Football is one of the most loved and watched sports in the world.
Most of the time, media companies around the world focus on players, football managers and stadia – but only mention referees as a by the way.
Kenya is usually represented by Harambee Stars and Harambee Starlets as the main football teams during international competitions.
In June, Harambee Stars represented the country in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt, a tournament that Algeria won after beating Sadio Mane’s Senegal 1-0.
Kenyans eagerly waited for AFCON and were glued to their TV stations to watch their favourite teams play.
1. Gilbert Cheruiyot
However, other than Harambee Stars and other favourite teams, there was another centre of attention for Kenyans: A Nakuru-based FIFA assistant referee Gilbert Cheruiyot who officiated several matches at tournaments.
AFCON was Cheruiyot’s second-biggest assignment after taking part in the 2016 Africa Nations Championships (CHAN) in Rwanda as a referee.
2. Peter Waweru
Dr Peter Waweru, a lecturer at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) also became the first Kenyan centre referee to officiate a match at AFCON.
Waweru was appointed by Confederation of African Football (CAF) to run proceedings in Namibia’s final Group D match against Ivory Coast.
He was assisted by Cheruiyot and Souru Phatsoane from Lesotho.
3. Aden Marwa Okendo
For the soft-spoken chemistry teacher, the 2017 AFCON tournament was just another feather in his cap, as he completed a quartet of appearances at the premier football tournament in Africa.
And what a way to cap it, with an appearance at the final of the tournament, where Cameroon defeated Mohamed Salah’s Egypt.
The referee from Kehancha had officiated in three other AFCON tournaments – in 2012, 2013 and 2015, as well as at CHAN tournaments, U17 World Cup, CAF U23 Championship and the FIFA Club World Cup.
In a sad turn of events, CAF banned Marwa from all football activities for life ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
He was filmed by a Ghanaian undercover journalist, Anas Aremayaw Anas, accepting money ahead of the Russia showdown.
Marwa, who had been chosen to officiate in Russia, was dropped from the World Cup list following Anas’ investigation.
The experienced referee denied any wrongdoing in response to the corruption allegations.
4. FIFA referees
In 2017, Football Kenya Federation (FKF) revealed the list of referees who were supposed take charge of select FIFA assignments for the 2018 calendar year.
Included in the list was debutant Stephen Yiembe, as well as regulars Andrew Juma, Davies Omweno, Anthony Ogwayo, Peter Waweru and Israel Mpaima.
Yiembe went through a UEFA Sponsored course for two years in Zurich, Switzerland courtesy of FKF, consequently gaining promotion to the elite league.
“We have had Kenyan referees represent us in the CAF Champions League, African Nations Championships (CHAN) and the World Cup, which is a boost to our levels of officiating,” said Referees Manager Sylvester Kirwa.
A total of 61, 75 and 60 KPL, NSL and Division One referees were trained in January 2017, with a further 106 referees trained during the FKF mid-season break.
The pieces of training are aimed at building capacity and improving the quality of officiating in the country.
Full List of the FIFA Referees
Omweno Davies, Ogwayo Anthony, Andrew Juma, Waweru Peter, Mpaima Israel
FIFA Assistant Referees
Aden Marwa, Cheruiyot Gilbert, Kidiya Tony, Odhiambo Oliver, Achila Joshua, Yiembe Stephen
Women FIFA Referees
Wanjala Carolyne, Itubo Agnetta
Women Assistant Referees
Njoroge Mary, Kiles Carolyn, Cherono Jane.