Search This Blog



Kenyan midfielder Victor Wanyama celebrates a goal for Scottish giants Celtic

On 12 July 2013, Victor Wanyama completed his move to Southampton FC, a first for Kenyan (and East African) football, for £12.5 million.

Wanyama joins a list of Kenyan footballers plying their craft abroad (or who have had a stint outside the country), including Allan Wanga, Austin Makacha, Bonaventure Maruti, Curtis Osano, Dennis Oliech, Emmanuel Ake, Francis Ouma, Ibrahim Shikanda, Francis Ouma, John Machethe Muiruri, Lawrence Olum, McDonald Mariga, Mo Oduor, Musa Otieno, Patrick Oboya, Roger Verdi, Simeon Mulama, Titus Mulama, Mike Okoth, Maurice Sunguti, James Situma, Arnold Origi.

The most famous on that list are longtime Auxerre winger Dennis Oliech and McDonald Mariga, Wanyama's elder brother (also the first East African to win a UEFA Champions League title with Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan side of 2010).

While the country is a minnow in world football, with the national team perennial underachievers, and the league relatively short of technical quality, the move raises significant talking points with potential impact for the country going forward.

A brief timeline of Kenya football

Football was introduced to the country by British settlers in the early 20th century. It's spread was no doubt helped by the sport's simplicity and the fact that it could be played almost anywhere.

The Kenya Football Federation was established in 1960 to oversee football in the country, following which Kenya’s most popular clubs were formed, including A.F.C. Leopards, Gor Mahia and Reunion.The Kenya National Football League (now known as the Kenya Premier League) was created in 1963.

In 1972, Kenya made its first appearance in the African Cup of Nations, but was eliminated in the first round. Three years later, Kenya won the CECAFA (Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations) Cup for the first time. Between 1981 and 1982, Kenya won three consecutive CECAFA titles.

In 2003, the Kenyan Premier League was created and registered as a limited liability company whose ownership was shared amongst all the sixteen participating clubs and was to be affiliated to the Kenya Football Federation. This follows incessant wrangles between the footballing authorities and the national football league member clubs.

The league was known as the Kenya National Football League from its creation in 1963 to 1996, the Kenyan Super League in 1973 and 1997 and, from 1998, the Kenyan Premier League.

August 2012 is a significant milestone, with the Kenyan Premier League signing a Kshs 2 million deal with East African Breweries to rename the league to the Tusker Premier League. This remains the most lucrative deal in the nation's footballing history. Less than two months later, the league agreed a deal with Puma to make them their official ball supplier.

Comparison with other nationalities

According to research conducted in 1999 by Dr. Raffaele Poli, as at 1 October 1999 there were 571 players of African origin employed by 528 clubs, from 36 top division leagues of UEFA member countries. This averages to 1.08 players per club.

That means African players plied their trade in 33 of 36 European leagues, with France and Belgium leading with an average of 3.4 and 3.3 players respectively.

Comparison with other nationalities places Africans after players from Western Europe (31.5%), Eastern Europe (27.7%) and Latin America (23.1%). However, Africans left for Europe at an average of 19.4 years, much younger than Latin Americans (22), with Western Europeans and their Eastern counterparts rounding it out at 22.4 and 22.7 years respectively.

A breakdown of players as per African nationality is provided as follows:

1. Nigeria - 113

2. Cameroon - 84

3. Ivory Coast - 61

4. Senegal - 57

5. Ghana - 46

6. Mali - 20

7. South Africa - 19

8. Guinea - 15

9. Zambia - 15

10. Tunisia - 13

11. Others - 128

12. Total - 571

Implications for Kenya football

There is no doubt Wanyama's move to the Saints shines the spotlight on a country ranked 123 (as at July 2013). Continentally sees us 36th, sandwiched between Tanzania and Namibia. What should follow such a high profile move to an elite European (and world) league? Among the measures that can be undertaken are the following:

IMPROVED SCOUTING OF YOUTH TALENT - The obvious is talent exists in the country. Each of Dennis Oliech, McDonald Mariga and Wanyama have played in the UEFA Champions League competition, the best and most lucrative club competition worldwide. Each has contributed significantly, with notable performances acknowledged.

