Football Football

The Kimanzi magic regains its groove


NAIROBI, Kenya, November 15- It was only Seychelles after all. But on the evidence of the 12,000 or so who turned up on a cold Tuesday evening to witness Harambee Stars seal their passage to the 2014 World Cup group stages, the quality or lack thereof of the opposition did not matter.

Although the match at times took the shape of a training session, there was no quashing the Francis Kimanzi magic is back as the tactician who was acrimoniously fired from the head coach role in February 2009 enjoyed a winning return to the helm.

Stars delivered the perfect wedding gift to the tactician who will tie the nuptials this weekend when they brushed aside the Islanders 4-0 like a gust of ocean breeze. Such was the dominance that fans looked crestfallen every ten minutes that passed without a goal.

“Perfect wedding present? It’s a different business,” Kimanzi laughed when it was put to him his charges had given him the reason to look forward to his important day without the ignominy of a failed World Cup campaign ringing in his ears.

The Kenyan Premier League (KPL) Sofapaka FC coach took Kenya to the final qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup but was soon shunted aside as German Antoine Hey took over, leading the team to lose five of the six matches that saw them crash out of the South Africa Mundial.

This time, he is keen to ensure the project he started ends but he knows he has a side that is far below the level the emphatic 7-0 aggregate win over Seychelles suggests.

“It is very important within such a long term, we achieved this victory. It’s a long process to rebuild the team that psychologically and mentally, you can get such a comfort win is very important particularly with the forthcoming CECAFA tournament coming up,” the coach assessed.

He added: “I’m happy even if it is a small step but to me the reflection is so huge in a team building manner.”

The regional tournament that Kenya last won in 2007 kicks-off on November 25 and runs through to December 10 and after a failed campaign the last time Kimanzi was in charge in 2008, the coach is all too aware a good performance will resound more than the Seychelles whitewash.

Stars are grouped to face Malawi, one of their rivals for the Brazil 2014 ticket, Eritrea and Sudan at the CECAFA tourney.

“We are already in the process of building the team and if you have the opportunity to build the team against an opponent that can give you less problems, that is always better to give players confidence.

“The CECAFA tournament is another great opportunity for us to make sure we emphasise on the team building. I’m not worried since I’m in the early process of getting the team to play as well as possible and this takes time,” he summed.

The coach made five additions to the regional competition’s team with captain, Dennis Oliech (AJ Auxerre, France), keeper Arnold Origi (FK Moss) and Victor Mugubi (Celtic FC) returning to their overseas side.

Real Sociedad midfielder, MacDonald Mariga did not feature in the two legged Seychelles rout due to finger fracture and AFC Leopards striker, Mike Baraza went down with Malaria.

Their slots will be taken Kevin Serenge (Western Stima), Victor Ochieng (Chemelil), Yusuf Juma (Thika United), Gor Mahia forward Edwin Lavatsa and Ulinzi Stars custodian Jackton Odhiambo were added to the side.

“I will get a chance to understand the local players and their full strength. We have to start somewhere and we are at a positive starting position,” the coach observed.

“We need to give the team more confidence and for the qualifiers, between now and January will be preparations and from February the thing will be to focus since the games will be following each other,” he added.

His assistant team captain, Pascal Ochieng, advocated for more of the same.

“As a player, it feels good to win and with good preparations, this can be achieved. I want to see Kenya playing at the World Cup and with good planning, this can happen,” the defender who opened the floodgates in Victoria when he scored his team’s first goal said.