Paris, France — Harambee Stars players were beginning to get a little bit homesick, not much because they are missing their people back at home, but because they were yet, if any chance, to get used to the food at their training base in Marcoussis, Paris.
The players were in low tones complaining that the food provided at their training facility didn't appeal much to them and they needed a Kenyan touch on the menu to give them full satisfaction as well as a taste of what they are used to back home.
Winger Ayub Timbe reached out to a long term friend in Belgium, a Kenyan Chef who has been in Europe for the last 13 years and had been providing him with a taste of home food during his stint before he moved to China.
And on Thursday morning, the Chef, Tony Nzomo, arrived at their base in Paris from Belgium and set out their lunch and dinner as well as breakfast for the next day.
"I feel really honored to be coming here to serve my nation in this capacity. I have served the nation in different capacities but this is special to me most importantly because I am a former sportsman and most of these players have been my friends for a long time," Nzomo told Capital Sport.
The professional Chef who worked at the Kenyan embassy in Brussels from 2006 to 2013 having arrived in Belgium from the Fairview Hotel in Nairobi, previously played hockey from Menengai High School to Nakuru Athletic Club and coached several schools around the capital city before venturing into career.
He is currently working in Belgium at one of the biggest bio organic hotels in the capital Brussels, having left his job at the embassy.
"I have known most of these players from when they were starting. I have seen them grow... the likes of Aboud (Omar), Mugubi (Wanyama), Timbe.. and a host of many other Kenyans who have been in Belgium. It gives me so much joy seeing them here preparing for the Cup of Nations and further being here serving them and serving my country, it's like a dream come true," the Chef stated.
"I have known him for a while and he is a good guy. Finally we will get to eat some bit of Kenyan food. Everyone is happy," Timbe said.
With the Chefs at the facility having already prepared a menu and planned for the entire stay of the team in Marcoussis, Nzomo will only make a few additions.
"They are saying they miss Ugali, Mandazi, Mahamri, Samosas etc so I will try to make some for them. There is a plan already so for me it is just to better what is there like add some spices to make the food tastier and get a bit of a Kenyan feel in the chicken, the rice etc," explained the professional chef.
Nzomo who has his own Facebook recipe page with almost 60,000 followers will also accompany the team to Cairo for the Africa Cup of Nations.
It is a common practice for teams to travel with their own culinary teams for major tournaments. When Portugal camped at this same facility ahead of their conquest in the 2016 Euros, they shut down the place and came with their own kitchen team.
A viral photo a few years back showed Kenya's national women's volleyball team, Malkia Strikers, heading out of the airport with bales of maize flour as they went out to Japan for a World Championship event.
For a sportsman, diet is one of the most fundamental things.
"I have been a sportsman before and I know what needs are there and what kinds of food they should eat for example less fats, less acids, less sugar, a bit of carbohydrates... so that makes me well placed to be here," Nzomo added.
Well, for the next few days, the Stars players are going to enjoy some bit of ugali for lunch. Bonnappetit!
-Timothy Olobulu is reporting from Paris, France-
A lover of sports who seeks to tell the African story in an African way. Top ten finalist of the Abu Dhabi Sports Media Pearl Awards. Be it on the pitch, court, track, pool or course, the story will be told. On twitter @olobulu