Since Harambee Stars last CECAFA Victory…


Kenya’s Harambee stars open their 2013 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup campaign against a strong Ethiopia at Nyayo stadium at 4:30pm (East African Time). The Harambee Stars have won the tournament, which is the oldest active international soccer tournament in Africa, 5 times overall with last time being in 2002 when the team was coached by a then fresh faced Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee. That was the same ghost Mulee who would lead Kenya to their only win at the finals of an Africa Cup of nations, in the 2004 edition, and has since won a number of trophies with Tusker FC, before settling into a life of TV punditry. That is a story for another day
Anyway this article is dedicated to looking at some of the things that have happened on and off the soccer pitch in Kenya since Harambee stars were last CECAFA Challenge Cup winners.
If he makes it to March next year, Adel Amrouche will become only the 2nd Harambee stars coach to finish a whole calendar year as national team head coach
Kenya has had three presidential elections, and two presidents (Mwai Kibaki, and Uhuru Kenyatta) elected to high office. In between there have been two constitutional referendums, one election crisis, a grand coalition government, and the beginning of two crimes against humanity cases at The Hague.
Shabana FC, Posta Rangers, Red Berets, and among other perennial top flight football teams have faded into oblivion, while only Sofapaka and have really established themselves in Kenya’s Premier League since then.
Three Kenyans (two of them brothers) have participated in the UEFA Champions League, one even has a winners’ medal. There is a Kenyan in a practice squad on an NFL franchise, and a Kenyan born cyclist has won the Tour de France
Kenya made it to the semi finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup once (in 2003), but has only won one game in the subsequent two editions in 2007 and 2011.
Kenya has made it to the semi finals of the Rugby Sevens World Cup twice? And become a core member of the Sevens World Series Circuit.
One David Rudisha became the first athlete to break an 800 metres World Record at the Olympics final. He also became the first man to run 800m sub 1:41, among other amazing things that happened in that race in the London 2012 Olympics.
These are just a few of the things that have happened in Kenya since Harambee stars last won the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup. Can they break the drought this round?

JUST IN: Word on the Street says Harambee Stars may coach may have already resigned over unpaid dues. Oh well…

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

#CECAFA returns to Kenya


After some tussling with the governing Confederation of East and Central African Football Associations, FKF were finally given clearance to host the former’s flagship CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup for 2013 . The tournament will run from the end of November, into early December.

Now the reason CECAFA have been so reluctant to kept Kenya host this tournament is because, the last time this happened in 2009 barely anybody showed up to watch the games. What with the then FKL’s virtually non-existent publicity for the event. Anyway, Kenya has another shot to show they can get fans excited about regional soccer and Harambee Stars have an opportunity to win a trophy for the first time since the early noughties. Best of luck to both.

Pickin’ up the pieces: Where do #harambeesstars go from here?


Well at the end of the day at least they went out on a high. Three head coaches, two wins, and the Harambee stars attempts to get into the FIFA World cup once again ended in failure. The 1-0 win over Namibia’s Brave Warriors notwithstanding, this campaign has been too much like those of the past for this blogger’s liking. There were some high moments, like the creditable 1-1 draw against current African Champions, Nigeria in Calabar, and there were some low moments, like the 1-0 defeat to the same in Nairobi some time later. There was even a little bit of humour as the politicos came out in force to promise millions to the players in pledges I highly doubt have been honoured. On the whole i still feel a bit let down about the way the campaign ended up.

This is not to say that qualifying for FIFA’s World Cup for Harambee Stars, or any other national team in the world, should be as easy as popping down to the nearby kiosk and buying a bamba 20. The cynic in me expects that even if were that easy FKF would still contrive to botch it somehow. This is also not to say that any nation in the world is entitled to a world Cup place. This is to say we really should have learnt by now not make an already challenging task that much harder for ourselves with needless side shows, ego trips, blame games and general lackadaisical-ness.

