Mount Kenya United Football Club is the youngest club in the Kenyan Premier League. Formed on 3rd November 2018, it has lofty ambitions, as its owner, Mr. Francis Mureithi stated in an interview, he wants it to be the third biggest club in the country in the future.
The choice of the ranking third biggest is not a coincidence. It is widely accepted by the majority of football fans in the country that the two biggest football clubs in the country in terms of history, success and fan base are Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards. Other successful football clubs over the past twenty years or so such as Tusker FC, Ulinzi, Sofapaka, and Mathare United may have some trinkets and trophies to show, but in terms of putting bums on seats, no one comes close to K’ogalo or Ingwe.
While Gor Mahia gets a majority of its fans from the Luo tribe, AFC leopards is mostly supported by members of the Luhya super-tribe. The purchasing of Nakumatt FC by Mr. Francis Mureithi, who is a wealthy supporter of Kenya’s ruling party Jubilee, the vocal backing of Gatundu South MP Hon Moses Kuria who is its patron, and then changing the name to Mount Kenya United FC, hints to a strategy of tapping into the wider Gema (Kikuyu, Embu, and Meru) community for a fanbase. The club’s CEO is respected football pundit, former coach, and technical director, Mr. Patrick Naggi.
The strategy is a questionable one, but one can see the (twisted?) logic. Many clubs have struggled to get fans to support them in the country. Tusker FC is possibly the most successful club in the country in the last ten years apart from Gor Mahia but has struggled to get a huge fanbase. The two biggest clubs in the country get most of their support from two tribes.
Shabana FC, playing in the second level National Super League, is drawing huge crowds in its home stadium in Kisii county this season that the likes of tusker and Mathare United can only dream of. It is mainly supported by people from the Kisii community.
Is Mount Kenya united pursuing a sensible strategy in hoping that the Gema community will back the club and make it the third force in Kenyan football? It is questionable. Gor Mahia and AFC leopards are clubs that have existed for decades. Gor Mahia was formally registered in 1968 and has won 17 league titles in its 51 years of existence. AFC Leopards have won the Kenyan premier league title 13 times and was registered in 1964.
In addition, these two clubs started from the grassroots building up, not the top-down strategy that Mt. Kenya United has adopted. These decades of success, history, and folklore are a huge part of the reason the two clubs are so popular and successful, not just the tribe aspect.
It is asking for too much to expect Mount Kenya united to attain these levels of popularity in just one or two seasons, ask any person from the Mount Kenya region to name two players from Mount Kenya united, or even what is the colour of their home jerseys, and one is likely to be met with blank stares. “There is a club called mount Kenya united??”
To make matters more complicated, Mount Kenya United FC is floundering this season. Six gameweeks into the 2018/2019 Kenyan premier league and mount Kenya united is placed last in the 18 team league, winless and has lost four and drawn two of its games.
The moving of the club’s training base from Nairobi to Nyeri has robbed it of the little fan support it had last season. In addition, the coaching position is in flux, with Rwandese coach Casa Mbungo’s signature being sought to improve their fortunes.
Mount Kenya United’s six games this season (KPL 2018/2019)
Mount Kenya United’s next three matches are against Bandari, Gor Mahia and Ulinzi. It is likely things could get worse before they get better. Everything points to a long season battling relegation from the KPL, same as last season when it was owned by Nakumatt supermarkets. The more things change….
In a nutshell, Mount Kenya united football club, formed by politicians in a top-down strategy, looks likely to fail in the short term. The fan base that was expected to back it has reacted to its formation with apathy and indifference, and the new ownership, much as they may be financially capable, will find it challenging to back the club’ s activities without major sponsorship backing.
I can only see a tough future for the club over this season, and a long hard slog to gain relevance in the wider football community’s conscience, possibly with more downs than ups. Hopefully, the new ownership has the patience and fortitude to stick with the club through thick and thin.