NAIROBI, Kenya, October 10 – Within the next 48 hours, Kenyans will find out whether we are still in the race to qualify for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations or if we will have to sit out another major football bonanza.
The buildup to Sunday’s match against Tunisia has been punctuated by a tug of war between the government and Football Kenya Limited (FKL) over who is supposed to fund the trip.
The unavailability of Dennis Oliech and McDonald Mariga for a match which is a must is the latest setback in what has been a calamitous year for the national side following the boneheaded dismissal of Francis Kimanzi.
The Mathare United tactician masterminded Kenya’s odyssey to the second round of the FIFA World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers but was dismissed from his job after he questioned a hastily arranged fixture against African Champions Egypt earlier this year.
The cloak and dagger nature of Antoine Hey’s appointment as Stars coach has yielded nothing but heartbreak for a side which at the beginning of the year was riding the crest of a wave but have now plunged into a whirlpool of despair.
Hey’s report card so far reads three losses out of four matches, a return that makes a mockery out of his grandiose unveiling by Prime Minister Raila Odinga. The German’s performance mirrors what his record with other African countries in which he has coached including Gambia and Lesotho.
Preparations for Sunday’s qualifier have also been shambolic with ten players only in camp and the professionals like veteran Musa Otieno arriving later on.
The rest of the foreign contingent was expected to link up with the team in Rades, the stage for the qualifier.
Shenanigans aside, it will be interesting to see how Stars will cope without the influential duo of Oliech and Mariga, the most influential players in recent seasons.
Both were in sublime form in the first round and continued in the same vein in the matches against Tunisia and Nigeria earlier this year.
Talk of a cold war between Oliech and Hey became apparent going by the Auxerre striker performance on the pitch.
In his place, Hey is expected to go with Allan Wanga or George Odhiambo depending on the formation he chooses to adopt.
Pascal Ochieng, John Njoroge and Musa Otieno have a tough assignment against Issam Jema and the recalled Lassad Nouioui.
Austin Makacha and Robert Mambo are expected to shore up the defence while Wilson Oburu, who had a sparkling outing in the 2-1 defeat to Mozambique, could be his side’s saving grace in what could be a torrid encounter at the intimidating 65,000 seater Stade Olympique.
If Kenya win, they could go second if Nigeria lose to the Mambas in Maputo. A win or a draw for Nigeria could see Stars slip to third, an outcome that could set up a do or die encounter aganst the Super Eagles on November 14 for that Cup of Nations place.