Can Harambee Stars repeat Tunisia 2004?
The African Cup of Nations 2013 and World Cup 2014 qualifiers are in the offing and the question every football lover is asking in Kenya is, is this the time to break the jinx and qualify for these top football show pieces in Africa and the world?
Many believe Kenya will fancy their chances since Harambee Stars have made five appearances at the Afcon but have never passed the first round of competition. The last of these was at the 2004 Cup of Nations held in Tunisia under then coach Jacob “Ghost “Mulee, who has since turned to football commentary.
Kenya remain on course to qualifying for the group stages of the Afcon with a deserved 2-1 win over an Adebayor-less Togo, with Stars doing well to beat their favoured opponents. The main bone of contention is the abrupt withdrawal of key players but that will be a story for another day.
While there is no doubting Harambee Stars have got depth, the country’s undoing has always been poor preparation that has made all efforts go to waste. With new man Francis Kimanzi at the helm time will tell how things will shape up in the battles awaiting the team.
Harambee Stars agonisingly missed out on the chance to qualify for the Equatorial Guinea/Gabon co-hosted Afcon 2012 finals but I strongly believe they have a chance to answer their critics in style by negotiating their way past tricky opponents to get a chance for the limited places of the 2013 Afcon to be hosted by South Africa.
The Confederation of African football (CAF) decided to switch the hosting of the biennial competition to odd years and I bet Kenya is ready to take the stage again come 2013.
The World Cup is a completely different ball game and it worries me that ever since Harambee Stars were founded in 1960 they have never managed to get a glimpse of the top football competition in the world .
The 2014 World Cup qualifiers begin in Earnest with Kenya lined up against the super powers of Nigeria, who have been blowing hot and cold of late, Malawi and Namibia. Only effective preparations involving friendly matches against top teams will unlock the chance for a qualification.
Football Kenya Federation (FKF) has a chance to do what other federations have failed by first getting serious on the national team preparations in both training and logistics, not forgetting giving the players much needed morale boosters and incentives that are very necessary for good results.
The East African breweries (EABL) did a commendable job by releasing ksh110 million and I believe this money is appropriate to ensure the team is highly motivated but that is not all. The government should also give their own form of support and, last but not least, the players who have walked out of the team should be brought back with immediate effect.
I believe nothing is impossible and if I can quote the current Harambee Stars coach Francis Kimanzi, his words summarise what to expect:
“Forming a great team that can stay competitive is a process. It is like building a house. You have to go block by block and level by level. You cannot, for example, compare Harambee Stars players with Cote d’Ivoire players who are world class but we can get there