Why Shabana needs its glamour back!
By Douglas Arege
The mention of Shabana football club creates a sensation for many a people, especially those who grew up when Shabana’s name was mentioned alongside other famous and huge community clubs like Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards. My interaction with Shabana many years ago was through my young uncles Philip (RIP) and Alvin with whom I stayed with in Kisii Town during my primary and secondary schooling. They lived in town and went to Kisii primary School which neighbors Gusii Stadium. It is natural that they would walk to the stadium for games and most Shabana fans therefore were from Kisii primary School and the surrounding villages of Nyanchwa, Nyabururu, Bobaracho, Nyankongo among others; some of this villages produced players for the club. We would seek for Kshs 5.00 to go watch Shabana FC play; sometimes we would perch on Guava trees near the stadium to watch Shabana FC play or better still sneak in through the iron sheet fence to gain access to the stadium.
Shabana FC has had a great history formed by a philanthropic Kisii businessman Dogo Khan ( a native of Bonyunyu village, West Mugirango constituency- Nyamira County), I would not guess what motivated him but he has left a huge legacy that has suffered ups and downs. I recently met an old Shabana FC player who narrated to me how beautiful the game was then, he relished his time when Shabana FC was on a plane to Addis Ababa for an African tournament and how they worked hard for the god of the game and the club! They made all Gusii followers proud! But he was sad that football did not pay and hence they fizzled out to look for alternative livelihoods.
As I pen this a fundraiser is set for Shabana FC today evening and as much as I am happy with this; I feel sad because we have not fully dissected what ails Shabana FC and how best we can put the club on the right path in a sustainable way.
Fast forward after devolution set in and I was working in the Kisii County Executive, I got bombarded many a times with requests for the county government to support Shabana FC. Once again I was reunited with the Shabana FC and its challenges. I would try my best to have my boss hear Shabana FC out and once in a while we would help them with cash handouts to bail them; later we provided an ambulance and I would attend most of their matches and a fundraiser in Nairobi. With all this and lack of a home stadium- as Gusii Stadium was still under repair; Shabana FC still had challenges that would not go away!
I love the spirit of the glamour boys and the fans they kept forging forward with help from well-wishers and a shaky management and today they have earned a chance at the National Super League, if the work hard at it they may find themselves back where they belong- Premier league!
But how, you may ask, here is what I think needs to be done for Shabana FC
1. Who owns Shabana?
This is the burning question. The underlying legal and governance issues and questions must be answered. Shabana FC being a community club must be duly registered and its officials known to breed confidence among the fans that are the base; currently the management of Shabana FC is shrouded in confusion. Old officials with a sense of entitlement are holding the club at ransom denying it an opportunity to grow. Bad leadership has denied the club a sense of direction. Some time back there also emerged two “Shabana’s” this should be sorted out and the energy invested in growing the business portfolio of Shabana FC, There can only be one Shabana! In return we should review a constitution and allow the fans to ‘own’ Shabana FC. We need responsible, passionate and committed executives at the helm of Shabana FC.
2. Shabana FC Management
Every entity is about management and Shabana FC should be run like a business enterprise focused on growing revenues to fund talent development. The whole spectrum of risk management, marketing and development structure must be looked into. Does Shabana FC have an organizational and management structure? Does the club have governing policies? Shabana FC should have strategic investments to cushion it from financial shocks. Again the recruitment of the Manager (technical bench) or Coach should be professional to ensure the right talent and skills are attracted. Players and staff deserve good salaries and emoluments as they play and serve the club. The Gusii counties can cushion the club through provision of contract jobs for the players and management on an agreeable formula as they club will be key in local talent development. Other business entities in Gusii should be encouraged to give sponsorship packages, shirt sponsorship and corporate sales and perhaps get government rebates if they employ players and staff from Shabana FC. All incomes generated should run the clubs not serve officials and their egos.
3. Attendant Comforts
The Shabana FC needs a home ground; I am glad that the Kisii County Government through the Department of Culture, Sports, Youth & Social Services has undertaken to give Gusii Stadium for training and hosting of matches. The team would need a club van/bus, a medical cover and provision of various equipment to enable the players deliver. If the two Gusii counties synergize’ provision of these needs will be surmountable. Players and staff should be on contractual and professional engagements. The club management and technical team would be empowered to develop an academy that would provide future talent and hence grow and develop football within the rural areas of Gusii.
4. Shabana FC Fans
The backbone of Shabana FC is its ‘owners’ the fans. I have witnessed fans in their shades sacrifice and donate to the club to motivate the glamour boys. Their huge following has seen them attend matches cheering the boys on, even when there is little to cheer about! These never die fellows are the engine that needs to be revved to bring Shabana FC back to live. With a following across the world; we can open branches in all counties in Kenya and countries abroad to fundraise and sustain our club. We can get into strategic partnerships with international clubs that can cross-pollinate and provide technical back up, training exposure and exchange programs among other benefits.
5. Utilizing opportunities
The club should utilize innovative opportunities like Social Media Marketing to realize its branding and financial obligations. This is underutilized and can create a mine of funds to bolster its financial soundness. Adoption of a strong media strategy and on boarding new media experts will help in marketing and fundraising ventures like crowd funding.