What you need to know:
- Mali, who crushed Kenya’s dream of qualifying for the World Cup by beating Stars 6-0 on aggregate, top the pool with 10 points, two above Uganda
- Kenya’s failure to qualify for the global competition is an embarrassment to FKF honchos led by president Nick Mwendwa
- Onsika said that Stars’ goose was cooked after this second change, as there was no enough time for Firat to understand the team
Football Kenya Federation (FKF) again failed to achieve its target of ensuring national team Harambee Stars makes its maiden appearance on the global stage following the team’s poor show in the ongoing 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
Teams are remaining with two matches before the end of the group stage – which is the first round of the qualifiers – Stars are already out of the race for a ticket to Qatar, as they lie third in Group “E” with merely two points.
Mali, who crushed Kenya’s dream of qualifying for the World Cup by beating Stars 6-0 on aggregate, top the pool with 10 points, two above Uganda.
Only group leaders proceed to the next round of the qualifiers – a stage Stars cannot reach even if they win their two remaining matches against Rwanda and Uganda since it will only take their total points tally to eight.
Kenya’s failure to qualify for the global competition is an embarrassment to FKF honchos led by president Nick Mwendwa. A ticket to Qatar would have been a perfect amend by FKF for the national team’s failed 2022 Africa Cup of Nation (Afcon) dream.
And just like it happened in the Afcon qualifiers, the federation again finds itself on the receiving end from Kenyans for Stars’ poor campaign and failure to win a single match in the group.
Football stakeholders say Kenya lost the plot in October 2020 when FKF fired coach Francis Kimanzi for reasons that have not been disclosed to date. During Kimanzi’s short stint with Stars, there were signs of improvement in the national team – their November 2019 one-all-draw with Africa’s powerhouse Egypt in Alexandria in the Afcon qualifiers being one of them.
“We saw the good work Kimanzi was doing, but the federation, for reasons which they have declined to share with Kenyans, fired him,” said former Harambee Stars striker Elijah Onsika.
The Kenya Football Coaches Association, Kisii region chairman continued: “Kimanzi had selected good players and what he needed was time and support to identify more talents and build a strong team.”
He also blamed Kenya’s poor performance on the absence of some experienced players in the squad. He called on county governments to establish football academies within their jurisdiction to help improve the standard of football.
Kimanzi was shown the door over what FKF termed a “restructuring process” and in came veteran tactician Jacob “Ghost” Mulee who made a return to the job after 10 years.
Mulee penned a three-year deal, and under him, Stars blew away their chances of qualifying for Afcon when they failed to beat minnows Comoros.
He largely blamed the Covid-19 pandemic for the team’s poor performance and promised to take Kenya to the World Cup in Qatar, saying on several occasions that it is “something possible.”
However, after a slow start of the World Cup qualifiers – where Stars drew 0-0 with Uganda at home and 1-1 with Rwanda away, he parted ways with FKF, with the federation saying in a statement it was on “mutual consent”.
Mulee later said on Radio Jambo, where he is a programme host, that he quit the job because of his brother’s ill health.
The in comes Turkish coach Engin Firat, whom FKF signed on a two-month contract on September 19.
Onsika said that Stars’ goose was cooked after this second change, as there was no enough time for Firat to understand the team. He was unveiled two weeks to the back-to-back qualifiers against Mali.
“Being a national team’s coach is a serious job which you do not just wake up one day and say that you are quitting. Before you take the job, you must take into account everything and ensure that you will be available for the period you have been assigned because putting up a strong team is a process,” said the former Harambee Stars Under-19 coach, who also runs the Gusii Sports Academy in Kisii.
“A professional coach cannot accept a two-month contract because you cannot achieve anything within that short time. It is funny that Firat accepted the deal, which puts to question his credibility.”
Former Harambee Stars and Gor Mahia captain Austin Oduor Origi “Makamu” said:
“Every coach has their own philosophy which they want to pass to players to master. Now in our situation, you find that even before players master one’s coach philosophy, he is gone which always leaves a disjointed team.”
Firat who has come under fire from Kenyans after Stars 5-0 thrashing by Mali in the first leg in Morocco, said he had no opportunity to know the players better.
As a result, he did not field some players in the suitable position. For instance, central defender Joash Onyango was deployed on the right back while striker Henry Meja was deployed on the flank.
Come the second leg at Nyayo National Stadium on Sunday and there was much improvement, but the team lost 1-0, and all together crashed out of the running for a World Cup slot.
“The first game was a good lesson because everything that was wrong I got to know in one match ….,” said Firat.
Having failed in his task of leading Kenya to Qatar, Firat said that he will only extend his contract if FKF convinces him that they have an elaborate plan to build a strong team for the future.
He said that Mali beat Stars because most of their players play in Europe where there are good facilities and players train regularly.