INVESTMENT IN YOUTH - The onus is on Federation Kenya Football (FKF), the sport's national governing body to invest more in youth football, as that forms the cradle of all national teams. This is an area the country lags behind compared to the rest of Africa. Opportunities to borrow best practices are not lacking.

A second area is talent spotting by the elite clubs. Clubs must be encouraged to actively scout in their immediate geographical areas. This would save the Federation money spent traveling as they can use member clubs as their eyes and ears at the grass root level.

ACADEMIES - Establishment of academies with a standardized playing curriculum. Egypt and countries like Ivory Coast, the latter's ASEC Abidjan academy having produced most of the Elephant's golden generation of footballers including the Toure brothers. Holland's use of the 4-3-3 system and Spain's emphasis on possession football from an early age, with fun an integral component of all football, are key reasons why the nations sit at the apex of footballing excellence worldwide.

PROTECTION OF YOUTH ASSETS - The competitive nature of today's football means there will be unscrupulous interests intended to pick off the best talent for sale (loosely used) abroad. Such players might also attract the interest of nations that lack similar gifted athletes. All agents must register with Football Kenya with their areas of operation defined. No deal should be entered without notifying the footballing authorities. This will help safeguard the country's youth from exploitation. The players themselves, their families, schools and institutions, and any individuals connected to football in Kenya should be educated in this area.

UPGRADING OF REGIONAL SPORTS INFRASTRUCTURE - Countries including Brazil and Ghana ensure their national team plays in major cities in the country, in rotation. This implies there are playing stadia in existence to begin with. This in turn ensures the national team does not take any region for granted, while bonding the fan base with their team. Needless to say, such a move is ideal for creating interest in the sport. This is an area FKF and the government should focus on. The regional stadia and sports facilities can provide a visual stimulus for any athlete from the respective area to aim at playing.

SPORTS TOURISM - Major playing venues like Anfield in Merseyside, England have existed since the late 19th century. Other than constant renovations, part of their charm is the history therein, with stadium tours helping the owner clubs generate income. This is an area that continued sporting excellence could open up for Kenya and help generate foreign exchange from tourists. There is a case for our renown athletes and national Sevens rugby team doing more marketing than our own Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Tourism do for the country.

All journeys begin someplace, a vision providing the key starting point. Few things unite diverse people as sports does. Good examples include the hosting of Olympics and World Cup tournaments, each of which helps raise the patriot in every national.

Just like the Butterfly Theory by Edward Lorenz, while this player's signing might resemble the fluttering of a butterfly's delicate wings, the net effect might be hurricanes of sports reform in the nation of Kenya.

The proverbial ball rests on the feet of the Federation of Kenya Football (FKF).

References: The Migrations of African Football Players to Europe: Human Trafficking and neo-colonialism in Question (Dr. Raffaele Poli, 2009) |

Image used with permission.



My best definition of identity is, 'The fact of being who or what a person or thing.' It would follow logic that lack of a distinct identity would easily lead to confusion about what a person or thing is.

The small nation of Uruguay, whose population numbers 3 million, has an interesting saying - "other countries have their history, Uruguay has its football."

It is said that any aspiring Uruguayan young player is given a crash course in their country's footballing identity, in what it means to pull on the shirt. The idea is that, wherever the club game takes them, in football terms they are Uruguayans for life.

Despite boasting a population size smaller than that of Kenya's capital city Nairobi, this is a country that has gone on to lift two World Cups and 15 Copa America's among other international accolades. The country ranks third in South America behind superpowers Brazil and Argentina, and has been able to produce world class talent like Luis Suarez of English giants Liverpool and Edinson Cavani, among other football luminaries.

There is no doubt that the Uruguayans are clear about what constitutes their identity.

Uruguay's La Celeste (national team) Footballing shirt


A recent interview by Spanish forward Luis Alberto (now plying his trade for Liverpool FC) reveals an interesting thought.

The philosophy of the manager here of working with the ball a lot is similar to that of Barcelona,” he [Alberto] explained.


“It requires a good number of years to develop that philosophy

Identity is visible.

The Brazilian, Italian, German, Spanish, Argentinian shirts are all instantly recognizable. This applies to many of the bigger footballing institutions too. Above all, there is an intrinsic element, an undefinable mentality.

