IN CAIRO, EGYPT
Kenya can get to the level where they are consistently among Africa’s best eight nations, Football Kenya Federation president Nick Mwendwa has said.
Speaking in Cairo ahead of Thursday’s Confederation of African Football Congress and 2021 Afcon qualifiers draw, Mwendwa said the federation had a long term plan geared towards returning Kenya to the days when Harambee Stars were amongst Africa’s best football teams.
“We want to be perennial participants at the Africa Cup of Nations. We want to be there every two years because when you are there you gain experience and get better.
“We have a clearly laid out plan for qualifying for the 2021 finals and beyond. Making it to the 2019 finals in Egypt was a good thing for us, we have learnt plenty of lessons. We want to make it to Chan next year and Afcon the year after,” said Mwendwa.
Kenya were knocked out of the competition in the group stages, losing two matches (0-2 versus Algeria, 0-3 versus Senegal) and beating Tanzania (3-2).
They failed to make the round of 16 from the initial 24 nations that started in the expanded tournament.
Even though Stars won a match, failing to make the last 16 was a far cry from the period between 1988 to 1992 when Kenya qualified for three consecutive editions of the Africa Cup of Nations tournament, then an eight-nation tournament.
“Results are never guaranteed but good work in the end shows you are doing something. With the youth teams we are building – under-13, under-15 - and with the centres of excellence we have, we can be producing a crop of fresh talent every year and eventually have big pool of high quality players to select to the national team,” said Mwendwa.
He gave the example of Senegal, who will clash with Algeria in the final tomorrow, that had a pool of 75 professional players plying their trade outside their home country and who were available for national selection.
The Kenyan football boss defended the much-criticised Harambee Stars coach Sebastien Migne saying injury to key players jolted his plans.
He said the Frenchman had a contract with the federation that ran through to 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.
Mwendwa cautioned Kenyans not too have so much expectations in international football if the foundations for success had not been built.
“Building a national team takes at least 10 years. It is not a job for one-two years. It is a long term venture. The more successful countries are spending millions of dollars on their football, much more than the even Sh260 million that Harambee Stars had and that people have been talking about.”
Mwendwa said running the federation was challenging but he was focused on raising the game in the country to the level where a nation of over 40 million people deserved it to be.