Which way forward for Stars?
The initial excitement and high hopes exhibited by Kenyan fans who attended the African Nations Championships qualifying match between Harambee Stars and Ethiopia on Saturday evening at the Nyayo National Stadium were quickly replaced by the all to familiar signs of frustrations.
Reason? A 2-0 aggregate loss to Ethiopia saw Stars hopes of making a debut in Chan go up in smoke.
Other previous attempts by Kenya to qualify for the tournament in 2009, 2011 and 2014 also ended in disappointment at the hands of Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi respectively.
The latest setback comes in the wake of Stars elimination from both the Olympic and All Africa Games qualifiers earlier this year at the hands of Botswana and Egypt.
Then there was that other loss to Lesotho in the preliminary phase of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers last September.
In total, Stars have suffered elimination from four major tournaments in the past 15 months alone.
The team has also lost in double the number of friendly matches it has either won or drawn over the past three years. The negative statistics are staggering!
“If you cannot convert penalties then you have a little chance of winning a football match,” Stars coach Bobby Williamson lamented after the game.
The Scot was referring to the two penalties his team failed to convert over the two games against Ethiopia. The misses from 12 yards by Kevin Kimani and Ali Abondo ultimately caused Kenya its chance of progressing in the competition.
Analysts also suggest Kenya’s poor performance is as a result of the dwindling standards of the game locally.
These have been caused by poor management and the poor standards of the Kenyan Premier League.
“If we cannot beat the likes of Lesotho, Ethiopia and Uganda, then with all due respect to these countries there is something terribly wrong somewhere,” renowned coach Bob Oyugi said.
His sentiments have been echoed by another former international Peter Lichungu.
“We have some players who play well in the Kenyan Premier League but then go missing when donning national colours,” Lichungu argues.
“Even Gor Mahia were a complete disappointment at the Cecafa games last year. We need to sit down and take stock of the standards of our game.”
Other football stakeholders including Football Kenya Federation Chairmanship aspirants Nick Mwendwa and Gor Semelang’o, have called for national team preparations for competitive engagements to be taken more seriously.