Players turning out for world beaters all display a healthy respect for tradition; knowledge of predecessors and what made such people tic. It is no accident that their nation's shirts and logos, have moved from merely being pieces of fabric and embroidery to having a weight that needs careful carrying and handling.

Just like wearing of uniforms limits our public conduct, so does respect for the visible symbols that form identity. Would a Police officer be within the bounds of accepted behavior were he to smoke or take alcohol while in uniform?

The same would apply to wearing 'the shirt' a nation's symbol of identity. There is therefore a direct correlation between identity and success.


Everything must begin with a philosophy. The Argentinian number 10 is a revered shirt as it denotes a playmaker; a creator who starts the team's offensive play. The country's name for the term is engante, similar to the Italian terms regista (deep-lying playmaker) or trequartista (playmaker in the central attacking midfield position).

Brazil's number 10 shirt worn by the meia-atacante (attacking midfield playmaker)

Such a player, akin to an American point guard or quarterback, initiate the team's creativity and translates the coaching philosophy while on the field of play. Needless to say, such numbers are not dished out willy nilly but reserved for the very best, examples being Diego Maradona and Pele, two of the very best footballers of all time.

Three of history's greatest number 10s - [L-R]: Diego Maradona (Argentina), Pele (Brazil), Michel Platini (France)

Without understanding such an approach it becomes difficult to implement the desired style of play. The philosophy in turn informs other aspects of visible branding such as the logo and team colors.

None succeed without safeguarding such defining aspects. In everyday business, do companies leave their seals out in the open? Such are safely secured in safes with restricted access to the company's employees. In simple terms, the company's identity is a jealously guarded entity.


What defines this nation's sporting identity? What is the official team color? What jersey numbers are only for marquee players? What motivates players to vie for a chance to represent the national team? Is it merely to make a name for self, earn allowances, or is it for the chance to be an ambassador for their nation?

It might not serve as the best of examples but the deliberate handball by Luis Suarez in the FIFA World Cup 2010 quarterfinal clash against Ghana is a sign of what his nation's shirt means to the player. Suarez would rather have faced the ire of his opponents and endured punishment (in this case a sending off), than allowing the ball to cross the line for a goal.

Without dissecting the morality or lack thereof surrounding that act, identity is the opening step leading to desire to win. The privilege of wearing the shirt is what elevates performance from merely participating to a real desire to conquer.

What is the body without spirit or soul? Identity forms that missing bit to excellence. Much the same way as the spirit and soul animate everything they come into contact with.

Identity is the starting point, success the end. All journeys are defined by the first step.

Images used with permission. | References: |



Ages range from 16 to 20, averaging at approximately 19.6 yet the footballers are all skill, speed, strength running, like seasoned warriors.

The description could apply to any FIFA Under 20 team playing in the 2013 edition in Turkey. Such is the standard of play. The team being described might be Africa's best hope for a World Cup or any other internationally recognized accolade. It would be even more exciting if such a feat was achieved with an African coach at the helm.

Enter Sellas Tetteh, fresh from leading his Black Satellites into this tournament's semi final stage where they fell to tournament favorites France.

Africa's Finest

It would be unfair not to acknowledge the contribution of homegrown coaches around the continent, with names like Hassan Shehata, three-time winner of the Africa Cup of Nations (2006, 2008, 2010) and the Africa Youth Cup of Nations (2003). Shehata was also the CAF Coach of the Year 2008. Others in contention include Tunisian Nabil Maloul and Niger's national team coach Haroun Douale Gabde. There is clear quality present among the indigenous coaching fraternity.

In Profile

Sellas Tetteh began his coaching career in 1995 with Kotobabi Powerlines, before joining Liberty Professionals a year later.

This was followed by an Assistant Manager position with the Ghana Under 17 team in 2001, before taking full control a year later. A promotion to the Ghana Under 23 team followed in 2003. Tetteh would later became an Assistant for the full national team. In June 2008 he was appointed caretaker manager of the Ghanaian national team, the Black Stars, a position he held until August 2008.

His star on the rise saw Tetteh appointed manager of the Rwandan national side in February 2010, marking an end to his dual position as manager of the Ghana Under 20 national team and Ghanaian club side Liberty Professionals.

