Gloom had crept in on Kenya national football team Harambee Stars.
When Sebastien Migne’s 15-month sovereignty as head coach came to an end on Monday evening after Football Kenya Federation (FKF) terminated his contract, it vanished with unanswered questions surrounding the Frenchman’s inability to steer Stars' ship to stardom.
Migne’s brief, which was to take three years, was simple; bring back the shinning bit and allure of the football team.
Granted, the 46-year-old led Harambee Stars to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, but that is where all the goodies ended.
Dismal and disjointed shows in Cairo (bar that 3-2 victory over Tanzania), coupled with questionable player selection and failure to qualify for the CHAN 2020 after losing to Tanzania through penalty shootouts, did Migne in.
But three days later, the man, who guided Kenya to their best-ever Fifa ranking (68), has returned. Francis Kimanzi is back.
Seven years since he was sacked on his second stint as the national team coach, Kimanzi seeks to make his third stint at the helm more memorable.
“I am glad to be back and lead the team yet again. I had been an understudy of Migne and he even vouched for my appointment,” said Kimanzi yesterday.
“He had my support throughout our assignments and I want to build on the foundation we laid and guide the team back to its glory.”
When Kimanzi was sacked on June 19, 2012, he walked away with pride. He hardly smiled though, but it was evident then, that he was not yet done with Stars.
In his absence, seven coaches have come and gone. Talents have been unveiled, while others ignored. There have been hugs and kisses as well as tears of anguish and letdown; a cocktail of feelings in the Harambee Stars quarters.
Just how different the place has been. Over the years, Kenya slid 46 places to the current 106.
Asked what his immediate plans were;
“To go back and build on the foundation we began. We (and his assistant Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno) are lucky to have come on board with this kind of an environment. We now need to fix it on our own way,” he said.
First in their in-tray will be a tricky away trip to Egypt in November (between 9 and 10) for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers.
Kenya have been grouped with Egypt, Togo and Comoros in Group G of the qualifiers.
The risk of the quandary at Harambee Stars intensifying perhaps helps to illuminate the rush with which FKF settled for Migne’s replacement.
“I was given a two-year contract in 2018 as Harambee Stars assistant coach and national U-23 head coach. But now that I am taking over as the head coach, I think we will need to review that," said Kimanzi.
“We made a huge step in qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations and would like to emulate that feat. The environment we are operating in is conducive for us to perform better than we did in 2008.”
Fans’ enthusiasm and expectations had tumbled since Kenya lost to Tanzania. The peril was that adversity would follow next, then catastrophe; more divisions.
Kimanzi’s arrival should help stems the bleeding. Delusion should now give birth to something better; hope exhilaration, passion and buoyancy.