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.

Change Comes to FKF, But Change to What?


Football Kenya Federation’s elections have come to a close. After a long drawn out process marked by the usual shenanigans with registration of Football clubs, delegates and so on, Nicholas Mwendwa emerged the new Chairman of Football Kenya Federation, while Incumbent Sam Nyamweya formally retired from football activities.

NIck Mwendwa basks in the glory of victory (Source: Daily Nation)

Standing at the head of the ‘Team Change’ slate that swept the board, winning majority of the FKF branch Chairmanships and NEC  positions, Nick Mwendwa and his allies were granted a powerful mandate to implement change in an organization in desperate need to break from  years of mediocrity and corruption.

Heck even the outgoing chair, himself elected on a platform of change, wound up covered in the graft which he was supposed to end.

So, what this blogger is wondering, is specifically what changes does team change intend to bring into FKF?

There is the unfinished business of the FKF-KPL standoff and what consequences it has on the teams, corporate sponsors and broadcast partners that have found themselves on either side of the standoff.

There is the continued neglect of women and youth football, and the absence of strategic direction of the men’s senior team. Harambee Stars remain the only team in the East Africa region who never seem to have anything lined up for FIFA sanctioned friendly match dates.

There is also the floundering, perhaps even ill advised efforts to bring the Africa Cup of Nations to the country.  If Team change decide that that is somethign still worth pursuing then, that would mean there has to be an overhaul of the football infrastructure in Kenya.

Most importantly  Mr. Mwendwa needs to show Kenyans that he  has taken FKF chairman post because wants to work  on building Kenyan fotball not just as a means to leverage himself into politics like so many of his predecessors.

All in all this blogger hopes that Team change can deliver on its promises to Kenyan football, and the FKF can become a beacon shining a light, not just for Kenyan football’s path to greatness, but to African football as a whole.

Déjà vu all over again: the FKF, KPL saga


Once again Kenyan football is making a whole bunch of negative headlines for itself. It seemed like a not-so-big-a-deal difference of opinion between the governing Football Kenya Federation, and the Kenya Premier League ltd, through which participating clubs manage the affairs of the Kenya Premier League.

Then it became a massive crisis threatening to grind domestic football to a halt, and putting Kenya’s football teams banned from FIFA activities again.

Sam Nyamweya, FKF’s supremo (Source: Michezoafrika)

On the one hand Football Kenya Federation wants an additional 2 teams added to the Kenyan Premier League. Perhaps it is to help get more fans involved, perhaps it’s a gimmick to shore up support ahead of October’s elections, or perhaps it’s something else.

KPL declined the ‘request’ because they felt it would mess the financial arrangements that they had with the sponsors. In any case such decisions ought to originate from the KPL itself.

FIFA came in to mediate, commissioned a report with recommendations, which it handed over to FKF, what with them being the body FIFA recognized. They were probably hoping that this report would guide a reconciliation that would allow them to go and worry about something else. Word on the street (nothing official has been released) indicate the recommendations side with KPL. That has not happened.

FKF then went ahead and launched the FKF Premier League, complete with a list of 18 teams, of. They then went and started tossing fines and suspensions at anyone working with KPL’s attempts to carry on regardless.

Here are some things that at I haven’t seen explored in the mainstream coverage of this saga

1. Bad Blood? The personalities in the center of this dispute are not colliding for the first time. When Kenya was last banned from FIFA activities, it was because KFF, then led by present FKF chief, Sam Nyamweya was at center of the crisis. Among other things, FIFA, backed by personalities now in KPL, was attempting to change the face of football administration in Kenya through the now dead Football Kenya Limited. Now the shoe appears to be on the other foot, as FKF appears hell bent on steamrolling over the KPL and anyone who sides with them

2. Bad Precedents? Over its tenure, in charge FKF has made a bad habit of intervening and overruling decisions of various bodies, in spite of their mandate to actually make those decisions. From overturning KPL, and IDAC decisions on disciplinary issues, to going over team the heads of national team coaches on squad selections. Could FKF’s decision making be the culmination of the contempt it shows the institutions it is supposed to be nurturing?