History would be made as Tetteh's Under 20 Black Satellites won the 2009 FIFA Under 20 World Cup, becoming the first African team to win the competition.

This year's FIFA Under 20 World Cup campaign is Sellas Tetteh's second stint in charge of his country.

The 2013 Campaign

The Satellites were drawn in Group A, comprising pre-tournament favorites France and Spain. After suffering losses against the two, 1-3 to Les Bluets and 0-1 to Spain, the Ghanaians would make it to the quarter finals after defeating the USA 4-1. This put the Satellites through the knockout phase as one of the best four third-placed teams.

The team would come alive in the Second Round, stunning Portual 3-2 after coming from two goals to one down. In the quarter finals Ghana would make another comeback, this time from 2-3 to edge 4-3 past Chile in extra time.

The team's campaign would however fizzle out in the last four, after France inflicted a second loss, this time a hard fought 2-1 result.

The Ghanaians now await Iraq for the third and fourth place playoff.

It is good to note that this team managed to get to the last four of a 24-team tournament, comprising the best youth teams from every continent, effectively champions of their regions. No mean feat.

Team Composition

Egypt's legendary coach Hassan Shehata's three Africa Cup of Nation winning teams in 2006, 2008 and 2010 featured 20, 17 and 19 locally based players respectively. It becomes easy to compare him Tetteh's 16 out of 21 players in the 2013 FIFA Under 20 World Cup squad. Another African coach who favors such an approach is former Nigerian defender Stephen Keshi, who selected eight such players during Nigeria's recent participation in the FIFA Confederations Cup 2013 in Brazil.

Keshi is also one of only two people, along with Egypt's Mahmoud El-Gohary, to have won the Africa Cup of Nations as both a player and a coach.

Hassan Shehata (Egypt, top) and Stephen Keshi (Nigeria)

The three coaches have learned to tap into what their local leagues offer, standing in good stead for the nations' footballing futures.

Tactical acumen married with local knowledge of the footballing scene is set to make these men invaluable assets. This should go a long way towards reversing the mindset that the continent needs foreign tacticians for teams to excel. It can be done.

Shehata played his football for Cairo giants Zamalek and Kuwaiti club SC Kazma. Keshi's footballing journey saw him turn out for local clubs at home, in Cote d'Ivoire, Belgium and the US. Tetteh played his football at home, Nigeria and Bangladesh.

Each of the trio is thus well traveled and exposed to the world. They have been able to give back their knowledge and experience to their national teams. This is an approach that should be lauded.

Not only does it save the country money but also provides inspiration to the up and coming, and a measure of continuity for local football. It is a major plus to their respective countries for not letting ex playing personnel waste away after retirement.

The countries in consideration have also invested considerably in the sport and sporting infrastructure, the benefits of which are clear in winning performances regionally and internationally. That is the way to go for African nations.


The best solutions to any challenges must come from the people. That makes a strong case for local coaches familiar with the local culture. International achievements are now making people sit up and notice. It makes sense to utilize acquired experience and ideas from an increasingly global game. Many who watched the aforementioned youth World Cup would agree that the gulf in class is shrinking by the day.

The technical ability required to play internationally is now widespread, with a lot of African youth excelling abroad, in cultures vastly different from their own. It might be time to revise our mentality about indigenous talent playing its part in such progress.

Images used with permission.



30th June 2013 gave infamy to the northeastern Brazilian state of Maranhão.

As per the supplied reports, an amateur football match, in the remote northern town of Pio XII, saw spectators behead the match referee, Otavio Jordao da Silva, following an incident in which he stabbed a player by the name Josenir dos Santos Abreu.

Further details are that the player struck the referee after questioning a decision. The match official in turn stabbed the player in retaliation.

It was then that an outraged group of spectators allegedly turned on the referee. He was tied up, beaten, stoned and killed. They then put his head on a stake and planted it in the middle of the pitch.

It is difficult to look at such a story beyond the humongous shadow of senseless violence. The account confirms the cliche of an ugly side to the beautiful game. Fighting among rival fan bases, insults and mockery form part of this side to competitive sports. Few among us fans have escaped a taunt or two.

Rarely though do we degenerate to such extremes. Or do we?

