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The Kenyan continent curse continues

The famous saying goes, “Try and try again and you’ll succeed in the end.” What it doesn’t reveal is that you shouldn’t just keep trying with the same old methods. You must either try harder or change strategy.

For years Kenyan clubs have been trying to break into regional football but I fear that the strategy never changes. The coaching methods remain the same. The preparation is pretty similar. The standard of football doesn’t improve. For some reason we are always hopeful that the results will be different.

I have been mulling over the reasons why Kenyan clubs don’t go far in continental competitions and I have come to the conclusion that we actually don’t know what we’re doing wrong. We are just trying again and again with similar results.

Gor Mahia was successful on the continent in the 1980s but I fear that our club owners are still using the same methods that made them successful in the 1980s.

Hire the best players the league has to offer. Check. Hire the best manager willing to work in the Kenyan Premier League. Check. Find a chairman who can meet your costs when sponsorship money falls short and fans just don’t contribute enough. Check. Then consider yourself ready to conquer Africa.

Oh my!

Let’s look at Tusker, who tried in vain to get past Champions League holders Al Ahly of Egypt.

Tusker FC appeared slightly better organised than Gor Mahia, more because of the weight of the company that supports them. Tusker won the Kenyan Premier League title back to back but only managed to go one step further in the Champions League this year. Why couldn’t they use their experience in early 2012 to do better in 2013?

My beef here would be in the enormous changes made since the club won the league in 2011. The coach is different, and most of the players are different. Tusker FC cannot grow if they continue to make drastic changes annually. Yes Robert Matano is a great coach and yes he went shopping for players beyond our borders but are regional players really what is going to change the standard of football within our league clubs?

Whereas Gor Mahia needs a wider pool of players and proper financial support, Tusker FC needs to invest more in players who can grow with the club.

When it comes to players, if I look at all the teams in the KPL right now, Thika United is probably the only team on the path to sustainable success. That is if they continue to retain their best players and if their sponsors continue to invest in the team.

Tusker cannot develop their current pool of players further because many of them have already formed their styles of playing football.

Development of players needs to start young. Ideally, proper grooming should start around the age of eight but Thika aren’t doing too badly. They may not win the league this season but they are certainly the most promising side to watch.

Generally, Kenyan clubs need to change by recruiting young players and training them properly. The teams should have proper budgets that ensure that they retain their best players. They should develop them strategically and pay them properly. When the team wins the league or the FKF Cup, the budgets need to include regional travel. This greatly affected Gor Mahia in their quest for continental glory, having at one point to rely on their chairman to buy airline tickets for the squad.

The teams should then hire professional coaches and pay them properly so that the entire team can concentrate on the game.

Unless these changes are made it will just be trying again and again with the same outcome. Then the continental curse on Kenyan football clubs will just continue.

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