Class of Tunisia 2004: Where are they are now?

Friday June 21 2019

Harambee Stars players line-up for a match during the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia. PHOTO | FILE |

Harambee Stars players line-up for a match during the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia. PHOTO | FILE |  

CHARLES NYENDE
By CHARLES NYENDE
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IN CAIRO, EGYPT

We catch up with the Kenya squad that last played in the Africa Cup of Nations in 2004 and find out how they felt when they qualified for the continental final, their assessment of the current team and what they are doing with their lives now, 15 years later.

The questions posed were: When did you retire from the national team? How did you feel when Kenya qualified for the 2004 final?

What would you tell the team that is going for Egypt 2019? What are you currently doing with your life? (Age in 2004, and club in 2004 in brackets).

Francis Onyiso Okoth

Goalkeeper

16 November 1972 (aged 31, Ulinzi Stars)

Last played for Kenya in 2007

“I felt great of course. We had worked really hard and deserved to go for the Nations Cup.

“The group is not that easy. They need to work really hard. According to me it will be difficult for them. But every coach has his own plans and if they train well and prepare well, nothing is impossible. I wish them all the best.”

Currently: Ulinzi Stars assistant coach/goalkeeper trainer.

Duncan Ochieng

Goalkeeper

31 August 1978 (aged 25)

(Mathare United) Played last for Kenya in 2013 (Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup)

“Any dream of an African player is to feature in the Africa Cup of Nations. I always wanted to play in the Nations Cup. I was the number two goalkeeper to Francis Onyiso but I really wanted to taste action and I was fielded in our final group match against Burkina Faso which we won.”

“During our time in 2004 we had very few professional players, players who were playing outside the country. The biggest player then was Mike Okoth who had played in Europe for a while. But the current team is bursting with professionals playing in leagues abroad.

“If they prepare well they will go to the next round and who knows from there.”

Currently: Player/goalkeeper coach at Tusker FC.

Walter Odede Amimo

Midfield

11 November 1974 (aged 29)(Mathare United)

Last played for Kenya in 2002

“It was the culmination of many days of work. It was the fruits of our efforts and I was so ecstatic.

“The reward of playing in the Africa Cup of Nations was a motivation.”

“The team has many foreign-based professionals and that will help a lot. In our year the professionals were very few.

“They should have trained for longer together, however it will all be up to the coach and what he does with them.”

Currently: Works at Kenya Ports Authority in Mombasa.

George Japheth Waweru

Defence

12 October 1978 (aged 25) (Tusker)

Last played for Kenya in 2004

“It was one of the greatest moments of my playing career. When Oliech scored that goal that sent us through it was almost a life-changing moment. We knew we had to win to make it to Tunisia. I felt tremendous pride I was going to play at such a high level for the first time in my career.”

“Playing at the Nations Cup is a very high level. Let the players go and play to their level best and sell themselves. If you play well you will get noticed and you will go far. They should think beyond playing here in Kenya. It will all depend on their performance. A do not know how the will play in Egypt; that is up to the coach. But your last game will determine who you are.”

Currently: Football youth coach based in Nairobi.

James Omondi

Midfield

30 December 1980 (aged 23) (Thika United)

Last played for Kenya in 2002

“Remember we had been out of the Nations Cup for so long so it was sheer joy to qualify. We had been really looking forward to participating.”

“Honestly, they have had the best preparations — going for training camp abroad.

“They have been given everything. They have all the chances to perform and surpass our record.

“The onus will be on them. They have no excuse.”

Currently: Technical Director, Ligi Ndogo.

Thomas Juma Oundo

Midfield

23 September 1976 (aged 27) (Sweden, Friska Viljor)

“We were so happy. It was a big opportunity for us to show our talent. We did not believe we would ever qualify for the Nations Cup. Most of us were not that exposed and we had not qualified for a long time. It was like going to play in the World Cup. Our game was not used to reaching that level. It was a dream come true. We never thought in our careers we would make it to the African finals.”

“The team is okay in terms of planning. They have been together for a while. They have a good coach. They are well motivated. The players have been exposed at the top level. Look at Victor Wanyama playing in the Uefa Champions League final. They will have not have stage fright at the Nations Cup.”

