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Nov 2, 2006

Chaos hurting Kenyan soccer, says FIFA official

NAIROBI, Nov 2 (Reuters) - FIFA is concerned that chaos in Kenyan soccer is impeding the east African country from achieving its full potential at a time when its neighbours are making significant strides in the world's most popular sport.

Jerome Champagne, the FIFA president's delegate on special affairs, said even anarchic Somalia is developing fast with the support of the world's ruling body.

'We applaud and support the progress in the region, but we are sad for Kenya,' Champagne told Reuters from Zurich on Thursday. 'FIFA has invested $5 million in building infrastructure, building stadiums ... and providing technical services in the region.'

Suspended from all international competitions last month for disregard of agreements, Kenya is languishing in 129th position in the latest FIFA rankings.

That compares to the 1980s when Kenya was ahead of Ethiopia (97), Uganda (103), Rwanda (114), Tanzania (121) and Sudan (122). Eritrea, ranked 138, beat Kenya 2-1 in September in the African Cup of Nations qualifying match in Nairobi.

'The difference between Kenya and her neighbours is it does not respect its own rules and agreements signed with FIFA and other authorities. It flouts its own rules on promotion and relegation of clubs,' said Champagne.

Kenya has two rival bodies running the league. FIFA supports Kenya Premier League (KPL) but the Kenyan Football Federation (KFF) has set up a company, KFF PL, to run a 20-team league.

Champagne said that only Eritrea, Sudan and Rwandan federations were properly functioning in the region four years ago but the rest had since cleaned up their act, unlike Kenya.

'There was government interference in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda while Burundi were divided along the two major tribes - Tutsis and Hutus - not to mention corruption there,' he said.

Champagne said after better organisation, FIFA was building a stadium in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and a technical centre in Uganda where the federation headquarters are based.

FIFA also built a technical centre and a hostel with 40 rooms in Rwanda. It is also supporting federations in Sudan, Ethiopia and a democratically-elected team in Somalia.

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