By Reuben Olita
THE world soccer governing body FIFA slapped an indefinite suspension on Kenya yesterday for what it called government interference in the affairs of the Kenya Football Federation (KFF).
The ban affects the country's national team Harambee Stars and clubs which will not be allowed to take part in any international soccer tournament. Kenya are due to play their first 2006 World Cup qualifier on Saturday against Guinea who arrived in Nairobi.
FIFA secretary-general Urs Linzi, in a letter to ousted KFF chairman Maina Kariuki, said FIFA's emergency committee was left with no option but to suspend Kenya after it became clear sports minister Najib Balala was not willing to reinstate KFF officials dismissed in March.
â€œSuch a change of approach is a prerequisite in order for a genuine dialogue to be launched between the Kenyan government, KFF and FIFA to allow all parties to work together to help Kenyan football solve its problems," said Linzi in his letter.
Balala has been involved in a year-long stand-off with local soccer officials and has alleged corruption at the top of the KFF. He ordered the freezing of the federation's bank account and appointed a transitional committee in March.
The ban came after the expiry of a June 1 deadline given to the government by FIFA.
Kariuki said his federation had done everything possible to avert the suspension and blamed the government. The KFF was prevented from holding elections to elect new officials in April after the sports ministry won a High Court order.
Balala, at a hurried press conference, regretted that FIFA was condoning corruption despite overwhelming evidence that former KFF officials embezzled millions of money, some of which donated by the same world body.
The ban, that was expected, has been hailed by many soccer lovers who believe that Balalaâ€™s committee was on the right track in revamping the game in the country.