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?

I’m still impressed with #HarambeeStars

Despite going down to a soft goal, on a bad free kick, to dreaded rivals Uganda Cranes in the last minute of the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup final, I am impressed with the overall showing that Kenya’s national team put in over the course of the tournament. Having gone out at the group stage, in the previous two events, and without a tournament win since 2002, this showing is a nice change of tune for long suffering fans. They generally operated as a team, overcame most of the adversities thrown up at them and even in the pressure cooker of a penalty shoot out, they had the composure to score all their 4 to knock out a stubborn Zanzibar team. Is it no wonder the man contracted to coach the team to the event, former Tusker Coach James Nandwa, has been made assistant to full time head coach, Henri Michel?

Now its on to the bigger issue of CHAN qualifiers. Kenya face Burundi over two legs, in the first sound of qualifiers. Probably a much softer challenge than Uganda, yet still good enough to take advantage, if Kenya don’t take the the seriously enough. All the best to them.

Who isn’t impressed with #HarambeeStars?

I know I am. Coming off the back of two straight group stage eliminations, and at least 2 coaching changes in the last 2 years, Kenya’s national football team have certainly come together impressively this CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup. Now one step away from winning the title for the 1st time since 2002, it is certainly a massive change of fortunes in a very short time.

They now face a very familiar foe Uganda in a stadium where they haven’t lost to anyone in 8 years. This is the same Uganda team that beat Kenya 1-0 in the opening match, but based on the performances I’ve seen it will not be the same Harambee Stars that walk out onto the field in the final. They bounced back admirably to dispatch South Sudan 2-0, and then Ethiopia, on a nightmare pitch, 3-1, to qualify for the quarterfinals. There they edged out Malawi 1-0, and then came from behind twice (the 2nd time after a really dubious penalty) to edge out Zanzibar on penalties in the semifinals. In doing so they showed a level of resilience that hasn’t often been associated with the Harambee Stars over the past decade. This time around there has been alot of the ‘Harambee’ spirit of pulling together. So far this tournament there has been star quality, with veterans like Mike Baraza, coming strong against Zanzibar, and newcomers like Rama Salim playing with confidence and verve throughout. Save for the ‘loin-soothing’ antics of Paul Were and Kevin Omondi, team discipline and morale are reportedly good.

Uganda, on the other hand, have been imperious. They have won pretty much every hand they have played so far. Over the past 4 or so years they have been the polar opposite of Kenya. Stability, where we’ve had chaos, direction where we’ve been all over the place. Most importantly dominance in the CECAFA Cup where we have struggled to make an impact. No doubt there will be alot of Kenyans making the trip to Namboole, so the good advantage thing might be dulled. Nonetheless Kenya will really be up against it versus Uganda. Not just because it is a cup final, but because it is a local derby with decades of history behind it and this blogger hopes that our boys can come out victorious. Either way it has been a very good showing.

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.