What a man can (or can’t) do: Hongera Harambee starlets

And it it is, amidst the gloom of the floundering fortunes of the Harambee Stars, Kenya women’s national team, shone bright, qualifying for their first ever Africa Cup of nations.

This is a Milestone for Kenyan football and massive relief fro the  Nick Mwendwa FKF regime. They have been under fire from a media (probably still full of people loyal to the Ancien regime) over the poor state of the Harambee Stars.

I digress. This post is simply to pass my congratulations to the women who have shows that with some real support they can go very far, in what is still the very underdeveloped world of women’s football in Africa.

Why I Support Stanley Okumbi as #HarambeeStars head Coach Coach

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.

Stanley Okumbi, in his days as Mathare United Coach (Source: The Star Newspaper)


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.

The Merry Go Round, she turns and turns

Bobby Williamson may be a great coach, but this is a terrible job offer.

On Sunday Afternoon on the 2nd of August 2014, Kenya Harambee Stars were due to face Lesotho needing to win by 2 clear goals, to stave off elimination from Africa Cup of Nations qualification at the preliminary round. They were unable to do so. The match ended goalless. The only way Harambee Stars will be at the 2015 Africa Cup of nations it seems, will be as ‘observers.’
Within minutes of the game, Football Kenya Federation had dismissed the team’s entire technical bench, and ‘disbanded’ the playing squad. Within days they had grabbed, the very well reputed Bobby Williamson, winner of 4 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup trophies, and the man who ended Gor Mahia’s 18 year Premier League title drought, as Harambee Stars new head coach.

And so the merry-go-round called head coach of Harambee Stars continues to roll. Though there are likely promises that have been made to Mr. Williamson over Job security and a bunch of other things, this blogger doubts there will be much seriousness in keeping them.

Bobby Williamson , takes the hot seat (Source: in2eastafrica.net)

The man himself is clearly qualified for the job, but is the employer ready to deal with him long enough for his ability to make a difference? Does it matter how good the man in the head coach’s role is, if the rest of the structure (youth development and scouting, logistics and friendly matches planning etc) is virtually non-existent? Harambee Stars have been through an inordinate amount coaches over the past decade with only marginal variation in the outcomes on the pitch. As far as I believe the head coach’s position is hardly where the problems Harambee Stars have lie.
CV aside there not is much difference between this appointment, and that of the last man shown the door, Adel Amrouche. A big name, that’s hired on hype of recent success, to single-handedly be the magic pill that ends all of Harambee Stars woes. Sprinkle in some token local management and apparently you have a winning formula.
Granted Bobby Williamson, as I stated earlier in the post has an amazing resume, and reputation, the cynic in me reckons, that when push comes to shove his appointment is simply more window dressing on FKF’s part.
Without real substantive changes to the way FKF runs football in Kenya, then most likely outcome is, Bobby Williamson will struggle to get any more out of Harambee Stars than Adel Amrouche did.
At the end of the day either he will resign in a huff, or get made the scapegoat for all of Harambee Stars shortcomings, and some other high-profile ‘miracle worker’ will take over and the cycle will start again. That is how FKF rolls!

An East African AFCON, think about it…

Was watching the opening match of the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, between Equitorial Guinea and Libya, Saturday night. The commentators were harping on about how the Guineans wouldn’t have got into the cup of nations any other way, and how CAF, apparently, have a policy of using hosting rights for the biggest football event in Africa as a kind of stimulus to focus energy for much needed Infrastructure development and so on. On a continent where alijenga barabara (he built roads) is enough for a president to overcome multiple corruption and political crises and have a positive legacy, we could safely say that kind of thing is a big deal. As much as that particular game wasn’t much to write anywhere about, the commentators got me thinking, why not have The East African Community Members join forces to host the Africa Cup of Nations? Okay, maybe 5 (6 if you assume Southern Sudan’s membership application being approved by then) is too many cohosts for a 16 team event. However if you think about it, a Kenya-Uganda-Tanzania joint bid for the Cup of Nations would go a long way to achieving the type of economic integration, that regional policy wonks are always singing about. On a football level, getting into the Cup of Nations via qualification has proven too much for the 3 teams in question more often than not. I’m not even certain Tanzania have been to the cup of Nations yet. Most importantly though is that, I cannot remember a CECAFA nation, never mind an East African one hosting the Africa Cup of Nations. Basically its high time the gravy train came through this region. So how would an East Africa hosted AFCON work? Between the three core East African Countries we’ve got at least 3 recently built (or renovated) football stadiums, at least 5 international (by classification) airports, and at least one decent national airline. Kenya already has a strong reputation as a tourist destination, whilst Tanzania and Uganda could use the exposure, so most of the key boxes are ticked in that respect. Bringing the tournament to the region could force open some of the bottlenecks that still exist over movement of goods and labour. If you not going to issue an East Africa Visa for any other reason, do it for the fans who will have to follow their teams across these borders during the tournament. That and several other initiatives, like a common currency, Equal V.A.T and so forth. Some of those international trunk roads that seem permanently stuck in ‘the design stage’ might actually get built. Most importantly, is this could be a big revenue generator for local industries, if they play their cards right, as well as a very potent way of pushing the advantages of doing things together rather than on our own. All in all I can’t see a reason not to go for an East Africa hosted Africa Cup of Nations. What do you think?

