Kenya v Cape Verde – PreviewNovember 11, 2015
The leagues may be on a break, but football never ends. Our very own, Kevin Gor here dissects our national team’s preparedness (or lack) for the massive assignment that awaits in the name of Cape Verde. Suffice to say he issues an impassioned clarion call for you and I to come out in our throngs to roar the Harambee Stars to victory, however improbable it may seem.
On Friday, 13 November, Kenya will host Cape Verde in the first leg of the second round of pre-World Cup 2018 qualifiers. The sides last met in June 2003 and Kenya proceeded to the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations! The Stars were under some leadership; Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee as head coach, Musa Otieno as captain. I can still see him racing to one corner, in a blurry haze, taking off shirt… Denis Oliech had scored!! We had completed the double over the Tubaroes Azuis, the Blue Sharks!
The Harambee Stars beat Mauritius 5-2 away, in the first round of the pre World Cup 2018 qualifiers only to fluff all their chances at Kasarani in the return fixture, settling for a barren draw despite an overwhelmingly dominant performance! Aggregate 5-2.
Their previous international assignment was against the Chipolopolo of Zambia in an AfCoN 2017 qualifier on Sunday 6th September. We lost 2-1, shot down by copper bullets at the Nyayo National Stadium with the fans’ disappointment eerily palpable.
There were a few issues in the Star’s camp: foreign players being asked to procure their own tickets with the federation promising them reimbursement; talk of indiscipline in the players’ hotel (two players allegedly had female company over, on the eve of the Chipolopolo clash) the head coach, seemingly unwilling to put his foot down on this errant behaviour. The Oliech in Nyayo wasn’t the one, we took to calling Denis the Menace- he’d lose the ball faster than the government does a loan, his sub Allan Wanga faring no better, but you have to field 10 outfield players, don’t you? Even McDonald Mariga had a call up to the side (which he politely declined) raising misgivings: perhaps there was a Head Chef behind the curtain in the Star’s kitchen, with Head Coach Bobby, being the first of many sous-chefs?! Finally, what was that about playing too many players off-position?
All seemed atoned for in the away game against Mauritius, 5 goals, including a Beckham-esque direct goal from a corner kick by Ayub Timbe. Off the pitch: the circus that runs the national team hadn’t let up. The Federation couldn’t get David ‘Calabar’ Owino a visa into South Africa (trust me, that’s one loooong story that we won’t get into) and turned away at the airport. Oh the embarrassment! Kenya One, Origi Arnold was asked to purchase another ticket himself, only that he hadn’t been reimbursed for his earlier one! The Federation would later affirm that they were in various stages of expiation, ranging from no payment to full reimbursement. After the second leg tie in Kasarani, the small matter of unpaid allowances reared its ugly head again. I remember walking (ish) home after that game, in the unenviable company of a few friends… well according to the Federation’s enigmatic chair, so did the Kenyan players – they hadn’t been paid hata bus fare.
The Federation released a press statement, appealing for government to take care of the players’ allowances, which government is meant to do, citing the Sports Act of 2013. The fact that the Federation had to remind government, for the umpteenth time of their obligations, is an aside really, especially with three days to the big game. I’ll let that sink in. Kencom House has since promised to honour their obligations, but not without taking a swipe at the federation and the shambles they had earlier left their national side in, in fact, there is talk of the formation of another management board to run the affairs of the Stars, in a less circussy manner of course!
17 players joined the Harambee Stars camp, Kasarani on Thursday 5th November, with training kicking off on Friday. Notably absent were Gor Mahia’s (unbeaten league Champions) Michael Olunga and Musa Mohammed; Ulinzi’s Bongi and Kevin Amwayi and Bandari’s Omar, who joined the camp on Monday 9th November; Tuesday saw the arrivals of foreign based Mugubi Wanyama (a Saint), Finland’s Clifton Miheso, Wanga (Tanzania) and Teddy Akumu (Sudan), with more players expected to join camp at the time of going to press. Ayub Timbe was withdrawn 16 minutes into his last game in the Belgian league and remains a doubt for the side (we might as well play without any wingers as a result). And finally Jesse Were, the league’s top scorer, and Tusker teammate abettor are still banned, indefinitely from Harambee Stars, allegedly guilty of gross indiscipline.
The Cape Verde of so many years past is no more, the Blue Sharks released a 22 man hit squad, who have been training in Portugal, and are expected in the country today. (I’ve ever had the chance of being at the airport when the Ethiopian
team that came to beat the Stars in a CHAN qualifier arrived. We drew 0-0 because we couldn’t take penalties right and were bundled 0-2 out of the tourney; I can’t help but wonder: what if I did something to one of the grandsons of Meles Zenawi that morning, like pry away one of the chips masala hot damsels at the end of their entourage. What if?) Cape Verde has exactly zero locally based players and less obviously 22 foreign based players in their contingent, of whom it wouldn’t hurt of you thought of them as the brothers of Nani, cousins of Vierra and childhood playmates of Varela.
The West Africans are ranked 32nd in the world, as per the latest rankings, 4th in Africa! Kenya moved 6 places up in those polls. But rankings don’t play games, do they now? Cape Verde, is yet to lose a tie this calendar year, they bent over Sao Tome and Principe 7-1; humbled, in a home–away-from-home friendly, Portugal 2-0 in Portugal; Drew 1-1 away against Tunisia, barren against DR Congo, Zambia and beat, in Egypt, Libya 1-2. And I highly doubt that their federation is as managerially astute as ours! I am yet to come across any correspondence about unpaid allowances and tickets, they were after all having their camp in Portugal! Also, I don’t speak Portuguese!
So, Friday, the 13th of November, your team, your country needs you at the Nyayo National Stadium, will you be there?
Sportpesa prediction: The UoN will have a friendly hosted by USIU at the same time. Put your money on a student from The University picking up one of the Nigerian female ‘ballers on loan at USIU. Otherwise, buy a ticko and COME OUT TO SUPPORT THE STARS!!!!! They need every last one of you!!