the opportunity to play at the World Cup. We believe they were close to something extraordinary,” Namwamba said.

He was speaking at his office on Monday morning after a meeting with a high-level delegation of Fifa and Caf officials led by former Switzerland international Gelson Fernandes, who is presently Fifa’s director for member associations, in Africa.

The meeting was convened to deliberate on the revival of Kenyan football, including talent development, construction of world-class infrastructure and governance and management of the sport in the country.

Fernandes expressed Fifa’s commitment to reviving the country’s fortunes in the world’s biggest sport, noting that Kenya is blessed with abundant talent.

“There is definitely a lot of potentials here… I have played with Mariga (McDonald); a very tough player… Later, I also played against Wanyama (Victor) when he was at Celtic. We all want to see Kenyan football back to where it belongs and we will be working with all stakeholders to achieve this. No one person can do everything and so we need to come together,” the Cape Verde-born former defensive midfielder said.

Speaking at the same time, Magdy Nadim, Caf’s legal counsel, said the continental governing body will deliberate on Namwamba’s request and communicate on the way forward, soon.

By Omondi Onyatta-Kenya

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