The message from CECAFA Secretary General Nicholas Musonye ahead of next Saturday’s CECAFA Cup; “The Kenya team must go all the way to the final so that we have a good competition”. The draw for the competition was released on Thursday with Kenya placed in Group A alongside Zambia, Ethiopia and Djibouti. Group B pips 2009 COCAFA Champions Zimbabwe against Rwanda, Eritrea and Somali; whilst reigning champions Uganda are in Group C along with Tanzania, Burundi and Islanders Zanzibar.
One surprisingly absentee is Sudan, one of the strongest nations in the region reportedly missed the registration deadline so therefore will not be travelling to Kenya.
The question is whether Nicholas Musonye’s comment will act as a rallying cry to the Harambee Stars or pile further pressure onto a side that have been in turmoil over the last few weeks and are currently without an official head coach. I’m inclined to think the latter.
German coach Anthony Hey who, during his time as Kenya coach, threw more hissy fits than a over-sugared American teenager abandoned his role as head coach after his bosses at the FKL went over his head and re-instated several key Kenyan players (including misfiring striker Dennis Oliech and defender Edgar Ochieng) into their squad for a crucial World Cup/Africa Nations Cup qualifying game against Nigeria. Being a coach myself I can understand why Hey was so upset with his employers undermining him, but the fact of the matter is that Kenya needs these players in the squad if they were to hold onto any hope of beating Nigeria (a point proved by the fact Oliech got the opening goal in their eventual 2-3 loss). Hey has the right to run the side the way he feels fit, but you get the impression that these decisions are due to personal problems with certain individuals. Hey has a wider duty to Kenyan fans to work out these differences for the good of the national team. But after his failed attempts to cry foul on the shoulders of every high profile political friend in Nairobi, Hey sneaked out of Nairobi on a late night flight to Cairo and has seemingly cut all ties with the country.
Now, I’m no UN mediator, but the obvious solution here would have been for Hey to meet with his bosses at the FKL, allow both sides to explain their positions and try and come to some sort of middle ground before the country plays one of their biggest matches in recent years. But they didn’t, and I suppose thats as much a failure on FKL’s part as Hey’s.
Assistant coach Twahir Muhiddin has taken control of the side for the time being, whilst the FKL try and untangle themselves out of a quagmire that could see them lose a considerable amount of money if they are forced to fire the disgruntled German.
Kenya’s CECAFA Cup squad is also without the expertise of six of their most talented players; Dennis Oliech, Emmanuel Ake, Victor Mugabe, Macdonald Mariga, Musa Otieno and Peter Opiyo.
With all of this rumbling on what the CECAFA supremo should really be doing is encouraging Kenyan fans to rally around their national side rather than place undue pressure on the Stars.
Despite all of this I feel that Kenyan fans should be going into the tournament feeling quietly confident that their side can reach at least the quarter finals. The performance against Nigeria was encouraging, Twahir seems to have shunned the negative 5-3-2 formation deployed by Hey and that should allow him to work on fielding a more balanced side that can be more effective in the transition.