Wazito FC, which was recently relegated from the Kenya Premier League, has received a new lease of life with a Swedish investor buying out the club.
Ricard Badoer, a millionaire businessman based in Dubai, is set to pump funds into the club, whose debut in the top-flight Kenya Premier League in the 2018 season floundered after it was relegated back to the National Super League (NSL) at the end of the season in September.
Wazito FC is now owned by Badoer Investments Ltd, the global investment conglomerate run by Ricardo, a flamboyant football fanatic who became its president in October.
He says his role in the club will be majorly to steer the team and build Africa’s most successful club. “We have already invested in good players and we are certain to win the NSL next year so we can vie for CAF Champions League,” Mr Ricardo said in an interview with Business Today.
His entry into Kenyan football comes as the investor spreads his business interests into the East Africa region. In Kenya, he has already acquired interests in Sumac Microfinance and Business Today website.
A foreign player on the Kenyan football pitch is being seen as a plus with possibilities of enhancing quality at club level and spreading out to other teams. “Kenyans love football,” he says. “The thing is that the Kenyan football league needs improvement and push. The quality is missing and I am sure Wazito will lead the way.”
Ricardo says he is “going to invest a lot of money” in Wazito FC to build a formidable team. And he has big plans for Kenyan football, which include establishing a youth football academy to offer European standards training for children from age of 6 as well as a UEFA category 4 stadium.
Ricardo loves football so much that he owns a fifth division team in Spain, C.D. Ursaria, which is expected to anchor African European co-operation which will involve exchange of staff, knowledge and players between the clubs.
He noted though that the current legal framework in Kenya is not attractive to investors. “Lack of good structure makes it hard for investors. For example, according to the Sports Act the teams cannot be limited companies and this makes things a bit complicated when it comes to attracting new investors,” he said.
He said he would start a push for the law to be changed so clubs can be run like commercial entities as it is done in leading leagues like the EPL and La Liga.
Ricardo, who is in Kenya to check on his businesses, sayshe had constructive talks with Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, himself a football lover, and Deputy Minister William Ruto over the matter. “Mr Kuria is, as many Kenyans might know, crazy about football and passionate about youth. So he could help out to pushing for change in sports legislation,” says Ricardo.
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Wazito FC was formed in 2011 by, among others, Solomon Alubala, who dreamt of playing professional football and owning a football club. Alubala teamed up with University of Nairobi alumni to provide football mentorship to university students and graduates.
In 2012, the club joined the fifth tier of Kenyan football ladder, the Nairobi County League and won it. It got promoted to the fourth tier the following year which it won to enter the third tier, where it finished second in 2014. It played in the second tier for three years before being promoted to KPL in 2018.