Wazito fc is one of the most talked about football clubs in Kenya’s online talking spaces, mostly Facebook and twitter. Formed merely eight years ago, in 2011, it is one of the most forward thinking and progressive clubs in the country. Indeed, I think it has the best website in Kenyan football (Wazito FC Website), and in the second division, only Kisumu all stars have a social media brand and well maintained pages that can rival it. twitter handle https://twitter.com/wazitofc
Brief history of Wazito fc
Wazito was formed after a merger of the university of Nairobi students’ football team and the alumni football side, coining the name (wazito), which in Kenyan slang means heavyweights, or bosses. In 2017, the club was promoted from the national super league to the Kenyan premier league, and it lasted a solitary season in the top division before being relegated in 2018.
In 2018, its fortunes changed for the better, when it was taken over by Swedish banker Ricardo Badoer, who wanted to transform the fortunes of the club and make it one of the best in the country. The season in the second division national super league has been a solid one for the team, almost always featuring among the top two or three in the league, and for long periods, looking like a certainty to return to the Kenyan premier league.
The battle to regain Kenyan Premier League status
The journey towards the top of the Kenyan premier league has not come without controversy. In January 2018, the coach of Wazito FC was fired due to a run of three games in which the club picked up just one point from a possible nine. This was despite the club being second in the table. The owner of the club also took to twitter to voice his displeasure with team performances in rather colorful language.
Flamboyant owners may not be that remarkable in European leagues. The owner of Italian Serie a side Napoli, de Laurentiis, a former film maker, is known for his frequent media outbursts. French ligue 1 side Olympique Lyon is owned by jean Aulas, who comments on his players’ frequently on radio and television.
However, in Kenya, the football culture is one of “community clubs” such as Shabana, Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards, and corporate clubs such as Tusker, KCB, Sony Sugar and Bandari football club, where owners and decision makers shun the limelight and are rarely called to account or explain their decisions and visions for the football club to the wider public. Badoer is a breath of fresh air in this regard.
Conversations via email with the management of Wazito FC led me to believe that steps have been taken to ensure that the relegation the club faced in 2018 will not be repeated. The financial base of the club has improved and they will not easily lose top talents like they did last time in the Kenyan premier league. Key departments will receive strategic investments, and player morale will be boosted, presumably through bonuses and adequate preparations, training and motivation, to ensure at the very least the club finishes position 15 and above.
The club has some very good talents, who would not look out of place in the KPL. Kenya Under 23 player Teddy Osok, Joe Waithira, Ghanaian Acquah Paul among others, are some of the exciting talent on Wazito FC books.
The plans for the future
Yet, there should be no doubting the grandiose visions that the owner and his advisers have for Wazito football club. During a Sportpesa shield (Kenya’s FA Cup) tie with Western Stima that was played on 31st march 2019, Kenyans were introduced to mad goat tv, which broadcast the game live from Kisumu. The aim for the new television station is to become a leading media broadcaster in eastern Africa that will also show matches live, help coaching staff to analyse their players through data, and also develop footage that can be used to showcase their talents to interested buyers from abroad.
There have also been pictures shared on social media of plans to build a stadium for Wazito FC. In a country where select few clubs only own grounds, this is quite new. The cost of land in Kenya is prohibitive, and building a stadium is far beyond the dreams of many clubs. However, the frequent postponements and shifting of football matches from Kasarani and Nyayo stadium that plague the country, as well as sharing of grounds such as Camp Toyoyo mean that this is an idea that should be embraced, if cautiously.
The clubs outreach to new talent and fans
The club management has also gone out of its way to attract fans to the club. While some, especially those affiliated to the university of Nairobi, have been with the club since the beginning, many more are being attracted. The club has one of the best social media pages in the country. Football scores are updated regularly. My queries on the club were answered promptly and in depth.
The club also has an official Whatsapp group where fans interact with each other on the progress of the team, with club management and even the owner before and after matches. This culture of openness is impressive. Once in a while, such as the game against St. Joseph youth played at Afraha stadium, the management will sponsor the team to the match with transport, meals and t shirts.
The club also hosts the annual Wazito Cup in Kakamega. It would not be an exaggeration to say that western Kenya is the hotbed of football talent in this country. By hosting this cup, the club unearths new talent, which is then signed to the club at a small cost. It is through this tournament that the club signed Harambee stars striker Piston Mutamba, Stanley Ndung’u among others. The club is looking to set up a youth academy, which will be an incubator for getting and nurturing young talent for the club.
There is little doubt that Wazito football club is headed back to the Kenyan premier league, most likely next season. There, competing with financially capable clubs such as Gor Mahia, Tusker fc, AFC Leopards, Kariobangi Sharks and Bandari FC should be more of a challenge than in the national super league when it comes to player remuneration and signings, coaching staff, fans and media coverage. There, the vision of the club management, to use data, to incorporate social media, traditional broadcasting and media to compete will come in handy.
Wazito Football Club’s race to the top of the table in Kenyan football promises to be an intriguing, sometimes hilarious, journey. I hope at the end of it, Kenyan football will have benefited too.