3. Bad Campaigning? Did i mention that the board of the FKF is up for re-election this October?. Maybe this is just a cynical mover to emasculate the only organization with the capacity to mobilize and follow through on the removal of Nyamweya’s team.

Whatever the real motivations for this crisis, it  certainly stinks of a  kind of brinkmanship that will take Kenyan football nowhere.

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!

On Jubilee and the pledges to Kenyan Sports


This post is little late, but be that as it may, here are a bunch of reflections on The Jubilee government’s fulfillment of the pledges it made towards sports in Kenya. On the whole this side of the government has been on the whole less controversy ridden than; say the laptops for class 1 pupils, or the standard gauge railway.

Also unlike in other sectors, many of the pledges actually depend on the competency of bodies that have some independence from government influence, so their success or failure, can not entirely be up to the Jubilee Government. Without much ado, here we go.

First and foremost, a recap of the pledges that Jubilee made on the campaign trail. I cannot claim to recall everything they pledged so I will focus on the flagship promises. These were: the pledge to construct 5 stadia all over the country, a promise to deliver the World Athletics Championships, the Africa Cup of Nations the restoration of the Safari Rally to the World Rally Circuit, and the pledge to build youth development centres in all counties

I’ll start with the pledge to bring all sorts of international competitions in various sports to Kenya. Right of the bat, Kenya’s bid to get the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations was virtually sunk by the Football Kenya Federation, not bothering to actually submit a bid until one month past the deadline.To save face, they went for and got right to host the 2018 CHAN event instead.

Now to actually put together a credible (and I do not mean we somehow survived to the end one piece credible) event. Also I am hoping they give the ‘Dick Berg type ‘sports event promoters’ a wide berth and give us an open, transparent show.

And the Winner in the Tenderpreneurship relay event is…
(From Gadocartoons.net)

Off the football pitch, and on to the athletics track, it turns out, that you sort of have to build up towards hosting the IAAF’s flagship events (like the World Athletics Championships, by cutting your teeth with lesser events. Parable of the coins, he who was faithful with five dinarii shall be put in charge of 5 cities and all that.

So in keeping with that, Kenya will first aim to host the 2017 World Youth Championships. Nairobi’s competition will come from Buenos Aires, and Greensboro city in the USA, we hope the bidding team show some passion to convince the IAAF honchos to gives us the games.

As for the World Rally Championships, the Safari Rally was tossed out because of issues surrounding money guarantees, and tracks being properly closed off from wild animals, traffic etc) and so on. From the government side there has been very little noise, SO FAR, on the actualisation of a bid to restore the Safari rally and from the way the KNRC continues to face issues with stray traffic, pedestrians etc on its domestic rallies, it seems we still have work to do on that end also.

As for the pledge to construct 5 state-of-the-art stadia, there has been much more traction in this area. The sceptic in me would like clarification on just what ‘state-of-the-art’ is supposed to amount to. The most recent noise on that end has been the announcement by sports cabinet secretary Hassan Wario, that construction of these ‘state-of-the-art’ stadia will commence next year. Several County governments, both Jubilee and CORD controlled have done some renovations to their dilapidated municipal stadiums, so there is that

As for the youth centres, I’ll assume that they are also in the pipeline somewhere.

All in all, One year down the line and aside from the AFCON debacle, which with hindsight the sports ministry should have seen coming, its been steady as she goes. I would issue a grade but most of these pledges are mid to long term projects, which will take time to implement.

