In Kenya, it’s common for even devoted football fans to know Manchester United’s entire squad, and yet know little of nothing about the players who play for Kenya’s National Team – Harambee Stars. Perhaps the glamour and publicity of European football far outweighs the allure of local football, who knows.
But it’s because of this that our youth grow up with dreams to play for the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea, even before they dream of playing for Kenya. And given this paradox, one must beg the question, ‘why are there such few Kenyans playing in Europe then?’
The truth is there are a whole host of reasons why Kenyans are so poorly represented in world football. Some say it’s our lack of youth development, others say it’s a lack of infrastructure or lack of good management within the clubs and football associations in the country. Long story short is that there are plenty of viable reasons. However, what often gets overlooked is how the rules and regulations of many foreign leagues are actually disadvantageous to Kenyan players.
Any Kenyan player may be good enough to play in Europe, but even being eligible for the opportunity could be an obstacle in itself.
So, seeing as many Kenyan footballers are oblivious of the litigious aspect of the game, let’s take a look at just how hard – even despite the talent – it can be for a Kenyan to play in Europe.
FA Premier League (England)
All football players outside the European Union (EU) need a work permit to play in England. And that may sound okay, until you learn how difficult that work permit is to obtain.
Let’s also not forget that the Great Britain has recently voted for leaving the EU, which will soon enough present a whole new dimension to the rules and regulations of foreigners playing in their local leagues.
At the moment however, a foreign player without an EU passport, must have played a certain number of games for their national team depending on the FIFA ranking of their country. For a Kenyan – given our current ranking of 81st in the world – you must have played up to 75% of international matches over the past two years. That’s a criterion that very few players match in Kenya.
Put in more simple terms, a Kenyan does not automatically qualify to play in the Premier League. Instead, a Kenyan’s best hope is to appeal to the English Football Association for a work permit – as Victor Wanyama did. Now that may sound simple, but this also means that a club looking to sign a Kenyan player must go through a myriad of paperwork to prove to the English court that the player is in fact extraordinary. This is what Chelsea went through when signing Willian from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013.
So, you would have to be a really special player to have a club go through that process.
La Liga (Spain)
In Spain, every team is limited to 3 non-EU players. That’s an incredibly small number of foreign players. Now we know what you may be thinking, ‘but Barça has more than 3 non-EU players…’ Well consider this, Messi has played in Spain for over five years, so has Mascherano, Dani Alves and several others as well. After five years, a foreign player in Spain can get citizenship, which makes all the aforementioned players Spanish citizens and not subject to the non-EU players rule.
So, given this extremely limiting ruling, a Kenyan player will have to be as good as the likes of Neymar to qualify for one of the 3 foreign spots on a team like Barcelona. Now though that may be possible… it is extremely unlikely.
Serie A (Italy)
The situation is tricky in Italy. But as of 2013, 2 has been the limit of non-EU Players allowed at each club. This ruling also entitles Serie A clubs to make 1 non-EU signing per summer transfer window (provided they replace one of their already registered non-EU players).
Translation; once again, you’d have to be a very special player to have a club give up one of its 2 non-EU player spots to have you on their team.
Quite differently, Germany has no limit on non-EU players and the Bundesliga has seemingly become a heaven for players who are unable to join teams in the Premier League and La Liga. Despite this, the Bundesliga still requires its teams to register at least 8 home-grown players per squad and at least 4 from the team’s youth system.
These rules are scattered throughout the soccer world. Even in China, starting 2017, teams in the first division are only allowed to play three non-Chinese players per game.
In our own beloved Kenyan Premier League, teams are only allowed to have 5 foreign players per team.
It is so easy to assume that any player can play anywhere but the truth is the footballing world is dense with rules and regulations that are designed to give domestic players the greatest chance of playing in their leagues and help develop football in their countries.
So, does a Kenyan have any hope?
Despite the vast number of rules in various leagues around the world, one objective truth remains and that is: if you’re good enough, you will play.
Any player who is talented, has a chance. The footballing world is vast and greater than we imagine it. Europe is not the only destination to play at an elite level. There are places all over this world that would gladly take a talented Kenyan player, our job is to find the right places and grant them the necessary opportunity.
This is why Green Sports exists.
Our goal, not just through our tournaments, but in all that we do, is to give the opportunity to every one of our players to realize their dreams of playing professional football. Rather than giving you empty promises like going straight to the top-level leagues in Europe, we want to assure you of a path that is best for Kenyans and has worked in the past for the likes of Victor Wanyama. He went through a club in Sweden before he reached the most competitive and watched football league in the world.
Come join us on the 5th of August at this year’s Gold Cup, where every player will have the opportunity to be selected for a trial game with invited international scouts and coaches to decide your path to professional football.
To register your team, contact us on our hotline, or reach us through WhatsApp.
Bundesliga Fanatic. (2014, Dec 12). Retrieved from http://bundesligafanatic.com/: http://bundesligafanatic.com/does-the-bundesliga-need-to-limit-foreign-transfers/
Italian Quota System. (2013, July 2). Retrieved from http://pdacquaviva.com/2013/07/02/2013-non-eu-italian-quota-system-an-explanation/
Rules for non-eu players. (n.d.). Retrieved from Golden-Goals: http://www.golden-goals.com/content/rules-for-non-eu-players