Inside Migne's troubled tenure as Harambee Stars coach

Tuesday August 13 2019

Ten days ago, former Harambee Stars coach Sebastien Migne publicly dared Football Kenya Federation (FKF) president Nick Mwendwa to sack him.

"If the federation wants to fire me, let them fire me. But again, if paying my salary is an issue, will they manage to pay out my contract?" he said.

The sack the Frenchman had asked for finally arrived on Monday evening, ending a 14-month stay at the helm of national football team Harambee Stars for the 47-year-old coach. His tenure started in May last year.

"We needed someone who would understand the challenges we face as a team. Someone who will understand if there is no training pitch, or if the lights went off," Mwendwa said during Migne’s unveiling. How times change!

That aggregate loss to Tanzania in Nairobi on August 4, which occasioned the team's elimination from the 2020 Africa Nations Championship (Chan) qualifiers proved the final straw for the abrasive Migne.

As a majority of thousands of fans moaned in disappointment at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, where Kenya lost 4-1 on post-match penalties, Nation Sport understands an influential politician who attended the game strongly recommended that Migne be relieved of his duties. That came to pass just as the dust seemed to be settling on a public backlash following Kenya’s poor performance in 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt in June.


On that occasion, Mwendwa had elected to protect his coach, telling whoever cared to listen that it was expensive to fire him with close to Sh50 million reportedly required to pay him off. A broke FKF couldn't afford that. But the landscape changed after that loss to Tanzania’s Taifa Stars.

Nation Sport has learnt that Migne was initially summoned to the federation's secretariat at Kandanda House in Nairobi by FKF’s acting CEO Barry Otieno.

The pressure was building but results were not forthcoming despite substantial funding from the government and sponsors. Defeats to Ghana in 2019 Afcon qualifiers, and losses to Senegal and Algeria in the tournament itself were understandable. But not against lowly Tanzania.

With Football Kenya Federation elections around the corner and Harambee Stars being an emotive a subject, Mwendwa and his crew were running out of excuses to give the delegates and government. At the same time, Migne had reportedly fallen out with some senior players, something which is understood to have speeded up his exit before the next round of competitive matches in September.

Something had to give. Talks between Migne, FKF officials and the coach's agent Joe Kamga led to Monday's decision to sack him.

"The federation wishes to thank coach Migne for his exemplary work and high standard of professionalism during his tenure, which culminated in the country qualifying for the 2019 Afcon tournament for the first time in 15 years," a statement sent to newsrooms by FKF’s acting CEO Barry Otieno read in part.

Migne is the third man to handle Harambee Stars since 2016 when Mwendwa took office. Other coaches who have handled Harambee Stars are Stanley Okumbi who had this job for two different spells, and Belgian Paul Put who only lasted three months on the hot seat.

That win over Ghana's Black Stars in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in Nairobi last September is one of Migne's biggest achievements in his tenure as Kenya’s coach.

Ultimately, he led to Kenya to the continental championship for the first time in 15 years even though the success was partly credited to a decision by the tournament’s organisers to expand the number of competing teams from 16 to 24.

Migne was initially questioned for his team selection ahead of 2019 Afcon. He left out the likes of Jesse Were, Allan Wanga, Anthony Akumu, and David Ochieng from his travelling party and picked Masoud Juma, John Avire, Paul Were and Ovella Ochieng who barely featured for Kenya.