NAIROBI, Kenya, January 1- When memories of 2014 are stirred it was the same old story for Kenyan football, nothing to write home about as the country slumped to the bottom scale of continental football.
From Harambee Stars embarrassing elimination in the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations pre- qualifiers, Football Kenya Federation (FKF) and Kenyan Premier League (KPL) wrangles, Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards poor outing in CAF assignments to the shambolic Football of the Year Awards, the country’s version of the beautiful game was indeed ugly.
Amid the disappointment, local giants Gor once again brought the glamour as they went on to retain the KPL title and be the most successful club in the country with 14 trophies.
Stars captain and English Premier League side Southampton midfielder Victor Wanyama’s had a brilliant year that saw him score his first goal against Hull City that proved the winner.
Big Vic as his team-mates refer him at the Saints has three goals so far this season and went on to win the English Premier League African Player of the Month for September.
-Failed Afcon campaign-
Kenya’s bid to qualify for the continental showpiece AFCON for the first time in a decade went up in smoke despite optimism from FKF with the head of State President Uhuru Kenyatta even sending the team to Brazil to watch a World Cup match against Nigeria and Argentina as motivation.
Stars started well, narrowly eliminating tiny Comoros 2-1 on aggregate in the first round but things fall apart when head coach Adel Amrouche was slapped by a two match ban by continental football governing body CAF for allegedly spitting on a fourth official in the first leg at Moroni.
That meant the Algerian born Belgian coach who dropped the country’s record scorer Dennis Oliech on disciplinary grounds would miss the second round against Lesotho where Kenya was stunned 1-0 on aggregate by the tiny nation to bow out in the pre-qualifiers for the first time ever, a new low.
What followed was a FKF-driven circus with the entire national team and technical bench disbanded, before Gor and Uganda Cranes tactician Bobby Williamson was hired as head coach assisted by former Stars long serving skipper Musa Otieno and former midfielder Simeone Mulama as the Team Manager.
Controversy emerged over the termination of Amrouche’s contract, with the Belgian on a five-year deal with reports he would seek redress at the Court of Arbitration for Sports still pending.
-Poor outing for Kenyan clubs-
Stars debacle was preceded by hopes of domestic titans K’Ogalo and arch rivals AFC Leopards to salvage the country’s pride in the CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup being snuffed out early as none of them went past the second round.
Gor having edged out Gabonese side US Bitam on post match penalties in the preliminary round, could not emulate the class of 1987 as they were humiliated 8-2 by Tunisian titans Esperance.
Rivals Leopards also failed to match up to the standards despite bundling out Ethiopian Defence FC when they went down 4-2 on aggregate to South African side SuperSport United in the second round.
With the hopes of K’Ogalo now pinned on the regional Cecafa Club Championships, the KPL champions were brushed aside with group stage elimination without a win.
-Gor re-write history-
Despite financial problems after their sponsors abandoned them in the close season and mass exodus of reserve keeper Ivo Mapunda, defenders Donald Mosoti, Ivan Anguyo, holding midfielder Anthony Akumu, Kevin Omondi, forwards Rama Salim and Shaban Kenga, Gor held on to the KPL title without losing at their Nairobi’s City Stadium citadel.
Leopards will want to erase memories of 2014 as quickly as possible after they ended the year trophy-less and dropped to sixth on the KPL log 41 points after chasing K’Ogalo to the title in 2013 and bagging GOtv Shield honours at the expense of their arch enemies.
Sofapaka, who were bogged by cash woes came close to upsetting the champions with a dizzying five-match winning run that saw them become the last team to beat Gor when they edged them 3-2 in an ill tempered match in Machakos that saw K’Ogalo banned from the County before being rewarded with GOtv Shield victory after missing out on KPL honours on final weekend.
Coaches were not spared either, with debutants Nakuru All Stars setting the pace by sacking German Oliver Page, before Western Stima followed by firing Francis Baraza, Leopards sending parking James Nadwa, KCB dismissing Abdallah Juma while Salim Ali resigned at Ulinzi Stars same as City Stars Robinson Ndumbuisi.
-Wrangles and ugly scenes-
The year was rounded off by bitter wars between the country’s governing body and KPL that are still simmering as we enter 2015.
First was the tussle of disciplinary bodies where FKF’s Independent Disciplinary Committee overturned KPL’s Independent Disciplinary and Complaints Committee (IDCC) rulings on Tuskers vs Muhoroni Youth and Sony Sugar vs AFC Leopards abandoned matches.
With the season ending without the cases being resolved, FKF went at loggerheads once more with KPL when President Sam Nyamweya, proposed introduction of an 18-team league format for 2015 and also the change of calendar that would see it begin in August.
The tussle that saw broadcast rights holders SuperSport threaten to pull out will be decided early January by a committee that includes members from world football governing body FIFA, FKF and KPL although in his New Year message, Nyamweya alluded to an expanded top flight.
President Uhuru stepped into the fray by calling for an end to the wrangles with his Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Arts and Culture, Dr. Hassan Wario, slamming FKF for threatening to take the top flight out of KPL’s management.
It was also a year that saw football hooliganism rear its ugly head on the country’s stands and streets as early as the season opening curtain raiser, Kenya Power Charity Cup in February.
The ugly scene continued to unfold along the year with Gor and Leopards once again being the main culprits that led the latter being disqualified and fined in the GOtv Shield, after a section of their fans caused chaos in their semi final against Sofapaka.
K’Ogalo were not spared either as they were fined for chaos in their KPL decider against Sofapaka in Machakos that led to property worth millions being destroyed.
Coaches, players and FKF criticised KPL for the 2014 Footballer of the Year Awards that saw Sofapaka midfielder Ekaliana Ndolo, crowned Footballer of the Year with questions raised on the criteria of nominees selection that saw Golden Boot winner Dan Sserunkuma who helped K’Ogalo retain the title miss out on the top list.
Other categories that raised eyebrows was the Coach of the Year that went to Chemelil Sugar’s Mike Mururi, with many feeling Sofapaka’s Sam Timbe who went six months without salary deserved to win it.
Another surprise was Gor custodian and captain Jerim Onyango who was named third behind winner Chemelil’s Jairus Adira and Mathare United’s Robert Mboya.
It is from this mediocrity that Kenyan football hopes to rise from the ashes in 2015 although no one will hold their breath in anticipation of better days ahead.