Kenya’s double victory in the COPA Coca-Cola Africa Cup of Nations under-16 football tournament in Nakuru yesterday proved what pundits have been arguing all along: The country has talent but no supporting structures.
Kenya won both boys’ and girls’ titles, defeating 11 other nations in the weeklong tournament organised to unearth footballing talent.
The wins are a major boost as we focus on lifting the game from the ashes, and come hot on the heels of the senior national team — Harambee Stars — finally breaking the 15-year jinx by qualifying for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations finals.
There is no gainsaying that Harambee Stars need a steady feeder system that age group football should provide.
Kenya perennially unleashes top talent in inter-schools competitions which is hardly nurtured through to the senior ranks.
In 2009, for instance, Kenya sent a strong team to that year’s COPA Coca-Cola edition in South Africa, with such stars as one of the tournament’s lead strikers, Emmanuel Tostao, showing great promise.
However, that stellar squad faded away with only a handful making it to Kenyan Premier League clubs.
The success in Nakuru should therefor be a positive wake-up call for Kenya Football Federation to focus on the age group game as much as they invest in the senior squad.
Harambee Stars’ team to next year’s continental finals should be a fine blend of established stars and upcoming youngsters to allow for a smooth transition if we are to knock on the doors of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Meanwhile, we take this opportunity to congratulate Kenya’s victorious youngsters, their coaches and respective schools for a job well done.
Tournament organisers — the Coca-Cola Company — also deserve tribute for electing to invest in the future of a sport in which we flatter only to deceive.