Firat and Harambee Stars management a big let down

Engin Firat

Harambee Stars head coach Engin Firat conducts a training session at Kenya Police Stadium on May 21, 2024.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Against Cote d’Ivoire, the onus was on coach Firat to make the necessary tweaks to ensure victory.
  • We are not asking enough questions regarding the decision to make late callups to the team.

I remember like it was yesterday, that afternoon of March 23, 2013.

It was the day David “Calabar” Owino made his name at the UJ Esuene Stadium in Calabar, Nigeria by holding the deadly Nigerian wing-back Victor Moses and rendering him useless throughout the 2014 World Cup qualifier between Kenya and Nigeria.

It was also the day Francis Kahata, whose goal in the 36th minute gave Kenya the lead against the multiple African champions for the better part of the game, cemented his status as a wizard of the game.

The Nigerians gave us a painful heartbreak by equalising three minutes past the 90th minute mark, but that match remains etched in the minds of many football fans as a symbol of the promise held by Harambee Stars.

Which is why nobody can be faulted for expecting a similar performance against reigning African champions Cote d’Ivoire on Tuesday.

Granted, the boys played well. Very well.

Much better than they did against lowly placed Burundi three days earlier.

Late callups to team

Indeed, creating chances like that against a team like the Elephants is great, but it takes us nowhere if we can’t collect maximum points at home.

No excuse will suffice for me because anyone who watched the first half against the Elephants knew we wouldn’t get the same chances in the second half, and we didn’t.

The onus was on coach Engin Firat to make the necessary tweaks to ensure victory or at least sustain that intensity in the second half, but Kenyans long accepted that we don’t have a coach, simple.

The less said about Firat, the better. But perhaps it was better that we never scored at all against Cote d’Ivoire. Because God knows Stars don’t know how to play football anymore once they go ahead.

The worrying thing is that we are not asking enough questions regarding the decision to make late callups to the team. Hours before the match, David Okoth Cheche and Clyde Senaji joined the team in Lilongwe after someone suddenly discovered that they needed Cheche’s experience, and Senaji’s agility in the defence line.

Underdog status

Someone made a joke that Senaji, who is based in Malawi and plays for Big Bullets, actually came riding in an ambulance that was driving on the wrong side of the road… and then guess what?

They started on the bench! What kind of reasoning is that?

That aside, did anyone in the technical bench think that the late call ups could cause disquiet within the team?

Then there was the story of Bristol City defender Zak Vyner who abruptly left camp without kicking a ball because he failed to get a Kenyan passport on time.

Well, the only person to blame for this is Vyner himself, because he should have secured his Kenyan passport long before receiving the national team call up, and certainly long before boarding the plane for this mission.

But it was also a failure for those who called him, because why do you take the trouble of including someone who has no Kenyan passport in the squad?

I expect the excuses to follow, but we must bear in mind that underdogs, including Rwanda, Comoros and Sudan, showed teeth and are currently table leaders in their respective groups. The only team clinging onto its underdog status is Kenya.