About Kenya’s Football Factories


Right now I am in the middle of a coffee buzz. possibly the best thing in the world to inspire writing. Anyway, I read this article on the rise and fall of a certain famous, and storied German Football club and it got me thinking. How does the state of Kenya’s leading football clubs reflect on the state of Kenya’s Harambee Stars and the wider state of Kenyan football?
Many writings I’ve seen that address this issue of Kenyan football history will immediately rush to recall the glory days of the 198os as though they were some kind of footballing ‘garden of Eden’ from whence we are now forever banished. But why?
It is true that this period was one which Kenyan Soccer hit new heights. At least in the men’s game. Harambee Stars were finalists in the All Africa Games gold in 1987, three consecutive CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup trophies, and even qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations 1988 edition (a tournament which stood out becuase in that year it was for only 8 of Africa’s best football nations).
How did Kenya’s premier football clubs Gor Mahia and AFC Leopard do in that season? Very well actually. They were winning the CECAFA club championship with regularity, both made semifinals appearances in Continental Club competitions, with Gor Mahia winning the Mandela Cup in 1987. So how are these successes connected to one another?
Except for a brief period in the 1970s, the football academies that are the centre of the article I mentioned at the start of this piece, have not been a central part of Kenyan football clubs source talent. Indeed, aside from Mathare United, this bloggers is not aware of a top level football club that directly controls a football value chain, all the way from when their are in their early teens to when they finally graduate into the senior ranks as is common with the above mentioned football club as in the case in most of Europe.
Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards historically sourced their players from networks of football clubs in their ‘hinterlands’ and in today’s KPL, it is becoming customary for these two teams, together with Sofapaka, and Tusker FC, to cynically poach the best performing players of their rival clubs from the previous season, as though these teams were nothing more than academies for them.
But I digress, if you look closely at the past, you will notice, that an overwhelming majority of the players that were at the heart of those 1980s Gor Mahia, AFC Leopards, and from there Harambee Stars, had been seasoned (if you will) through working out in a series of Olympic football centres set up by a German coach by the name Bernard Zgoll in the 1970s. these centres used to scout regional teams, and bring in the boys they felt were going somewhere, and then expose them to the highest brand of technical training available in the land. these players would then transit to the big football clubs and from their into the history books.
When Mr Zgoll left, his Olympic centres died, and it was not until Mathare United became that upstart Nationwide league team, which insisted on embarrassing AFC Leopards at Moi Golden Cup Finals, did the concept of specialist football academies come back into the football mainstream in Kenya.
Mind you this article is not about fetishizing football academies in particular, because as I have stated earlier, AFC Leopards, and Gor Mahia, were quite good without directly controlling football academies and in any case, even with their football academy, nowadays Mathare United see to merely existing in the Kenya Premier League rather that trying to win any kind of accolades on the field.
The real loss, if you put the fancy football academies to one side, is the breakdown of the traditional, feeder clubs that community based teams used to partner with as talent identifiers on the ground, because to be honest, even these academies like JMJ and the like also need to get their raw talent from somewhere.
Right now, what amounts to a squad the best of Kenya’s locally based footballers plus filler, are contesting the CECAFA challenge Cup, against the best local talent from across the region. They might very well win. They were finalists in last year’s edition and we are hosting the event. However, how much refining have the gems in today’s Harambee Stars before hitting the big time, compared to the Harambee Stars squads of the 80s? Is it any wonder that the current Harambee Stars always seem to hit a brick wall when trying to turn the occasional big win, or surprise draw into a successful World cup qualification?
I’m not going to pretend that I have concrete answers to these things, but wouldn’t bringing a bit of that old 1980s preparation back into the Harambee Stars supply chain help, because simply shelling out for an expensive coach to make a scape goat out of when that brick wall gets hit isn’t working

Are we ready to host the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup?


For those not in the know, Kenya is set to host the 2013 edition of CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup and the tournament is set to start in less than 15 days.  This was after FKF blew up at CECAFA for conspiring with its sponsors to take away Kenya’s hosting rights for last year’s edition. CECAFA justified its decision of the virtually non-existent attendances when Kenya last hosted the feat. In all honesty, he had a point. Marketing for that was virtually non-existent, and even granted the weather, it had to be said that the resultant empty stands were a big let down.

This time around it seems that even the minimal coverage the tournament hosts have secured for this edition is negative. Football Kenya Federation figured that a humanitarian theme would do the tournament a world of good, and what better issue than the plight of millions of Somalians, so straight forwardly captured by the ‘Peace for Somalia’ slogan. That ought to bring in the fans right? Not if the Somalians themselves denounce the whole thing

Four cities, (Nairobi, Nakuru, Mumias, and Kisumu) have been selected to host matches  this year. These have significant football fan bases, have reasonably well maintained grounds, but without better marketing will we see the same empty stands as before?

Hopefully in the fortnight remaining FKF get something together more coherent than condescending to a hurting nation, but I am not exactly holding out hope