Anyway from here the next major football event is the 2015 Africa Cup of nations. Will Adel Amrouche still be in charge? Recent history is against it, though frankly I would rather, that FKF simply extend his contract at least till the end of the qualifiers, and then shift its attention to the other aspects of the national team’s performance.

LIKE TALENT IDENTIFICATION! FKF chairperson Sam Nyamweya was very clear that he would resurrect the Olympic centres that Bernard Zgoll had instituted in the 1970s, when he was on the campaign trail, as the first priority when in office. How many years has he been back in charge now and there is zero in the way of making this pledge come to pass that this blogger is aware of. Pretty much all the major names that Kenya’s football fans of the 1980s used to idolise in the 80s were exposed to the Zgoll academies at some point in their development. There was a point Kenya qualified to an 8 team Africa Cup of nations they were that good! The academy died and the Harambee stars have been in steady decline ever since. The same kind of system has been seen to turn around the German national team from the geriatrics, that got bum rushed out of Euro 2000 bottom of their group, to a vibrant young attacking force that has made the semi-finals of the last 4 major football tournaments. With results like that why is the idea seen in Kenya only as ‘porojo ya kubumbawza mafans’?

LIKE CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILTY! There is a dossier doing the rounds, alleging all manner of high corruption the FKF top brass. Apparently copies have landed on the desks various officials in Kenya and FIFA headquarters in Zurich. The FKF have rubbished the allegations as rubbish, but it is not like they tend to publish the details of how they get things done so I doubt they could properly dismiss the allegations made in this dossier even if they wanted to. Where am I going with this? Only seeking some pro-active transparency on the processes through which things like kit deals, coaching appointments, friendly matches and so on are made. This would help planning for Harambee stars success a lot. Why would anyone take random emails from ‘disgruntled officials’ seriously, if the official records were available in the public domain and properly audited?

Anyway I am just a blogger. What’s to say I won’t be making such a similar post in 3 years time?

In all honesty were #Harambeestars really in the running?


Earlier this afternoon Nigeria’s Super Eagles landed in Nairobi, played our national football team, Harambee Stars, in a world cup qualifier, and won 1-0. The result put them in the driver’s seat in the qualifying group and, as I understand it, ended Kenya’s own hopes at being in Brazil in 2014. No doubt there will be the usual finger pointing, declarations of intent and calls to action from all the usual circles. Heck I’m almost willing to bet that before this time next week some intrepid sports reporter will have uncovered some scandal, upon which all the rage of this result will be directed. Having said that, with all the things Kenyan football has put up with this past decade or so was it really that much of a surprise that things have turned out like this?

Coming into this match there was a sense that anything was possible, what with the boys coming within a minute or so of getting a famous win against Nigeria in Calabar. That probably blurred the fact that in spite of that, Kenya were (and still are) bottom of the group with only two points in 3 games to speak of and a disastrous recent record in qualifiers leading up to that point. Locked out of the Cup of Nations at the first hurdle by Togo, still to qualify for CHAN, in spite of the money flowing into the TPL, and changing coaches more rapidly than a ‘socialite’ changes ‘boyfriends,’ is it really so surprising we are reaping the kinds of results we are?

Let us start with the team itself. A useful collection of talents (see Wanyama Victor, Oliech Dennis, Kahata Francis…) yet, at least in my view never a team. Especially not with the constant changes to the coaching staff. Consider this, whenever a team changes coaches, you expect that there will be a shift in outlook, tactics, etc, consider that Harambee Stars haven’t had a head coach finish 1 year in charge since at least 2011. These coaches have been hired and fired for pretty much every reason under the sun. How on earth is a national team supposed to reach World Cup level football with such a confusion of ideas philosophies and approaches?

Then there’s the federation. Aside from a bunch of office politics and branch re-organizations they haven’t really done anything…at all. Except fire coaches, I mean. My biggest gripe is where are the Olympic centres that Sam Nyamweya was so vigorously campaigning on? My head knows that the whole thing was a gimmick, but I still insist, where are they? Can I be proven wrong?

