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Why Harambee Stars is fast developing an identity crisis

FOOTBALL By Odindo Ayieko | October 17th 2021
Harambee Stars Duke Abuya (left) and Romimgue Kouame (centre) and Dadie Samassekou of Mali during 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers return match at the Nyayo National stadium. Oct 10, 2021. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Harambee Stars is fast developing an identity crisis of sorts in the playing unit.

Of the players that made the squad for the Harambee Stars in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt two years ago, only four players remain consistent in subsequent squads to date.

In the same manner with which the national team coach has been changing since the championships so has been the players.

Striker and new captain Michael Olunga, defenders Joseph Okumu and Eric ‘Marcelo’ Ouma and midfielder Eric Johanna have managed to retain their positions in the squad.

None of the three goalkeepers who were in the AFCON team are now in the Harambee Stars with Brian Bwire, now with Tusker FC after moving from Kariobangi Sharks now the holder of the number one jersey.

In two years, the Harambee Stars has played 12 competitive matches in the 2022 AFCON and 2022 World Cup qualifiers and registered only one win-away to Togo in a dead rubber encounter in the AFCON qualifiers.

During that period four coaches have managed the team from Frenchman Sebastian Migne who was the head coach during the 2019 AFCON finals, Francis Kimanzi, Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee and Engin Firat.

Curiously, each coach has introduced new faces in the squad with a few being retained.

“There is no consistency in the coaching department where we have had a new coach every six months. That is not good for development of players and we are seeing with the performance,” former AFC Leopards and Harambee Stars forward Boniface Ambani observed.

According to FKF president Nick Mwendwa, the biggest problem the country is facing is lack of quality players.

While appearing on NTV on Monday, Mwendwa said: “Even if you bring Jose Mourniho, even if you bring Mikel Arteta... .the work that needs to be done is that we need to bring talents to the table. For you to win, you need quality players.”

“Let us look at Mali for example. Are we better than them? The answer is that we are not because we never brought our players to that level.”

But questions abound how the faces in the playing unit keep changing. In two years, almost 50 players have donned the national colours.

Soon after the 2019 AFCON, new players were introduced among them attacking midfielder Duke Abuya, Boniface Muchiri, Kenneth Muguna, Nicholas Meja, Samuel Olwande, Johnstone Omurwa, Michael Kibwage, Whyvonne Isuza, Collins Agade and Lawrence Juma.

In a friendly match against Uganda three months after the AFCON, only goalkeeper Patrick Matasi, Eric Ouma, Eric Johanna and Michael Olunga were retained by then coach Francis Kimanzi.

Two weeks later, Kimanzi added new faces in a friendly against Mozambique in Nairobi. Goalkeeper Ian Otieno, Clifton Miheso, Timothy Odhiambo, Harun Shakava, Yusuf Mainge, Hillary Wandera, Teddy Akumu, Enosh Ochieng, Abdalla Hassan and Cliff Nyakeya were drafted into the team.

Kimanzi’s first competitive match as coach was in Cairo in November 2019 against Egypt where he managed a famous one all draw. Matasi was still the preferred goalkeeper, Olwande had forced his way into the team and there was also the return of Ayub Timbe

Against Togo later that November goalkeeper Matasi was dropped for Ian Otieno and Lawrence Juma was now in the first team.

Kimanzi was then tossed out and in came Jacob Mulee and with new faces.

Captain Victor Wanyama was dropped after away defeat to Comoros and FKF president Nick Mwendwa announced there will be changes in the squad to face Togo away.

“After drawing and losing against Comoros at home and away, we decided to rebuild this team, we decided to reboot it and we wanted to give it a new life, we wanted to change the team and I want to thank God, we also had a coach, who was thinking on the same lines and knew what we wanted,” Mwendwa said in a past interview.

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