It’s a well known fact that the English Premier League enjoys unrivalled popularity in Africa. The league is especially popular in Nigeria and Kenya, both primarily English speaking countries in the continent. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was once quoted as saying that he had been “frightened” after seeing the intensity of Arsenal’s popularity in Nigeria and Kenya.
While the Gunners remain the primary team to support in these two countries, they have stiff competition from the likes of Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool and more recently, Man City. Of course success plays a big part in support, which would explain City’s rise in popularity.
The timing of the Premier League is perfect for Kenyan audiences. Kenya observes East Africa Time (EAT), which is three hours ahead of England. Premier League games that begin at 3 and 5pm in the UK are perfect for Kenyans to watch at prime time as they seek to relax and socialise after a hard day’s work.
A look at Kenya’s popular OLX Free classifields site will show plenty of replica jerseys on sale, indicating great demand for fan merchandise among the watching public. Supersport, one of the world’s biggest broadcasters of the Premier League, facilitates easy television access for most Kenyans.
Kenya currently has one player in the Premier League- midfielder Victor Wanyama who currently plays for Southampton. Wanyama was very impressive for Scottish side Celtic, the club he represented before making the switch south to England.
Given the popularity of the game in the country and the rising number of Africans in European football, we could see more Kenyan players in the country in the future. The Kenyan football team is not the biggest in the continent, but with domestic players like Wanyama, Dennis Oliech (Ajaccio) and McDonald Maiga (first Kenyan to play in the Champions League) having made massive strides in Europe, the future looks bright for the Harambee Stars.
The relatively poor quality of the Kenyan Premier League (Kenya’s local football competition), is also cited as a reason for folks preferring to watch English football. Critics argue that the league is destroying local football, but others put forward the argument that the standard of domestic football will only increase as a result of exposure to high quality football outside.
Will we see more Wanyamas in the Premier League? It will take time, no doubt, but don’t bet against it happening.