Win or Die: What’s at stake v. Uganda

Thanks to CAF’s unique cleverness Kenya only have to win in Kampala come the 8th of October to save Zedekiah Otieno’s hide or at least half of it, paper over FKL’s continued inability to run a credible anything, KPL’s (over)dependence on tv to set their schedules and before I forget….Harambee Stars featuring at their first Africa Cup of nations in 8 years. According to Football Kenya 5000 match tickets are available to fans keen on trooping over to cheer our boys on. So can Kenya do it? Recent history is not on our side but what’s to lose. Aside from the usual round of scapegoating and recrimination can we expect real changes to the way Harambee Stars is run? Personally I’m not sure, so from that end my hope is that we win and at least that one or two players user the Cup of Nations as a platform to get into a lucrative European league somewhere. But like I said before, he we do who all that won’t matter, at least not for a while so COME ON HARAMBEE STARS!

Kenya v. Angola

Right, less that 24 hrs to a match that could kick start or completely kill off Harambee Star’s hopes to be part of The Africa cup of Nations in 2012. Kenya is currently stuck at the bottom of Group j with just a single point (from a 0-0 draw against Uganda) from 2 games. Here is this blog’s attempt at a preview of the match. 
The Scenario
     Kenya will be encouraged by the fact that the Angolans last visit to East Africa saw them hammered by Uganda. They will also be buoyed by their reputation for strong home performances in front of what (I hope) will be a large and vocal crowd at Nyayo Stadium. A win for Kenya takes them up to four points, which would be enough to overhaul at least one of the other teams in the group and give the team a massive confidence boost, going into game four in Luanda. This post is my attempt to preview Kenya’s preparations for this game.
   Kenya is pretty much a full house, with the exception of the unfortunate Patrick Oboya (missed last available flight after the traditional club v. country row with his club in the Czech Republic). The biggest profile returnees to Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno are midfielder Jamal Mohammed and goalkeeper Arnold Origi.Thus there are really no excuses on the squad front.
The Ground
  Nyayo stadium has an unsavoury record of crowd control ‘accidents’ and this match is the biggest match to be hosted there since the tragic incident in which 7 Gor Mahia fans lost their lives trying to get in to catch the  infamous Nairobi derby between Gor and AFC Leopards.  Match organizers have expressed a lot of confidence that this time they have got things under control. Whislt I hope that they are right, only match day can we be certain of the strength of their plans.

Overall this mat6ch is Zedekiah Otieno’s opportunity to make an impact where Harambee stars really need it. By winning this match he re-ignites what faint hopes we still have in making the Cup of nations next year . Anything else, and the campaign is almost as good as dead

AFCON 2013 Can We make it?

In a few weeks time Kenya will embark on their first attempt to quality for the Africa Cup of nations since the disastrous tenure of one Antoine Hey.

Our First match is away to Guinea Bissau and whilst preparations have been, well more than usual, there it is still hard to tell whether Harambee Stars are ready to reach heights last seen in 2004.

For that 1st time (more out of luck than their own efforts) harambee stars actually had a Friendly on the official date set aside for these things. a 1-1 draw away draw v. Tanzania was followed up by a 3-0 unofficial win over Ethopia. The win being with Locally based players exclusively(Sofapaka’s Allan Wanga scoring twice).

The most interesting thing so far is the acrimony suurounding the confirmation of Twahir Muhhidin as full time coach for the team. He deputized for Antoine Hey, and was left holding the peices when an acrimoniuos fall out between the German and FKL led to the former walking out on the team with over an year left on his contract. its been reported in the press that the board agreed on a different head coach at a full meeting only for ‘some individuals’ (a their critics put it) to hand Muhhidin the job.

Though I personally feel he’s not the best local option available. Since winning 3? league titles with the now defunct Oserian Fastac in the early noughties, he has not done anything of note as a coach. Nonetheless, he is blessed with the best selection of local talent for many years and i think that he can get Kenya to the Cup of nations should he be given the space to run the team his way.

Guinea Bissau, though not as illustrious as other West African teams, will still not be a walk over, given kenya are not a very good travelling team. Kenya’s other opponents in the qualifying group are Uganda and Angola.