Accessibility links

Breaking News

Kenyans Excited for World Cup Despite FIFA Ban

FILE - People pose for photos in front of the FIFA World Cup Trophy during the trophy tour ahead of the men's World Cup 2022 in Qatar at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) in Nairobi, on May 27, 2022.

The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) banned Kenya in February from participating in any international events due to government meddling in the nation's football association. Despite the suspension, Kenyan football fans are excited about the upcoming World Cup in Qatar. For more, Mike Mbonye spoke to David Kwalimwa, an African football analyst with the Nation Media Group.

The interview was edited for brevity and clarity

VOA: How do Kenyans feel about the upcoming World Cup tournament?

Kwalimwa: The FIFA World Cup begins in Qatar in less than three weeks time and there is some sense of excitement and vibe and expectation in Nairobi as we build up for the tournament. Of course, Kenya has had a very tough year on the football pitch, with the country currently facing a ban by FIFA from all international activities. And with that the league in Kenya has stopped. But this has not stopped the ardent football fans from anticipating a very good tournament...There are already TV and radio shows about the FIFA World Cup.

VOA: Are you optimistic of good outing by the African teams bound for the World Cup?

Kwalimwa: Well, most African teams have been put in very tough groups, so to speak, with Senegal for example in group A against host Qatar, Ecuador and the Netherlands. Senegal will do well to qualify but at face value, you would consider Ecuador and Netherlands as threats for Senegal.

In terms of progressing to the next group with the Tunisians in group D against defending champions France, Australia and Denmark, you get the impression that Tunisia qualifies.. [They] put in 100 percent in each and every game.

Then there's Morocco who is going to play against Belgium, Canada and Croatia. A very tough group for Morocco there with Croatia... the losing finalist in the last edition of the tournament.

And then there is Cameroon who is up against record holders of Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland.

Well Ghana will face again with Portugal, the Korea Republic and Uruguay.

And so all in all, you would fancy one or two of the five African teams to progress to the second round of the tournament and probably one other team to make it to the quarterfinals. It would be a tough ask to expect any of the African teams to get to the semifinals of the tournament, but you just never know.

Remember no African team has made it to the semi-finals of this tournament. But as it is as it were, every team that participates in this tournament, every team that has qualified for this tournament has a chance of winning.

VOA: Do you know if there are plans to set up viewing centers in Kenya for fans to watch the matches during the World Cup despite the absence of any East African team in the finals? .

Kwalimwa: Early days but yes we have seen the buzz from the corporate world in Kenya in terms of ensuring that the FIFA World Cup has this feeling locally. Remember football in Kenya is the number one sport even though the national team and Kenyan clubs do not quite perform and don't have any reputation as a world beater. But that hasn't stopped many corporates here in Nairobi to plan and organize for some fanfest and some tents where people can view the games. Of course the national broadcaster, the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, will be airing all the matches live and free. So there is a lot to watch and look out for.

I also expect the entertainment sports to be filled to the brim as the Kenyans follow the FIFA World Cup which is a tournament that is unique and the most popular in the world. Remember, it only occurs once every four years. So the hype is worth the wait. And I expect as the tournament progresses, as it nears kickoff of the tournament, then I expect much more buzz and billboards to be put up and placards by Kenyans supporting their favorite team to come on.