Harambee Stars’ early exit from the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Egypt was not surprising. Indeed, it is shocking to hear some Kenyans mourning the exit. But what exactly did we expect? Did Stars deserve to be in Egypt in the first place?
A farmer reaps what he sows. It is no different in football. If we invest in mediocrity, we should not expect excellent performance.
Kenyans have for far too long tolerated mediocrity in various sectors, including politics, business, education health and transport. This is why some Kenyans expected a miracle—Harambee Stars to win the Afcon title even when it was clear we just scrapped through to Egypt.
Truth is, Kenya was not supposed to have taken part in this year’s Afcon. Stars made it there by fluke. They had to rely on the equation of probabilities to qualify for the continental football tournament. During the qualifiers, Kenya was beaten by Sierra Leone in Freetown during the first leg. Stars were trailing the group. However, the international soccer governing body, Fifa, banned Sierra Leone from all competitions owing to wrangles within the West African country’s own soccer management organisation.
Thus, Kenya was awarded the three points of what should have been the second leg in Nairobi without kicking a ball. By dint of that, Stars sneaked into Afcon. After playing all the three matches in Group C, Kenya was again relying on probabilities to move to the knock-out stages. It did not work.
Probably aware of the team’s shortcomings, President Uhuru Kenyatta was spot on when, as he flagged off the national team to Egypt, told the lads to “have fun” and experience of continental contests. Which is what our boys did. They presumably had fun.
We have to temper patriotism with success. It despicable when we continue to swallow bitter pills on an annual calendar in the name of patriotism. Apart from goalkeeper Patrick Matasi’s heroics on their last match of the tournament, in which they were thrashed 3-0 by Algeria, there is little to write home about Harambee Stars presence in Afcon.
A dysfunctional team that had issues with selection, Stars display tactless football devoid of flair and class. What’s worse, the coach inexplicably left out some of the best players, such as the now retired Allan Wanga, and yet expected to shine at Afcon. That is stretching our luck.
Madagascar and Benin, who were making their Afcon debut, demonstrated to the world the difference between commitment and mediocrity. The two tiny nations gallantly fought their way to the quarter-finals, where they were, however, knocked out. Kenya, appearing in the competition for the fourth time returned home with a lot of excuses, as usual.
The problems run deep in Kenyan football. For instance, save for Gor Mahia, no team in the local league can attract a sizeable crowd of fans to the stadium for local matches.
Perhaps Kenyans, led by Sports Cabinet secretary Amina Mohamed ought to go back to the drawing board and retrace our steps. Some time back, Cecafa secretary-general Nicholas Musonye, bemoaned the tendency by Kenyans to fill social joints to watch English Premier League (EPL) teams play instead of filling stadiums to support local teams. He was right then and still is.
What I know for sure is that I am one of the millions of Kenyans eagerly waiting for EPL to enjoy some exciting football lacking in local league. – The author is a Revise Editor at the People Daily—[email protected]