Those are just one or two things of the I’m thinking about as I digest the sudden demise of our attempt to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World. Cup. You know the one, Tusker made such a big deal about getting, a team from the Eastern Africa region qualified for. We now know it certainly won’t be Kenya. The thing that bothers me the most is that come the next qualifying campaign flop I’ll probably write this opt all over again. There will be a few high points along the way, a few low points. The characters might be different, there may be some other corporate running the circus, the might not be. All in all unless, there’s some sea change taking place that I’m not seeing (something along the lines of what happened in Germany in the year 2000) then, we fans shouldn’t really be expecting any better than we have just seen this qualifying campaign. In fact it could even get worse.

Kuchotewa Nayo?


A couple of hours ago, Kenya’s national football team came within 1 1/2 minutes of pulling off their first ever win over Nigeria’s Super Eagles. As it was, a injury time equalizer means the final score was 1-1. Kenya now have 2 points from 3 games in their World Cup Qualifier group whilst Nigeria have 5.

Granted the result is very small in the bigger picture of Kenya’s World cup qualifying hopes, within of itself it is still an achievement worth noting. After all Nigeria are the reigning champions of Africa. Over the past few hours the leading lights in Kenyan politics have been pouring money on this team with the likes of Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila Odinga and even Nairobi Senator elect, Gideon Mbuvi alias Sonko taking to social media to declare their acts of outrageous generosity to Harambee Stars.

The question in my head just now is haven’t we been here before? From Harambee Stars to Conjestina Achieng to our national cricket team and several others, this blogger has witnessed all manner of monied types in Kenyan society going out there way to be seen to be generous to some sports person or team while the getting is good, only to vanish without a trace when said team suffers a few bad results. Don’t all sports teams and athletes everywhere go through patches of poor form from time to time? This blogger understands that several politicians in the current mad rush of goodies belong to the Jubilee Coalition that won the last general elections, and that their manifesto has all manner of commitments regarding long term investment in sports. That is a post for another day. What gripes me is that if the people making policy for our sports team see them only as charity cases, to be milked for PR purposes when the occasional moment of glory or desperation allows it, can they really hope to see the kind of sound and long term interventions that make world beaters?

On a (very tongue in cheek) final note, Kenya’s 7s team are having quite the break out season on the World Series circuit and are in the Main Cup Quarter finals in Hong Kong. We’ve got a cross country team in Bydgosczc (sp?) for the world championships on Sunday morning. The same place they damn near won everything, and our cricket team just got back from Dubai, where they man handled Canada in a pair of World Cup Qualifiers and Intercontinental Cup. Any spare change for them?

the #harambeestars merry go round


Football kenya federation are looking to hire yet anothher coacj for our harambee Stars national team. this is just two months into the interim reign of James Nandwa, whoo took over After Henry michel walked out after foru? months in charge. Michel replaced Francis Kimanzi, who himself had hardly finished 6 months on the job, after taking over from…err at this point I lose track.

Harambee stars haven’t had a head coach finish a calendar year in charge since 2009? and in the last decade i’m only aware of the phenomenon happening twice more. In all that Time the teams on field results have been in steady decline.

Maybe, just maybe, the problem lies somewhere other than the guy who happens to be head coach at that point in time. after all if you keep giving a patient the same medicine and they aren’t healing then clearly that’s the wrong medicine for the disease in question yes?

Sure a new coach might get us one or two positive results in the short term, but what happens when we eventually lose a game? (yeah teams lose games sometimes) Do we hire a new coash or do we realize that he’s just one wheel in the cog called a national team?

Lifting the #CECAFA Curse


This Saturday Kenya’s Under 23 coach James Nandwa takes charge of Harambee Stars proper as they head off to Uganda to play the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup. Kenya have fallen at the group stage at the last two editions and this year they will not be helped by the fact they are pooled with Uganda, Ethiopia and South Sudan (debuting at the competition).