Is football reflective of wider society, with its potential to explode into conflict? Is such behavior among previously calm individuals an indicator of inner stresses, anger or inherent frustrations? Was it merely a spontaneous (but isolated) case of a mob mentality on steroids?

It raises lots to think about including recognition that potential means of human unity and respect, such as religion, are among the biggest sources of discrimination and conflict. Not a dig on religion, organized or not, but an acknowledgement of failures in any human institution or idea.

As an example, are we less prone to judge our fellow men merely because we have been exposed to a formal, internationally based form of education? Human experience shows many cases that go contrary.

It therefore becomes difficult to glean any positive from such a barbaric act. However, such incidents can make us reflect a bit more on extremes within ourselves. Are we obsessed to the extent of conjuring ways to hurt anyone different from us?

If little things make men, what are the inner little things that define us? How developed is our character to handle situations like this one? What is our role in such conflicts? Not just in terms of whether passive or active, but do we see such as carthatic outlets for our inner beasts? Carthasis is justifiable in terms of being an outlet for pent up feelings. However, if such feelings can lead to maiming or any other form of hurt to fellow human beings, is it worth it?

That killing is unfortunate, near impossible to reconcile with any sense of civility. Rather than rush to judge the participating mob, it might be time for inner reflection.

The chief problem in front of me is that man in my mirror. For us to see positive difference in our world, it is time we changed. All change starts with me.

Image used with permission.


The world watches an intense scene involving two regional powers. Iraq and South Korea. The audience is treated to a spectacle that eventually sees the Arab state prevail over their rivals. The game ends two all, with the Young Lions of Mesopotamia triumphing on penalties, and off to the semi final stage of the FIFA Under 20 World Cup 2013.

Few viewers can reconcile this Iraq from a nation the Failed States Index classified among the five most unstable countries in the world, during the period 2005 through 2008.

The Young Lions, also known as Montakhab Al-Shabab (Youth Team), hail from a nation that has since 2003 seen more than 370,000 citizens displaced, numbers of internal refugees rise to 4.7 million, a whopping 16% of the nation's population. The cost of this conflict has seen in excess of 32,031 United States combat fatalities, and the cost of funding that war rising to an estimated $6 billion.

It is such a backdrop that makes Iraq's progress to the last four of this tournament all the more remarkable. From Group E comprising of England, Egypt and Chile the Lions prevailed in a pulsating quarter final, to earn the right to play Uruguay.

In the words of Italian renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci, 'learn to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.'

How does a nation of 31,129,225 (2012 estimate) manage such a feat as I have described, while peaceful states like Kenya consistently underachieve? What is it that Kenyan football can learn from Iraq?


Kenya at 44 million (2012 estimate) offers a population that exceeds Iraq's by more than 13 million. Iraq's oil offers an edge with the two states worlds apart in terms of GDP per capita income. Iraq's averages to $4,272 comparing with the East African state's paltry $976.

Matters Football

The world football governing body FIFA ranks Iraq at 97th, trumping Kenya's 123rd position. The two countries are governed in matters football by the Iraqi Football Federation and Federation Kenya Football (FKF), with the sport established in the two countries in 1948 and 1960 respectively.

It is remarkable that before 1974, only teams from the country's capital Baghdad took part in the country's elite football division. The country's first attempt at youth football hails back to 1975, more weight to the impressive growth of youth football in the Arab state.

International Achievements

Iraq has participated in the FIFA World Cup edition of 1986 (held in Mexico), losing all three matches in the group stage to Paraguay, Belgium and Mexico. The country also took part in the 1908 Olympics, with a record of two group stage appearances (1984 and 1988), the last eight (1980) and a semi final appearance in 2004. Regionally, the Iraqi mens national team first took part in the Asian Cup in 1956, winning the trophy in 2007.

Kenya in comparison has never gone beyond the first round of the Africa Cup of Nations. The country's first participation was in 1972, exiting from the first round in the 1972, 1988, 1990, 1992 and 2004 editions. The country has never qualified for the Olympics or FIFA World Cup


1. VISION: One of the distinguishing features of any progressive initiative is vision. On 4th October 2011 the Iraqi Minister for Youth and Sports approached FC Barcelona with an invitation to help in setting up youth academies in the country. The academies will be run by Spanish coaches, who will train local coaches and players and help improve the sport's standard. Barcelona's rivals Real Madrid also have plans to set up academies in three cities, Erbil, Dohuk and Sulaymaniah, part of the club's drive to open up 190 such institutions worldwide.

