Summit reviews business side of African football


Brian Wesaala, Founder and CEO of Football Foundation for Africa receives the Football Heroes Award from AS Roma legend Francesco Totti in Moscow, in 2019. FILE PHOTO | POOL

On April 15, 1989 crowds piled into Hillsborough Stadium in South Yorkshire, England, to watch an FA Cup semifinal duel between Liverpool FC and Nottingham Forest.

Outside, even bigger numbers surged in an attempt to gain entry into the stadium for the much-awaited tie.

Fearing a stampede outside, the officer in charge of security ordered one of the gates to be opened. The aftermath was a tragedy that came to be known as the Hillsborough Disaster.

Ninety-seven men, women and children lay dead, and close to a thousand were injured.

In the inquests that followed, the face and image of English football changed forever.

Brian Wesaala, the founder and CEO of The Football Foundation for Africa and the brains behind the African Football Business Summit believes the beautiful game in Africa is on such a cusp.

Crushed under the weight of mismanagement and endemic corruption, Mr Wesaala believes it’s time to relook at the African game and wake up the sleeping giant that it is.

In a presentation he gave at Strathmore University last year, Mr Wesaala argued, “African football is at a Hillsborough moment. We’re losing lives and livelihoods.” It was a call to stakeholders.

Mr Wesaala is an IT professional who spent over a decade in Geneva, Switzerland working for the United Nations before setting his sights back home.

While there, he played in the fourth division of the Swiss League and saw how things worked with the most basic of resources.

“This is not rocket science,” Mr Wesaala said of his thoughts at the time and thought these structures and facilities could be introduced back home.

In 2022, he organised the first-ever African Football Business Summit which was initially scheduled for Kigali, Rwanda, inspired by the kind of work the Rwandese were doing in the sport.

Last-minute complications led to the event being moved to Nairobi. His idea was however a precursor for others as the game’s mother body FIFA recently held the FIFA Congress in the land of a thousand hills.

From his online show, The African Football Business Show (in its 6th season), Mr Wesaala had interacted with some of the most brilliant academics and professionals in African football.

He wondered why their brains were not being used to build his beloved sport and thought to bring these great minds together in one room.

The summit was a glorious success with more than 120 delegates showing up while only 70 had been planned for.

The second edition of The African Football Summit is scheduled to take place in September 2023 in Nairobi.

Mr Wesaala and his partners are hard at work to make this year’s instalment a bigger and better showcase than the inaugural event.

Their target is 400 delegates. Thirty percent of these, Mr Wesaala envisages should be international. “By international participation, I mean stakeholders from outside of East Africa,” he says of his vision.

The build-up has been encouraging. In the first of a series of events, the team had an online launch where Bafana Bafana and Kaizer Chiefs’ great Dr Khumalo was one of the attendees.

In April, there will be a Stakeholder Engagement and Media Briefing Breakfast which has caught the eye and ear of Sports and Youth Affairs Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba who will grace the event.

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