Currently: Assistant coach/team manager, AFC Leopards.

Robert Mambo Mumba

Midfield

25 October 1978 (aged 25)

(Belgium, Gent) Last played for Kenya in 2011

“Amazing feeling. It was an amazing football journey for me. We knew each other, we had good chemistry. We understood each other. We knew we were talented. We were like a family. Our line-up was set and we were patient and we reaped what we sowed.”

“If this team can beat Ghana, they can beat anybody.

“But we should not put too much pressure on them. Let is just tell them to play football in Egypt. They have already achieved so much by just qualifying for the tournament. I congratulate them. Let them have fun and enjoy. Who knows, they may do better than us.”

Currently: Under-17 coach of FC Gute in Visby, Sweden.

Titus Mulama

Midfield

6 August 1980 (aged 23)

(Mathare United)

Last played for Kenya in 2012.

“It was very satisfying. That was our goal from 2011 when we started our preparations. And we worked hard to achieve it. “It is a good team. Youthful, well exposed. Many have played outside and have experience playing at a high level. They have a good chance to express themselves and go far in the tournament. They have nothing to fear.”

Currently: Football youth coach based in Nairobi.

Maurice Sunguti

Forward

6 October 1977 (aged 26) (Sweden, Friska Viljor)

Last played for Kenya in 2008

“Everybody wanted to make it to Tunisia. It was a wonderful feeling to realise we had qualified after a long time.” “This is a very good squad.

I would go further and say it is one of the best ever assembled Harambee Stars team. It can cause some upsets in Egypt.

“They have a lot of professionals and have had good preparations.

We are in the same group with Senegal and Algeria but there is no big or small team in Africa anymore.

“With good mental strength they will perform.”

Currently: Runs football academy in Syokimau.

Philip Opiyo

Defence

27 February 1979 (aged 24) (South Africa, Free State Stars)

Played last for Kenya 2009

“I felt like I was one of the best players in Africa. If you make it to that level, you play comfortably and you know you are playing with the top professionals from the continent. I felt highly motivated.”

“Football has grown a lot in Africa. Many Kenyan players become professionals at a very young age. The exposure this current team has should make them compete well.

“The players should have self-belief they can do it. They should have self-belief in their ability. They should now know that all players at the Nations Cup are of almost equal ability. We have top players the likes of Wanyama, Olunga. We can do it.”

Currently: Works at Kenya Ports Authority in Mombasa.

Musa Otieno

Defence

29 December 1973 (aged 30) (South Africa, Cape Town Santos)

Last played for Kenya 2010

“It was a dream come come true. This was like the World Cup of Africa. And it had taken us a long time to qualify — over 10 years. It was also coming towards the end of my playing career. It was pure joy for me. Congratulations to the team, the technical bench and Football Kenya Federation.

We have qualified with a very young team. They are a good squad. Their preparations have been good. In this era they are well exposed and they are also getting good support from the government unlike our days.

The core of the team have played under different coaches, have played abroad. I know they can handle themselves well in Egypt. In fact, I will say they are one of the best assembled teams Kenya has ever had. They should go to Egypt and enjoy themselves.”

Football youth coach.

Currently: Owner of a football academy based in Nairobi.

Mike Okoth Origi

Forward

16 November 1967 (aged 36) (Belgium, Heusden-Zolder)

Last played for Kenya in 2004

“The Afcon is the biggest football tournament in Africa and it was a big opportunity for us to play at such a stage. It was a big deal. It is not often that you get a chance to play at that level.”

“I do not know most of the players and I have just watched a few of their matches. They have talent so everything is possible. If they get good preparations and put their minds to it, they can perform. But they are a small team in Africa in football terms and they will have to fight for every inch.”

Currently: Football manager based in Belgium.

John Wamalwa Baraza

Forward

3 June 1974 (aged 29)

(Sweden, IF Sylvia)

Last played for Kenya in 2012

“You always want to go to the African finals as a player. We had worked so hard and were so happy that we would be featuring in the biggest stage in Africa.”

“This team is very good. The players are young and hungry. They are capable. They can go far in the tournament; do better than what we did in 2004.”

Currently: Coach of Sofapaka.

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