Engin Firat: Simple things look difficult in Kenya!

Harambee Stars Coach Engin Firat during a press conference. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

For Harambee Stars coach Engin Firat, things which look so simple can be very difficult in Kenya.

This was the Turkish tactician's views after Harambee Stars were frustrated to a 1-1 draw by lowly-ranked Burundi in their Group F match of the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers played in Lilongwe, Malawi on Friday.

Duke Abuya came off the bench to give Stars a deserved 1-0 lead in the 72nd minute before a defensive mistake by Daniel Anyembe gifted Burundi the equaliser in the 85th minute when Sudi Abdalla pounced on the loose ball to rescue a point for The Swallows.

The result left Kenya third in Group F with four points same as Burundi, and five points behind leaders and their next opponents Ivory Coast. The Elephants saw off Gabon 1-0 on Friday, to maintain their 100% record in the qualifiers. Harambee Stars face the African champions at the same venue on Tuesday as Gabon host Gambia, while Burundi travel to Seychelles.

Speaking after the match, a visibly disappointed Firat blamed an administrative issue as one of the reasons for the draw.  

This is after Zak Vyner, an English-born defender who plays for Bristol City, and Tobias Knost, a former Germany U18 star from SC Verl missed out completely from the team sheet due to lack of proper documentation.

"We have five or six players who are injured, but today, three players who were not injured also missed out due to some mistakes that were done,” said Firat.

“We did all our tactical training with Zak Vyner. If Zak had been on the field today, we would have won.

“Sometimes people need to focus less on what's happening on the field and more on doing their jobs properly. Things which look so simple can be very difficult in Kenya.”

The duo missed out due to complications arising from their registration after changing nationalities.

Harambee Stars midfielder Timothy Ouma (right) in action against Mokono Eldhino of Burundi during their 2026 World Cup Qualifiers match, at Bingu Stadium, Lilongwe in Malawi on Friday. [FKF Media]

However, Firat believes Burundi's equaliser could have been avoided if Daniel Anyembe had kicked the ball out of play.

The Denmark-based defender was caught while trying to shield the ball from Burundi attacker Sudi Abdalla who managed to out-muscle him and roll the ball into an empty net.

"In this situation, it's so simple. You just need to kick the ball away, that's all. But sometimes the players like to show that they are controlling everything,” said Firat.

“They don't want to play the ball out; they want to play passing and everything, and these kinds of things you won't see at the top level. At the top level, they will even kick the ball out of the stadium.”

Former Harambee Stars, Shabana and Kisumu Posta player Elijah Onsika.[Courtesy]

Former Kisumu Posta, Shabana and Harambee Stars player Elijah Onsika weighed in on Stars poor show by calling out Firat for lack of awareness in the build up to the qualifiers.

“How do you call up players to the national team without checking on their availability in terms of eligibility. Secondly, you are calling players who are injured. Is that sane while the nation is fighting to get to the World Cup,” posed Onsika.

The former Kenyan international believes Firat should have used local talent who are fit and regularly playing in the FKF Premier League.

“Burundi was an easy opponent and we wasted ourselves by not winning the match. If Firat would have used and trusted the fit local-based players then we would have had six points. We need to trust our local players,” said Onsika.

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