Newly appointed Kenya coach certainly has his work cut out for him

Sunday November 19 2017

Belgian Paul Put officially unveiled as the new Harambee Stars tactician replacing Stanley Okumbi. PHOTO | CELLESTINE OLILO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Belgian Paul Put officially unveiled as the new Harambee Stars tactician replacing Stanley Okumbi. PHOTO | CELLESTINE OLILO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By DAVID KWALIMWA
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Put simply, should new Harambee Stars coach Paul Put fail to succeed it most certainly will not be his fault.

The experienced Belgian trainer, unveiled Saturday in Mombasa, has seen spectacular success with a modest team.

But he has his work cut out for him. Harambee Stars are struggling to find their feet international, perennially failing to qualify for major tournaments and losing to even football minnows that were mince meat to the team in years gone by.

“I am here to talk to the players and learn also, and keep going on to build a foundation,” said Put, in his first interview just after he was presented to a glory-starved football nation.

“I will require support from the (Football Kenya Federation) president, players and media which is very important. Why? Because when we play against an opponent, I want it be to like 12 against 11 (in our favour) not 11 against 11.

The 61-year-old comes in as replacement for the off-colour Stanley Okumbi, whose 18-month stint at the helm of the national team turned out to be an experiment that spectacularly backfired. 

According to FKF president Nick Mwendwa, about 75 per cent of the coach’s salary will be paid by giant gaming firm SportPesa, with the government committing to settle the balance.

Put’s notable success is without doubt with Burkina Faso. He famously led them to the final of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa. 

During that tournament, the Stallions with some renowned players including Jonathan Pitropia, Bakary Kone, Paul Koulibaly and Artiside Bance drew with Nigeria and Zambia before thumping Ethiopia 4-0 in Group C.

The Stallions thereafter defeated Togo and Ghana in the quarter-finals and semi-finals to make the final.

He also led Algerian side USM Algiers to the semi-finals of the Caf Africa Champions League.

Kenyans will certainly be longing for some of these results, especially with the 2019 Africa Nations Cup qualification matches involving Sierra Leone, Ghana and Ethiopia ongoing.

Of immediate attention though is the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup which begins in 16 days time.

Kenya is up against Tanzania, Rwanda, Libya and Zanzibar in the group stages. Cecafa success will bring some relieve to suffering Stars fans and get Put’s campaign to the best possible start.