2. INVESTMENT AND FUNDING: How does that translate for the East African nation? There is the common complain that very little is seen of FIFA funds once they reach the country's football authorities.

Kenya is still at the stage of always fundraising to meet the team's expenses whenever a tournament is involved. It is common to see rich benefactors, both individuals and corporate sponsors come forward to support the team, promising a windfall should the Harambee Stars excel. Why not a longer term solution such as a permanent fund to cater for the country's sporting ambassadors?

The United Kingdom makes use of the country's national lottery (akin to the Kenya National Sweepstakes here) to fund all sports initiatives. Such ideas can be replicated to aid out the team. Such an idea would replace short term solutions like the 'Mbao for Bao' campaign s een recently in June 2013.

3. PASSION: The case could be argued for what really drives football administrators in this country. How many truly passionate football authorities are there within the FKF ranks?

4. STANDARDS: Another question is why Football Kenya Federation does not focus on improving the standards of coaching in this country and structuring youth football better. A comparison with West and North Africa makes for pathetic self reflection. Ghana's Black Starlets remain the only African side to ever win the FIFA Under 20 World Cup edition, and this year have made it yet again to the last four of this prestigious tournament.

There is no shortcut to preparation and youth development, an area Kenya is severely deficient in. The country's situation is no better even regionally, with neighbors like Sudan and war torn Somalia outdoing us in this regard going by recent tournaments.

5. EXPOSURE: How well exposed are Kenya's youth footballers to international football? It is not uncommon to find Nigerian and Ghanaian youth plying their trade in countries as far off as Belgium, France and England. This, coupled with early exposure to international football best practices helps these players develop even beyond football.

6. PROGRESSION: A common problem seen in the bigger footballing clubs abroad is the challenge of youth prospects graduating into the senior team. How is the local football federation planning to tap into grassroots football and ensure a constant stream of players into the national team setup? This is one area that needs serious attention. A country like Spain is full of squad depth, with each playing position attracting three or four quality personnel to fill it. This comes from a well developed culture of clubs producing youth prospects good enough to graduate to senior football.

7. ROLE OF CLUBS: In countries such as Ghana, clubs like Liberty Professionals and Hearts of Oak have reputed academies that constantly cultivate young players with the aim of cherry picking the best for the first team, or selling potential and thus generating revenue. Few countries owe their national team's strength to strong academies like Egypt (Al Ahly and Zamalek) and the famed Asec Abidjan academy in Cote d'Ivoire.

Community clubs like Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards can help greatly by tapping into regional networks, which also form Kenya's footballing hotbeds of the colonial Nyanza and Western provinces. Each premier league club should in turn establish networks in their immediate local area, for example Thika and environs for clubs like Thika United.


It is greatly disheartening to see nations like Iraq and Somalia (regionally) excel despite significant hardships that Kenya has fortuitously managed to avoid. It could be argued that without the bitterly cold North Wind the Vikings would not have excelled as they did, but it also diminishes excuses for countries that have stable environments.

This is definitely a challenge worth taking up. Back to Leonardo da Vinci, there is still opportunity in Kenya's current state of affairs. Iraq also provides great hope that anything is possible with determination, vision and a little elbow grease.


Images used with permission.



Coach Boone (Remember the Titans): [to his players] Tonight we've got Hayfield. Like all the other schools in this conference, they are all white. They don't have to worry about race. We do. Let me tell you something: you don't let anyone come between us. Nothing tears us apart. IN GREEK MYTHOLOGY, THE TITANS WERE GREATER EVEN THAN THE GODS. THEY RULED THEIR UNIVERSE WITH ABSOLUTE POWER. WELL THAT FOOTBALL FIELD OUT THERE, THAT'S OUR UNIVERSE. LET'S RULE IT LIKE TITANS. (Caps Mine)


Tahiti's national football team, also known as Toa Aito (Iron Warriors), might have been more porous than hard but there are stories that sometimes get lost.