With the tournament not being FIFA recognised there were no Europe based players called up to the squad, selected separately from the one that will attempt to qualify for CHAN. That also meant that there were several regulars from local clubs that were exempted from going to the Challenge Cup. However, having said that, there is is no lack of experience in the team. The likes of Sofapaka goalie Duncan Ochieng and Ingwe striker Allan Wanga having multiple CECAFA campaigns behind them. With them are a host of young and young-ish players on the cusp of breaking into consideration for nation, many with the odd cap here and there. Indeed as far as I cc tell only 4 of the 25 man squad can truly be considered new to th Harambee Stars set up.

The challenge in front of this team, to reverse a trend of showing up to Senior Challenge cup with alot of bravado then underwhelming, will not be made easier by being stuck in the same group with hosts and most successful team in the competition, Uganda and the region’s sole representatives at next year’s CAF Africa Cup of Nations, Ethiopia. The 4th team in th group are South Sudan, who this blogger expects to be whipping boys. Though Uganda has a superior recent head to head record, and Ethiopia are in a pick form, I still reckon the familiarity of Harambee Stars with these opponents means they do have as real chance of winning both games, or at the very least the outcomes will be down to much smaller margins than might be expected from the 3 team’s recent histories. Should they get into the quarter finals then really anything can happen. But There’s a very tough grou to get out of first.

Much ado about nothing…well almost nothing #Harambeestars


Its now about one week to Harambee Stars scheduled World Cup Qualifying match against Malawi. Kenya’s most recognizable players, Dennis Oliech, and MacDonald Mariga, are unavailable. The former is ‘retired’ over a much publicized marketing row and the latter is healing from knee ligament damage suffered playing for Parma in the Italian Serie A. In spite of the unavoidable fact Kenya are so much stronger with both, from the build up one would get the impression that Kenya are doomed without them. This is not th case. True in the last round of World Cup and Cup of Nations qualifiers Kenya’s midfield ran through him, the emergence of his younger brother, Victor Wanyama should give Kenya enough cover. Based on his role in Glasgcow Celtic’s league triumph, this blogger reckons that should Kimanzi give him defensive lynchpin responsibilities in tandem with one or two creative outlets, then Kenya’s midfield should be fine. As for Oliech’s absence, this might actually be a blessing in disguise for any one of 3 locally based strikers in form. Kepha Aswani especially has blossomed with Thika United’s attacking style this half of the 2012 season. He is among the top scorers this half of the season and his predatory instincts could be a welcome addition to a strike force that has off late lacked for goals. However to get that chance he’ll have to get Kimanzi to promote him ahead of the AFC Leopards duo of Allan Wanga and Mike Baraza, not to mention Sofapaka’s veteran John Baraza. All in all Kenya has more depth than we give ourselves credit for, so come June 1, this blogger has no fear about Kenya’s midfield or striking even without Mariga or Oliech.

I Told You So!


About 2 weeks ago a certain news story in the Standard newspaper made me fire off a series of tweets lambasting the state of corporate involvement in Kenyan sports. This story covered Kenya’s u20 women’s football team recieving free playing kits, sanitary pads and other goodies from a number of brand leading corporates. At the time my rant ran along the lines that these buggers were in it entirely to harvest some good publicity off somebody else’s sweat and that corporates ought to more look at investing in sports team development programmes so that there are more such opportunities in future. Anyway, as much as it pains me to say it, my worst fear was vindicated last night when NTV reported that, after getting beaten 2-1 by Tunisia at Kasarani, Kenya’s u20 women’s football team have been abandoned by all and sundry. Literally they are down to being fed by UNICEF. If this is the kind of fickle support with which Kenya’s sports teams are supposed to go conquer the world will is it any surprise most are still so far away from doing it?