Harambee Stars coach Migne wants Kenyans to lower expectations

By Gilbert Wandera: Sunday, June 16th 2019 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Football
Harambee Stars coach Sebastien Migne. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

On May 14, 2019, Kenyan coach Sebastian Migne had a rare outburst as he named a provisional 27-man squad for a three-week training camp in France.

It was a historic moment for those who made the cut as Kenya was returning to the Africa Cup of Nations finals after a 15-year wait and Migne was not happy that some coaches and fans had criticised his selection as he picked two goalkeepers from the same club Kariobangi Sharks and dropped top striker Jesse Were.

The Frenchman particularly took issue with former Stars coach Jacob Mulee who was the last coach to take the team to the tournament.

It was a side of Migne not many people had seen since he took charge and the Frenchman says while he does not mind being criticised, a lot of the flak he received for his selection was not fair.

“We have professionalised everything and showed our quality by qualifying the team.

“When the coaches commented about our final selection, it was all negative and I did not like it,” he said as Stars entered its second week of training in France.

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Migne says since he was hired last year, his major aim has always been to improve the level of the team and he does everything to achieve that and takes issue that the same players he had been criticised for dropping had never won anything for Kenya.

“Some of those players I was being criticised for dropping had never won anything nor qualified the team to a major international tournament. Don’t tell me about the regional Council for East and Central Africa Football Association (CECAFA) Senior Challenge Cup.

“Furthermore, apart from Victor Wanyama, Kenya does not have any other player in a top league in the world and even Michael Olunga is in division two in Japan. For this reason, we must be realistic about our expectations and I believe what we achieved was something to be celebrated instead of the negative criticism.”

“I know everyone is waiting to crucify me if Kenya does not perform well in Egypt but I don’t fear. I always follow my conviction and the results we experienced in the last one year proves that I was right.”

Apart from the criticism about his selection, the coach’s decision to prefer local-based players was also something of a surprise at a time most tacticians preferred to use foreign based players. 

This decision he insists has worked and proved he was right as more local players have managed to cement their place in the team.

“I always follow my instinct and over the last few months, the local players have shown me that they have something to give to the team. Furthermore, there is not much difference between some foreign leagues and the local leagues and to me it does not matter where you play.

“I always prefer to help the local-based players to improve and this helps motivate them otherwise they will give up. With this mentality, we have shown that the national team is open to everyone. That anyone can come in and go out depending on their performance.”

Migne says having worked with veteran coach Claude LeRoy for nine years while at Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo Brazaville has influenced his performance in a big way.

“I worked for nine years with him and he taught me a lot of things about Africa. He is currently on holiday in France and we keep in touch a lot and he continues to guide me even today.

“We share a lot of things having been together for a long time. He is my first fan and it is unfortunate, he will not be in Egypt with Togo and I hope to make him proud with Kenya’s performance,” he says of the man who has handled five African sides and won the Africa Cup of Nations with Cameroon in 1988.

Having qualified to the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, Migne set up a training camp at the headquarters of the French Rugby Federation in a decision that was highly criticised in some quarters.

First of all, the Sh250 million needed to ensure the camp is a success was viewed as too much but to Migne, this is the basic that was required for Kenya to be at par with best in Africa.

“This is the least we can do if we hope to compete at the highest level. It is what our opponents are doing and for the first time Kenya is trying the same. It should be the norm rather than the exception.”

And now Migne believes Kenya will make an impact in Egypt and will try and be among the top 16 teams at the end of this campaign which will also be historic for the country.

“We are not going to Egypt as tourists. Against Algeria in our first match, we will try and give them a hard time and get a good result.”

“Football is always about pressure. When you have pressure it means you can compete at the highest level. It is an honour  to be here. But we need to be humble also in our expectations and the fans have to learn to support the team in good and bad moments. The players have already written one part of the story by qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations finals. They will show good value, spirit and ready to die for the team.”

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