19 April 2017

Kenya: Feuding FKF, KPL Leave Harambee Stars Exposed

The intended gains of the international friendly match between Kenya and Malawi on Tuesday were lost thanks to the continued discord between Football Kenya Federation and Kenyan Premier League.

FKF and KPL each opted to conduct their projects in isolation in the build up to this tie, and the result was a lethargic performance from Harambee Stars at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos.

FKF had planned the match with the aim of helping local-based players gain exposure as part of the preparations for next year's African Nations Championship, but the dates fell outside the Fifa calendar thereby presenting players with the difficult choice between club and country.

Instead of simplifying matters, KPL did not shelve weekend matches, and coach Stanley Okumbi found himself with a group of tired players. Many others missed the game after failing to secure permission from their clubs.

The playing surface in Machakos, which had hosted a SportPesa Premier League match pitting Kariobangi Sharks against Nakumatt on Monday, was simply unplayable.

Having had only hours of recovery time, most players yielded to the lure of earning the coveted national team caps and ventured onto the pitch, but it wasn't long before their fitness betrayed them.


Stars allowed the Flames, who were equally lethargic, to dominate proceedings in midfield with Gilbert Chirwa and Simeon Singa coming close.

Okumbi felt hard done and in his post-match interview, he pleaded with FKF and KPL to work together for the benefit of all parties.

"The players were tired. Many of them had to travel from outside Nairobi just to make it for this match and there is no way they could have been at their best," said Okumbi.

"It is not easy for any player to play two games in less than three days. The league games could have been halted because such games require more preparation than we had. KPL and FKF need to support each other."

In a game of few chances, Ulinzi Stars midfielder Samuel Onyango and Kariobangi Sharks forward Cavin Odongo had Kenya's best opportunities in the game but they fluffed their lines.

Despite the draw, Okumbi extended his unbeaten run to 11 matches, although Kenya's real test will come in June when they travel away to Sierra Leone for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.

Stars are in Group F alongside Sierra Leone, Ghana and Ethiopia.


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