Kenyan football will mark 37 years since Harambee Stars went to hostile Uganda and retained the East and Central African Senior Challenge Cup in 1982.
Kenya had won the Cup a year earlier in Tanzania but faced a Herculean task of not only retaining the title in the modern era of the tournament but also defeating Uganda Cranes in Kampala.
Beat the hosts they did at the difficult-to-get-results-for-a-visiting-team Nakivubo Stadium and went on to retain the crown in Nairobi to cement their reputation as the top team in the region — then.
The Kenyans are back on Ugandan soil with local tactician Francis Kimanzi at the helm assisted by Zedekiah “Zico” Otieno.
Anxious fans are no doubt asking several questions: what, when and how will the new look squad under Kimanzi perform? Who will clinch the glittering trophy in Kampala? Will Kimanzi manage to restore Kenyan confidence, capture the lost glory and emulate Marshall Mulwa, who steered Kenya to three consecutive wins — 1981 in Dar es Salaam, 1982 in Kampala and 1983 in Nairobi at Nairobi West Sports Complex (later named Nyayo National Stadium).
Harambee Stars return to Kampala carries special interest in the hearts of ardent fans who have been disappointed with the six past tournaments held in Uganda where Kenya failed to win the Cup on the soil of the old enemy.
Between 1984 and 2012, the Federation of Uganda Football Association (Fufa) have hosted the event six times that is in 1984, 1991, 1995, 2000, 2008 and 2012.
Kenya has failed to get their hands on the cup on all those campaigns, coming agonising close in 2008 and 2012 only to lose to Uganda Cranes in both finals, 0-1 and 1-2 respectively.
In 1999 Kenya won in Rwanda, triumphed 2004 in Tanzania and recaptured the title at home in 2017 with a 3-2 victory over the hard fighting Zanzibar at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos.
Kenya lost in the final of the Cecafa Under-20 Youth Challenge Cup to Tanzania in Jinja to illustrate that Uganda has been a poor hunting ground for the country.
Kenyans are anxiously waiting to see whether Kimanzi will perform miracles where his predecessors have failed. For now, Harambee Starlets sterling outing in the Cecafa Women Senior Challenge Cup where they beat hosts Tanzania 2-0 in the final in Dar es Salaam last week should inspire the men’s team to emulate them.
Football fans, critics and analysts have been asking the secret behind Mulwa’s success during his glorious years of the early eighties.
LUCK OR JUJU?
Was it luck? Juju? These is the frequent pondering of football followers on this local coach who dared achieve what many foreign tacticians only dreamed of doing. And he achieved all these without a deputy.
Kimanzi has an arduous task in this regional championships and other major assignments ahead, namely, the 2020 African Cup of Nations and 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
Harambee Stars recent 2021 Afcon qualifier identical draws of 1-1 with Egypt and Togo seem to have lifted the team’s morale and confidence ahead of the Ugandan tournament.
Mulwa, a German-trained tactician was a disciplinarian which enabled him to bring oneness and achieve better results as players lived in harmony in the camp irrespective of their ethnic background and clubs.
This is one area Kimanzi with his technical bench and the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) must ruthlessly try to achieve.
The 1982 Senior Challenge Cup in Uganda came after the Kenyan top league had just ended and AFC Leopards had triumphed for the third consecutive year.
Harambee Stars’ magnificent show in Kampala in 1982 was motivated by AFC Leopards success in the East and Central African Club Championships with 1-0 final win over debutants Zimbabwe’s Rio Tinto Club at the City Stadium early in 1982.
Ingwe players were in top form, determined and ready to compete and bring honour and they never let down Mulwa and, indeed their country.
Mulwa’s invincible Harambee Stars of 1982 comprised captain and goalkeeper Mahmoud Abbas with Washington Muhanji his deputy.
In defence were Peter “Bassanga” Otieno, Hussein Kheri (deceased), Martin “Oswayo” Ochieng’, John “Bobby” Ogolla, Josephat “Controller” Murila and Jared Ingutia (deceased), Sammy Taabu, (deceased) was the linkman in a midfield that also had Douglas Mutua, Wilberforce “Maradona” Mulamba, Elly Adero (assistant captain), Nahashon Mahila (deceased), Daniel “Dino” Kitavi, William Onyango (deceased).
Powerful goal poacher Joe “JJ” Masiga had, Nicholas Lukati, James Nandwa, and Ambrose “Golden Boy” Ayoyi as his fellow front runners.
Uganda Cranes squad was made up of Jamil Kasirye, Moses Nsereko, John Latigo, Moses Sentamu, Philip Omondi and Jimmy Kirunda.
Others were Godfrey Katerega, Timothy Ayieko, Issa “Golden Boy’ Sekatawa and Patrick Kamoga.
Looking at the encouraging results of matches Harambee Stars have played since the appointment of Kimanzi, one is inclined to say that the team stands a better chance of lifting the title from right under the Ugandans’ noses.
Ugandans too are aware that the Kenyans have come fully prepared for any eventuality.
Harambee Stars, then defending champions, surrendered the Cup in Uganda in 1984? Will they do the same in Uganda 2019? All will depend on how they open the defence of the title.
Kenya are in Pool “B” alongside Zanzibar, Tanzania and Sudan.
Group “A” has Uganda Cranes, Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia.