Outshine them Stars, the nation has faith you will do us proud
Today at 11pm, the national football team Harambee Stars will make a grand return to the Africa Cup of Nations finals with a tough match against Algeria at the June 30 Stadium in Cairo, Egypt.
It has been 15 years since Harambee Stars took part in the competition. The last time Stars played at this level was in Tunisia in 2004 where they bowed out at the group stages.
As our lads take on the highly fancied Algerians led by Manchester City star Riyad Mahrez, there is a lot of expectation. Kenyans want nothing short of a victory from the team captained by Tottenham’s Victor Wanyama.
For a nation that has not come close to lifting the trophy, the expectations may seem misplaced, yet they are not without foundation. First, Football Kenya Federation (FKF) has ensured the team got the best kind of preparation any footballing nation can give those who are flying its flag.
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The team was taken to a camp outside the country, France, for three weeks so they could not only train in an atmosphere free of any encumbrance, but also gel and get a feel of top class facilities that can only lift their spirits and motivate them.
The team trained in the Rugby Football Federation (RFF) headquarters in Marcoussis, an exclusive Paris suburb, where players were able to concentrate on what lies ahead of them without distraction.
This has not been the case before.
Secondly, the government set aside Sh244million for the team’s preparations. Again, this was unprecedented and sets the bar very high for Harambee Stars.
It is remarkable that this time, we have been spared the embarrassing drama of players protesting over non-payment of their dues, which previously forced the captain to take duties that are not in his job description and stand his ground till the players are paid.
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The federation paid each player Sh750,000 even before the team reached Cairo in a move expected to motivate them ahead of today’s fixture.
Kenyan fans, therefore, have every reason to demand good results in Egypt. It is now upon the players and the officials to deliver. Granted, the Stars are in a tough group that also includes Senegal and Tanzania.
But in modern football, the pedigree of an opponent does not matter as much as preparations. Algeria and Senegal may be some of the best teams in Africa, but that is only on paper. The Stars are ready to outshine then.
While our players have what it takes to go toe to toe, literally, with the likes of Mahrez and Senegal’s Sadio Mane (Liverpool), they must make an inspiring start against Algeria tonight.
Even as Kenyans support the Stars, and hope for nothing but the best for them, they should not forget the words of coach Sebastian Migne who asked fans to lower their expectations. That does not mean he is out to lose, but only confirms that he knows his players, he knows their strengths and weaknesses and Kenyans should not come down hard on them if the results are not favourable.
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Today's results could determine what happens in the next matches against Tanzania and Senegal, and we therefore ask our boys to give their best on the pitch.
Like Wanyama would confirm, the likes of Mahrez and Mane are mortal beings not to be feared, after all, they will all be playing at the same level - the Africa Cup of Nations finals.
As they step into the pitch, let the players be assured that the entire country is behind them and they should play without fear.
Moreover, there is a lot at stake for the players.
There is a big number of scouts in this competition and Kenyan players could find themselves in books of top clubs in Europe. Egypt 2019 offers the opportunity for them to market their talent.
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Harambee Stars, it is your time to shine. Go, Stars, Go.
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Harambee StarsEgyptAfrica Cup of Nations