Why the Somali League Continues to Lure Kenyan Players

Discover the dynamic landscape of African football as Kenyan players increasingly opt to join the Somali Premier League. Uncover the financial incentives drawing players across borders and the concerns voiced by coaches like Charles Bruno.

Louis Hobbs
Louis Hobbs

Last Updated: 2024-03-19

Naim Rosinski

6 minutes read

A match between Somali teams

The Kenyan football scene has been witnessing rare occurrences in recent years where players ditch the local market for the little-known Somali Premier League. Football is arguably one of the most popular African sports.

Somalia, the easternmost country in Africa is not known for football or any other kind of sport but mostly procures itself negative focus thanks to the constant attacks by the outlawed terror group, Al Shabaab.  

The Somali's general infrastructure, football levels both at club and national teams as well as the GDP per capita cannot on all fronts hold a candle to those of Kenya.

Insights from Kenyan Players in Somalia

However, Somali Premier League clubs somehow manage to infiltrate the Kenyan football markets and leave with players who risk it all to play in a country ranked as one of the most unsafe in the world according to a United Nations report published by the Voice of America in 2021.

In the last two transfer windows, records indicate that more than ten players left Kenya attached to top and second-tier clubs for what is perceived to be greener pastures in Somalia.  

Besides the club transfers, the Somali Football Federation has been keen on the naturalization of Kenyan-born players who have gone to play for the junior and senior national teams.  

Abdi-Muya Salim, a Kenyan-born defender who plays in the United States of America, Handwalla Mohamed Bwana, Said Haji, and Ibrahim Mao are living examples of players who turned down the chance to wear the Kenyan kit for Somalia.  

Erick Odhiambo, a central defender whose career was on an upward trajectory is among those who bade Kenyan football farewell last year after landing what he termed a lucrative deal in Somalia.  

Odhiambo who predominantly plays as a central defender launched his football career at Gor Mahia Youth team which is owned by the most successful football club in Kenya and was primed to scale to the senior team. 

Image Credits: The Commonwealth Time

Image Credits: The Commonwealth Time

The Appeal of Somali Football Infrastructure and Opportunities 

Odhiambo’s career took a different direction after joining Division One side Ruiru Hotstars before moving to Somalia where he signed for Badbaado.  

Odhiambo who also plays as a defensive midfielder opened on his move to Somalia insisting that the offer tabled by the club and the eye-catching infrastructure was too good to turn down.  

"They gave me a good deal and their pay is always on time. Their league is competitive contrary to what many believe. What makes it competitive is the fact that each club has six slots filled by foreign players. You obviously can't bring in a player from a foreign country and give him a bad deal," said Odhiambo.  

For the time Odhiambo has spent in Somalia, he says, he has been keen enough to spot the strides the country is making towards uplifting the standards of the game.  

“You can't travel for long distances without noticing the construction of small pitches or spotting children playing on good surfaces. The clubs here take our welfare seriously and their federation is doing amazing things that will take football to the next level," added the former Fortune Sacco player.  

Odhiambo is not the sole Kenyan player at Badbaado as he joined alongside Patrick Ochieng who played for second-tier side Kisumu All Stars before making the move.  

Notable Transfers and Perspectives

Another transfer that caught the attention of football enthusiasts is that of Omar Mwandaru who left four-time Kenyan champions Ulinzi Stars for Jeenyo.  

Mwandaru made headlines when he joined Ulinzi in August last year from National Super League side SS Assad but didn't last long with the soldiers as he crossed the border to Somalia.  

Just like Odhiambo, Mwandaru, a central defender said the package dangled by Jeenyo guided his steps to Somalia.  

"Somalia clubs have invested big in their playing units and pay well on time," said the defender.  

Mwandaru was quick to rubbish a suggestion that indicated that his move was a massive downgrade career-wise, and Somalia was hell on earth.  

"I haven't experienced terror-related or any sort of attack since I stepped foot in Somalia. People love football here and their league is competitive," he added.  

Other players who moved to Somalia last year include: Charo Kaingu, Isaac Marisis, Osman Mohamed Ahmed, Abdulrahman Jama, Benar Safar among others.

Money Factor

Kisumu All Stars coach Charles Bruno who had the privilege of sharing the dressing room with Ochieng at the club during his active years as a footballer says it's time something is done on the influx of Kenyan players to Somalia.  

Bruno revealed that the players are enticed by the salaries which range between 80,000 to 100,000(circa 530 Euros) offered by Somali clubs at the expense of their careers.  

"There is nothing which motivates our players to move to Somalia apart from money. We are losing fast-rising talents to Somalia which shouldn't be the case. I acknowledge that times are hard but this should be checked as the Somali league is way below in terms of standards and competitive nature," said the former FC Talanta player.  

Bruno urges Kenyan players to exercise patience, work on their development and will be rewarded handsomely in fullness of time.  

Perspectives from Kenyan Players in Somalia

Danson Kiprono, a former national U20 team player spent the better part of 2022 and last year in Somalia where he played for Gadiidka.  

Kiprono who returned to his boyhood club Zoo FC which plays in the third tier said his move to Somalia was influenced by the money the club offered and his desire to test his football skills in a new environment.

"They offered a good package to be honest unlike at Zoo where the club struggles with payments. I also wanted to explore and play in a new environment. During my time in Somalia, I noticed that their clubs take player welfare seriously and there are a lot of positives to be told in their league. It is safe to say that their football is on the rise, “said Kiprono.  

Other players who have played in Somalia in recent times are former U23 team defender Alex Onchwari, former U20 team striker Abraham Dawo, Bandari goalkeeper Sheikh Saeed Aleleey, former Kakamega Homeboyz midfielder Adnan Mohamed, Mathare United forward Donald Ange.

Join the conversation and explore the fascinating world of African football migration! Dive into the stories of Kenyan players in the Somali Premier League and share your thoughts on this evolving trend.  

Louis Hobbs
Louis HobbsLead Journalist

Meet Louis Hobbs, our esteemed authority on all matters sports-related. With a wealth of knowledge and experience, Louis effortlessly emerges as our go-to expert. His particular expertise in the realms of darts and snooker sets him apart and brings a level of insight that goes beyond the ordinary. Louis also holds a deep affection for all things related to US sports, with a special emphasis on basketball and American football, which stand out as his particular favorites. His content may not resonate with you, if you don't consider Lamar Jackson the most skilled player in the NFL.