Loss dents Kenya's Nations Cup ambitions

Tuesday March 29 2016

Harambee Stars players walk-out of the pitch during their Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers match against Guinea Bissau on March 26  2016 at Nyayo Stadium. Guinea Bissau won 1-0. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Harambee Stars players walk-out of the pitch during their Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers match against Guinea Bissau on March 26 2016 at Nyayo Stadium. Guinea Bissau won 1-0. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By CELLESTINE OLILO
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Perennially under-achieving Harambee Stars had an Easter weekend to forget, going down 1-0 to Guinea Bissau in their Group E match of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at Nyayo National Stadium to effectively end Kenya’s campaign in the tournament.

This was the third consecutive defeat for the national team in the competition. Harambee Stars had suffered a similar loss in their away match on Wednesday after recording another disappointing 2-1 loss to Zambia last September. The Sunday defeat which extinguished Kenya’s dream of playing in next year’s finals now adds to the too familiar script.

Prior to being bundled out of the running for a place in next year’s Africa Cup of Nations finals, Harambee Stars had failed to qualify for the African Nation Championship (Chan) that was held Rwanda in January.

Stars were knocked out of this competition on a 2-0 aggregate by neighbours Ethiopia.

Kenya’s dreams of gracing the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro also went up in smoke after they settled for a 4-4 aggregate against Botswana in the first round of the African qualifiers played last year.

Stars lost to Botswana 3-0 in the first leg in April last year but won 4-1 at Nyayo National Stadium on May 9 but were undone by the away goals rule.

DISMAL SHOWING

In the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, Stars were knocked out by Cape Verde on a 2-1 aggregate. And with the dismal showing in the two-leg affair with Guinea Bissau, Stars will now play the two remaining Group E games against Congo and Zambia for pride.

Up next for the underachieving Harambee Stars is the annual Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup in Sudan, where they will compete by default as members of the regional football block as they await the 2019 Afcon qualifiers.

Heading into Sunday’s match against Guinea-Bissau, Stars were on one point and needed to win to turn around their campaign. The Stanley Okumbi-coached side remains rooted at the bottom of Group E on one point while Guinea-Bissau, buoyed by two wins on the bounce over Kenya, top the group on seven points. Zambia and Congo are tied on six points each.

Okumbi insists he is being sabotaged by some individuals in the local football fraternity.

“There are people who have never been happy with my appointment. They have never been supportive and I have reason to believe that they sent people to disrupt Sunday’s game,” a visibly-shocked Okumbi said after the ignominious  defeat that saw fans throw water bottles at him and his assistants as they headed to the changing rooms.

Kenya could be fined Sh10 million by Caf and be ordered to play their next match behind closed doors owing to fan trouble.