Guinea Bissau vs. Kenya: a 90-minute summary of everything wrong with Kenyan football
The last time Harambee Stars travelled for a game, they had to wait for hours for a plane to take them to Cape Verde. We were not worried, because we are a last minute nation. There’s no hurry in Africa after all. They finally travelled, and arrived two hours to the game after flying for more than 8 hours. The team gave a lackluster performance despite having been motivated before they left the country by being paid their allowances in cash, behind Nyayo stadium, like they were some village team who didn’t trust their manager to deposit the proceeds of winning a village tournament in their m-pesa accounts.
That was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. Enough was enough. The football management needed an overhaul. Since fish rots from the head, we never got tired of singing ‘Nyamweya Must Go’ despite him boldly claiming he is the best in this country to run football. Sensing a hurricane of humiliation approaching, Nyamweya did what he should have done 1000 years ago- announce that he would not be seeking reelection for the FKF top seat. Is there anyone in this generation who can name Nyamweya’s predecessor without referring to google? Does google even have an answer to that? Just asking…
With Nyamweya out, there was finally hope for Kenyan football. We just had to avoid electing Ambrose Rachier to realize that hope.
The youthful Nick Mwendwa won the election with a landslide victory, and anyone who loves football celebrated the victory. A new day for Kenyan soccer lovers, or so we hoped. Everyone was talking big again, we were allowed to dream again. We weren’t talking the AFCON- a tournament we have only featured in 5 times in our history and have never gone beyond round 1, we were talking the World Cup. We were dreaming being placed in the group of death with Spain, Argentina and Italy and being the group’s whipping boys. Dreams are valid.
No sooner had we started hoping than Nick Mwendwa started shattering that hope. His first task was to replace the experienced and going on well Bobby Williamson with a slightly unknown Stanley Okumbi. I too don’t know who Okumbi is, but they say that he was at one time the coach of Mathare United. We wanted to ask questions. Questions like; why was Williamson dismissed? What criteria was used to settle on Okumbi as Bobby’s replacement? What are Okumbi’s credentials? But we did not, because we wanted to give the new FKF president the benefit of doubt. We didn’t want to have trust issues so early into our relationship. Though the main reason we did not ask those questions is because we come from a country where you get branded anti-development whenever you ask such questions.
Our first serious test of the new regime came in the form of Guinea Bissau, a country ranked at position 141 in the world. It was supposed to be easy, it was supposed to be three points in the bag. This was the first step in righting the past wrongs. We chartered a plane for the Stars, and grumbled a little when a whopping 18 officials- their purpose on that trip not explained, also accompanied the team. We were concentrating on the task at hand.
The performance on the pitch reflected the way we run our football. Lacklustre, laid back and choosing not to get worried until the last minute when it becomes obvious that the ship is sinking.
Guinea Bissau scored a classic goal, a bullet header that was celebrated in all quarters except the Stars corner. It wouldn’t have gone in had our defender not backtracked so that he could make a bicycle kick clearance. What was he thinking? That Kenyans would erect a statue of his bicycle kick clearance at the entrance of Nyayo Stadium? After that, no one attempted to get an equaliser until the 92nd minute when we had our first serious goal challenge.
At other times, we just preferred to pass the ball around and show the opponents that we had someone playing in the best league in the world while their captain was plying his trying in the lower leagues in France. Tired of being frustrated by the Guinea defence, Olunga drifted off to the flanks and no notable striker was left in the central position. What formation we were we even playing in the game? What was our strategy to recover from being a goal down? Was the game standard procedure to the players and only mattered to us as fans? Did they care that they were losing?
My dad asked more than ten times who the Kenyan coach was, and whether he was in the stadium. Okumbi sat, relaxed, in the bench for most of the game, looking unmoved by the performance his team was putting out. I know we will be given the usual excuses- it was his first assignment, give him time blah blah blah. The problem is, there is no time. This is not a league where you have 37 more games to get back on track, we are now three points behind qualification for the next edition of AFCON. We are now bottom of our group, with a point from three matches.
Fun fact: Here’s Guinea Bissau’s impressive AFCON record.
1996- Withdrew during the qualifiers
1998- Banned for withdrawing from the competition in 1996
2008- Did not register for the competition
Their only football achievement is that they were at some time runners up in the AmilcarCablar Cup, a tournament that wound up in 2007. See the type of teams we lose to? Is that how you, Harambee Stars, repay the faith we have in you? Forget the faith, we have lots of it to give such that we will believe you attended school if you just show us a picture of you in a graduation gown instead of showing us your certificates. Is that the best way to thank us for paying taxes such that the government can charter you a plane for your away games? Why should we buy tickets to watch your home games when it is not even worth watching you on TV? Why should we, when you walk around the pitch like a boy inspecting his father’s compound on where to build his thigira?
Say something, we are walking away.
By the way, next time there is space for 18 extra persons on the plane, remember to take members of the youth team with potential to break into the national team for exposure.