The first major decision of the new FKF team has been made. The highly reputed Bobby Williamson has been relieved of his duties as Hrambee Stars coach and replaced by long time Mathare United tactician Stanley Okumbi.
Early reactions I am seeing on the inter webs are mostly negative, and downright critical of the decision. The basis, which I totally understand is that Mr. Okumbi is neither glamorous, neither does he have a trophy cabinet full of shiny medals and titles that are the normal expectation when hiring a national team coach.
However I think that because of the challenges that Football in Kenya has, not just Harambee Stars recent run of poor qualifying outcomes, Stanley Okumbi is the kind of coach who is best suited for the job right now.
His predecessor Bobby Williamson, a great coach by any standards, had come off taking Uganda Cranes too multiple CECAFA titles, and Gor Mahia to much silverware.
He was the kind of coach who you would normally expect to get such an assignment. Lots of trophies, foreign passport, etc. Yet in his tenure in the Stars coaching job was hardly the roaring success one would expect.
The reason for this is not because the man himself suddenly became a bad coach, it is because Harambee Stars have problems that cannot be fixed by the glamour of a famous coach. Harambee Stars problems are structural.
FKF has yet to implement clear program for player development, coach development, friendly fixtures and other supplementary issues that the coaches of major football powers take for granted, when they take on the job of coaching whatever national team they are in charge of.
For Harambee Stars coaches on the other hand, the modus Operandi is get a ‘name recognized’ superman and hope the man can work miracles in spite of the total lack of co-operation or direction from the administration.
Failure to which, FKF blame that coach for everything wrong and repeat the process with some other superman coach, to somehow unilaterally work wonders.
Up till now it seems. By appointing someone whose background in football is from the most successful player development program in the country, the Mathare Youth Sports Association, FKF is signalling that they want to bring in people who know what it actually takes to holistically build a successful national team from the ground up.
Stanley Okumbi may not have a lot of trophies or medals, while guiding a seriously outgunned and inexperienced Mathare United team into mid table finishes in the Sport Pesa premier League. Yet I am sure that if you ask many of the players who have left Mathare United to greater glory with local, regional and international teams, many will tell you that his coaching is what laid the foundation for them to succeed as players.
I am not writing this post to play Devil’s advocate, I genuinely believe that Stanley Okumbi’s strengths are uniquely matched to the areas of weakness that Harambee Stars have as a team.
I also want to believe that as time goes on many people with similar youth football backgrounds, whether they are foreign or local, famous or not, will be added to coach our other national and youth teams, and that between them they can help FKF bring not just temporary success (winning the match or bahatishaing a small local trophy) but long term dominance of their opponents back to Harambee Stars.
In short Stanley Okumbi may not be the coach we want, he is the coach we need right now.