Representing the Pacific nation of French Polynesia, with a population of only 267,000 (January 2010 estimate), and an area of 4,167 square kilometers, the Iron Warriors still topped the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC), comprising 11 nations as follows: American Samoa , Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati , New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tahiti (French Polynesia) , Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu.

Tahiti has competed in the OFC since 1990.

Traditionally one of the stronger footballing nations of the Pacific Islands, with the second best record with five football victories. They were runners-up in the first three installments of the Nations Cup (1973, 1980, and 1996). The Iron Warriors qualified for the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt. This success was followed up with the title of 2012 OFC Nations Cup, becoming the first team other than Australia and New Zealand to win the competition.

2013 FIFA Confederations Cup

The squad:

GK: Mickaël Roche, Gilbert Meriel, and Xavier Samin

DF: Teheivarii Ludivion, Tamatoa Wagemann, Stephane Faatiarau, Nicholas Vallar (Captain), Edson Lemaire, Rainui Aroita, Vincent Simon, and Yannick Vero

MF: Alvin Tehau, Henri Caroine, Heimano Bourebare, Stanley Atani, Lorenzo Tehau, Ricky Aitamai, Jonathan Tehau, and Yohann Tihoni

FW: Marama Vahirua, Teaonui Tehau, Steevy Chong Hue, and Samuel Hnanyine

The team of journeyman footballers, all play domestically bar Marama Vahirua, a 33-year-old forward with Nancy in France. The team ranges in age from 18 to 35 years, averaging at 25.5 years.

The Tribute

Having shipped in 24 goals in this year’s Confederations Cup, it is hard at face value to find positives, yet there are pluses from the team’s campaign.

To start with, Tahiti are in this tournament, having qualified by topping ten regional rivals. That makes their participation legit. A nation of 267,000 gets to play rivals that boast in excess of 3 million (Uruguay) and 120 million (Nigeria).

Add to that 22 of 23 Tahiti players plying their trade at home, in contrast with teams that either boast competitive domestic leagues and national players based in organized leagues abroad.

In the words of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the Olympic Movement: “The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

The Baron’s romanticism was strongly influenced by the saying mens sana in corpore sano, a sound mind in a sound body. Is that not the essence of competition and participation? A winner has to be found and an opponent respects his vanquisher.

The pride of Tahiti might have left Brazil having been on the wrong end of results, but they remain giants and pioneers from their region. The Iron Warriors also provide hope for nations like Kenya who are yet to taste international football success. It can be done. For that they deserve respect.

My lasting impression of Tahiti will be their pre-match handing out of necklaces to opponents and unbridled joy at having scored against Nigeria. The thrill of winning and lifting trophies might cast a large shadow over stories like Tahiti but forgotten the Warriors should not be.

Images used with permission.



Is it time Kenya developed a distinct playing kit for all its teams?

Upon observation, all famed soccer giants the world over, the likes of Cameroon, Nigeria, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, England, France and Italy all have distinct uniforms that instantly mark them out for recognition.

It also follows that all the mentioned teams have distinct names that further reinforce the identity – the Indomitable Lions, Super Eagles, the Selecao, Albiceste, La Furia Roja, Three Lions, Les Bleus and Azurri respectively.

A question to be posed is: Does possessing a distinct kit create a unique identity? Does it help create a unified sense of purpose for the team? Is there a unique playing mentality that follows having a distinct shirt to play and fight for?

What is the Harambee Stars playing uniform? Is it the Stoke City (or Atletico Madrid)-like white shirts featuring vertical red stripes, or is it the all-white playing kit recently designed by kit-maker Adidas?

Cameroon, Mali and Nigeria are a few countries whose playing kits are modeled on their national flags. Can't this country borrow from the Kenyan flag too?

A few of the country's kits are shown below. They are drawn from our national football team Harambee Stars, our Rugby Sevens team and the now famous athletics kit.

It might be an idea worth considering. As we aspire to breathe the rarefied air of the soccer gods, we need an identity, a presence, and a visually recognizable point of reference. We need new ideas, especially in the area of branding. It is the only way I see of learning how to fight for the shirt and developing pride in wearing of the same.

Images used with permission.

Images used courtesy of, and