Ricardo Badoer: Why Kenya’s single biggest football investor is just getting started

Ricardo Badoer: Why Kenya’s single biggest football investor is just getting started

His hair is cut to the ground complete with a Rick Ross bushy beard. 

He spots a green Gucci hoodie, a gold wrist watch, and a giant cigar dangles from his mouth. 

This is the photo that the flamboyant Wazito FC President Ricardo Badoer uses on his Twitter profile. 

From the look you can smell the opulence and class, all the good things that come with money. 

And since his entry into the Kenyan football scene, things have changed for the better, at least for one team — Wazito FC. 

The fight for success is no longer restricted to the local bumpy playing surfaces that we mistakenly refer to as stadia. 

A discussion about the Kenyan league is no longer about Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards. 

Not anymore. Right now, it rains money on Mombasa Road, Nairobi, the home of Wazito FC.

Badoer is a Swedish businessman and by default a risk taker. He’s got balls. The big balls that everyone needs if you have to succeed in the murky world that is football business.

Since Badoer's entry into the Kenyan football scene, things have changed for the better, at least for one team -- Wazito FC. 

For those who don’t know him at a personal level, he cuts the image of an arrogant man but in his private life, away from the stress associated with work and business, when he’s not thinking about how to make the next buck, he’s a soft soul. 

“He looks like a ‘Rambo’ on social media but privately he’s very soft and listens a lot as long as you make sense. He just wants things to be done, and done perfectly,” one of his many employees in Kenya told SPORTS AFRICA.

Much has been published about Badoer’s many businesses that include, among others, a football club, CD Ursaria, that plays in the Spanish fifth division league, Badoer Investment Ltd, a real estate business, and a chain of banking ventures like Sumac Microfinance Bank and Hakiki Microfinance Bank in Tanzania where he serves as one of the directors. He also founded the crypto currency firm Aidos Kuneen.

It is not in doubt that Don Rico, as he is fondly referred to in other circles, has done a lot for Kenyan football. 

But he’s not done yet. “I have some big plans and will reveal them in due course,” the Don tells me in a short text message.

Two years ago, Wazito FC were nothing but just one of those ‘Nairobi village teams’.

Until Badoer came on board, the club could not even afford to pay players leading to a mass exodus and relegation from the Kenyan Premier League. 

But in 2018, after a little consultation, a deal was reached and Ricardo was announced as the new owner. 

Since then, the once little-talked-about club has become a byword for management among Kenyan football fans.

Wazito FC is a first in many ways. 

They are the only Kenyan top tier football club that have managed to broadcast live at least 90 percent of their league matches this season at a time when the league has no official broadcast partner. 

This team is also in the process of becoming the first Kenyan side to own their own stadium.

Fun fact: It is also the only team that has fired the highest number of coaches — four — in the last one year as the side attempts to find find the winning formula especially after their return to the KPL.    

You could say Wazito are literally in their own league thanks to Badoer.

At the start of the season he purchased a KSh12 million team bus for the club without the usual fundraisers synonymous with other local clubs like Gor Mahia and AFC.

Before their promotion into the KPL and subsequent acquisition by Ricardo, Wazito who used to train at the University of Nairob now can afford to train on the artificial turf at the prestigious Gems Cambridge College on Magadi Road, Nairobi.

Badoer has also affirmed his commitment to construct a modern sports complex, complete with the stadium for Wazito as well as the developmental sides.

Besides, the Dubai-based businessman also has a local online sports television channel — Madgoat TV — that employs tens of local youth. 

By all standards, no single individual has ever invested heavily in local sport like Badoer in the last two years. 

Perhaps this is the main reason why he has two sets of fans on his social media where he posts hard-hitting posts: the haters and the admirers.  

For admirers, they look up to him as the ‘saviour’ sent from Dubai to salvage the image of Kenyan football, while to the other group he’s nothing but a boastful man.