Harambee Stars lost to Guinea-Bissau in the qualifiers of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations tournament at the weekend, effectively ending Kenya’s dreams of playing in the continent's premier football competition to be staged in Gabon next year.
Acts of hooliganism witnessed during Sunday’s match at the Nyayo Stadium are unfortunate since they only serve to tarnish Kenya’s reputation as a sporting country. Matches are won on the football pitch, not through crowd trouble.
In recent years Kenya has performed poorly. Our campaign to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro came a cropper last year. The team’s campaign for a slot in the 2018 World Cup finals also ended prematurely.
Last year, Kenya also failed to qualify for the 2016 African Nations Championships held in Rwanda in January. However, Sunday’s loss to Guinea-Bissau, a country ranked 44 places below Kenya, stands out.
Questions have been raised on the quality of the technical bench, choice of players, and training tactics. These should be addressed urgently to turn around Kenya’s fortunes in football. Football fans have been starved of victory for too long.
Because the national team should be a source of pride and identity for all Kenyans, the issues raised must be attended to urgently. Football Kenya Federation officials, who were recently elected on a platform of change, should ride on the goodwill among stakeholders to turn around the team’s fortunes before fans lose patience with them.
The selection of members of the Harambee Stars technical bench should be done on merit and only deserving players called up to the team. While there is a need to build a team for the future, the transition should be gradual, with care taken not to weaken the team in the middle of a tournament.
FKF must put in place structures to nurture talent for the future. Forcing teams playing in the top-flight to have youth teams, as is the case in other countries, could be a good starting point.