NAIROBI, November 17- Battered, bruised and sapped of any morale, Harambee Stars crashed out of the 2018 World Cup on Tuesday night when Cape Verde clinched a 2-0 victory in Praia to dump them out 2-1 on aggregate in their second round pre-qualifier.
The feeling of ennui will once again sweep across a country that packaged all her hopes in the #RohoJuu that trended worldwide, making other global users of micro blogging site Twitter stand up and take notice.
Bereft of any worthy preparations amid high drama of tragic proportions, the Roho Juu (indefatigable spirit, never say die attitude) took the place of logic as a nation dared to dream when Stars lifted themselves from the depths of despair to stun high flying Cape Verde 1-0 in the first leg at home last Friday.
But instead of building on that lifeline thrown by Michael Olunga’s ninth minute goal at Nyayo National Stadium, the inept cocktail of the lords of football and Ministry of Sports mandarins contrived to knock out the stuffing out of a group of players who had fashioned a stay of execution under the most strenuous of circumstances.
The inquest into the delayed departure of the team to Cape Verde in a chartered flight that started on Tuesday when top ministry officials and Football Kenya Federation boss, Sam Nyamweya, were quizzed by police will now turn into full scale demands for heads to roll from an angry nation.
Such was the zeal of the #RohoJuu push that President Uhuru Kenyatta tweeted “I agree with the message from all of you to Harambee Stars, defend well, pass accurately and score as many goals #RohoJuu.”
It is his highest office in the land that should lead a nation being drenched by El Nino rains that caused chaos in the seat of his Government, Nairobi, on the same night in seeking a lasting solution to the malaise that runs in the upper echelons of Kenyan football.
If the flight to Praia was daunting to the players who arrived there literally moments to kick-off was daunting, then the return journey home in the propeller plane that took over 10 hours to get there will surely, be the ride from hell with nothing to show for their lion-hearted bravely.
Although he was released from custody after turning himself in for questioning, FKF boss Nyamweya and three top ministry officials including Principal Secretary, Richard Ekai, who were also quizzed over the departure debacle by police now have a genuine case to answer.
Captain Victor Wanyama and his charges fought gallantly for the shirt and individual pride but against such clumsy management from those entrusted with the game, they ultimately stood no chance.
It’s a minor miracle they shipped in the first; an own goal, moments before the breather, let alone they were standing on the pitch after such a long journey and no moment of rest and upon the start of the second, the hosts quickly added a second.
The broken bodies in white could not fashion a response, even though an away goal on the day could still have seen them through, and no one could have asked more from them. If there was pride in losing, then that was it.
Since Kenya was born and evolved from a British protectorate, colony and now independent republic, the World Cup dream remains elusive, again due to calamity of our own doing.
Amid the razzmatazz and media circus surrounding the inquiry of when the Sh17m for the Cape Verde trip left the Government coffers to FKF and why it took over 10 hours of delay for the chartered plane to leave Nairobi, a group of demoralised players will be forced to pick up the pieces of personal turmoil.
Before the start of the World Cup pre-qualifiers that saw Kenya sweep past hapless minnows Mauritius 5-2 in the first round before falling to Cape Verde, Wanyama, the midfield dynamo who plies his trade in England for Southampton, made good preparations his chosen chorus.
His words were not heeded and when he led his teammates to strike for pay on Monday, it was the last straw as the Government that had announced it was taking over the team dragged its feet in offsetting allowances and ticket refunds with a broke federation using that declaration to absolve themselves from responsibility.
Despicable reports of players bathing with swimming pool water, empty promises and inability to gather the squad in time culminated in the shameful events of Monday that forced Sports Minister, Dr. Hassan Wario, to drive on the wrong side of the dual carriage way that is Nairobi’s Langata Road to ensure the team did not award Cape Verde a walkover.
His last-ditch deeds may have saved the country the ignominy of financial penalties and possible ban from future World Cups but it did not spare the nation the humiliation of another limp exit from a major competition, notwithstanding their opponents are ranked 4th in Africa and 32nd in the world.
A merciless response led by President Uhuru is needed to rescue Kenyan football from the inevitable ruin it is headed with Nyamweya together with blundering Sports Ministry officials swept away to usher a new dispensation.
After all, Roho Juu can only take a football team too far since the margins of success and failure are as thin as that one goal walking wounded Stars could not score in Praia.