Kenya: No Need Getting Worked Up, Stars Won't Make Qatar 2022 World Cup

8 September 2021
column

Before the advent of the internet and accompanying social media, it was not easy for an ordinary voice to be heard in the public sphere.

You had to go through a radio, newspaper or television, the traditional mass media, and a gatekeeper somewhere would decide whether what you were saying was good enough to be put through to the larger community.

Invariable, people with power, as media studies have repeatedly shown, are the ones who influenced what the media covered. Many voices got lost in this selective and discriminatory environment.

Not anymore. Now any Tom, Dick and Harry can put out any material to the public as long as they have a smart device and access to the internet.

And boy, are not people, including the village imbecile, taking advantage of this freedom and ability to practically post every opinion under the sun.

On Sunday, Harambee Stars held Rwanda to a 1-1 draw in Kigali in their second 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifier Group "E" match. Three days earlier Stars had been held to a barren draw by Uganda in Nairobi in their road to Qatar qualifying opener.

Posting on Facebook, a clearly agitated fan posited that had Harambee Stars coach Jacob Mulee not been a journalist (sic) - he hosts a radio talk show - the Kenyan sports media would by now have vilified him for his performance the way they did to his recent predecessors Sebastien Migne and Stanley Okumbi.

That because he was a fellow journalist- a wrong supposition by this fan, Mulee was not being subject to the critical scrutiny that a man on the hot Harambee Stars seat ought to be given, particularly on account of uninspiring results

What a preposterous observation.

It does not need a football pundit to conclude that Harambee Stars' mission to qualify for the 2022 World Cup is a doomed one, whether we hired Pep Guardiola, re-hired Francis Kimanzi or resurrected Reinhardt Fabisch, God bless his soul, and gave him his old job back.

Even the long-suffering, glory-starved, die-hard Harambee Stars fans are reluctantly resigned to the inevitable.

Why should the media cry over a long lost cause? Why flay a dead horse? Let me enumerate why playing in the World Cup will remain a far-fetched dream for Kenya.

First, we have never qualified for football's greatest showpiece in 12 successive attempts starting with our maiden participation in the 1974 qualifiers.

Of these 12, our best effort was the 1998 qualifiers. Harambee Stars, under Montenegrin Vojo Gardasevic, started in exciting fashion in the pre-qualifier, beating continental giants Algeria 3-1 in Nairobi and then limiting the north Africans to a 1-0 win in Algiers in the reverse fixture in June 1996 to sail through to the next round with a 3-2 aggregate win.

German coach Fabisch was brought in after a disastrous start by Kenya in the second round that saw them lose 3-1 to Guinea in Conakry ON November 10, 1996.

The German completely overhauled the team in 1997 bringing in many untested youngsters who went ahead to hold the mighty Super Eagles of Nigeria, featuring JJ Okocha, Sunday Oliseh, Emmanuel Amunika et al, to a 1-1 draw at a jam-packed Moi International Sports Centre.

Stars silenced Burkina Faso's Stallions 4-3 and a star studded Guinea, led by Aboubacar "Titi" Camara, 1-0 in Nairobi in a heady April to get a whole nation breathlessly excited about a possible World Cup qualification.

Nigeria though brought the Stars back to the ground in a crushing 3-0 win in Lagos two months later to all but deflate the World Cup dream.

Kenya beat the Burkinabe 4-2 in Ouagadougou to eventually finish third in the group with 10 points, three behind Nigeria, and two behind Guinea, and with the most goals scored: 11.

Secondly, be it in the World Cup qualifiers, or Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, starting our home fixture winless has always seen us end the campaign in tears. In fact, the six times we have qualified for the Nations Cup, we have won our starting home games, with no exception.

Thirdly, and I say this with pain, the quality of the current Harambee Stars team has no business playing at the World Cup.

Against a very poor Uganda side we barely got going. Stars could not string any meaningful passes, ball control was atrocious and overall tactical organisation wanting.

In Kigali, the performance was no different. The only notable positive was our physicality. We really bashed the smooth passing Rwandans.

On an individual level, Qatar-based striker Michael Olunga stood out. He scored from loose play in Kigali and was always a big threat with ball in the danger area. What he lacked was quality service.

Youngster Richard Ogada of Serbia's Red Star Belgrade impressed in Nairobi to attract rave reviews, but was a bit in the shadows in Kigali. I can't find another player worth mentioning positively.

Writing dispassionately, Harambee Stars are just playing at their level and there is no need for Kenyan fans to get worked up about the tough quest to qualify for the World Cup. We will not. Not now. Not in the near future.

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