The team that was knocked out of the regional tournament on Saturday after losing their second pool game 1-0 to Sudan arrived in two batches with the first lot of nine players being compelled to wait for the rest of the squad at Baggage Collection for over an hour.
Football Kenya Federation vice-president, Sammy Sholei was the only top official of the newly elected body on hand to receive the team, with the fanfare that greeted their departure just over a week before visibly absent.
As the squad members trooped out in dejected silence to face the biting cold weather that was in sharp contrast to the heat they experienced in Dar-es-Salaam, head coach Francis Kimanzi was left to face the sprinkle of local media who were on hand at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
His assessment of the team’s botched campaign was a harsh indictment of the local top flight competition, the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) that contributed all the players fielded in Tanzania as well as the perennial ill-preparations that have become a chorus for the side.
“KPL league is important; it is what keeps our players moving. But again, if you look at Tanzania, the league was over a month ago, Malawi and Zimbabwe the same. Uganda and Sudan are fresh from the LG Cup so what did we expect?
“Kenya, we played our last (KPL) matches on a Saturday, we flew the players on Sunday and we played on Monday. If you meet a fresh Malawi team that have been training for a month, you must face the consequences,” the head coach charged.
The tactician confirmed he would be quitting his KPL side Sofapaka FC to concentrate on picking the ashes of a team that sunk into the depth of first round elimination at the regional showpiece for a second year running.
“My duty now is to go into full time scouting for players for the national team and draw a programme for next year which is busy. The rebuilding of the team has to go on until a point where our local players can feel confident enough to play without relying on their foreign based colleagues,” he added.
He declined to blame his players who only flickered in their second game against Ethiopia where they won 2-0 as defeats to Malawi in their opener and Sudan sealed their exit choosing to admonish coaches in the top flight club competition instead.
“KPL coaches must change the way they train our players. They need to make them more tactically complete. I took the best players in the league including the top scorers.
“But let’s be honest, the league top scorer had 12 goals in 30 matches, that means he needs three matches to get a goal on average and by that time, we are already out of the tournament,” he lamented.
The next competitive assignment for Stars is a two-legged knock-out tie against Togo in the race for the 2013 Nations Cup early next year before the 2014 World Cup Africa qualifiers set off with May with a match against Malawi.
“There is still more to come, we still have the opportunity to keep on preparing for the tougher task ahead. When you don’t prepare well, you cannot have good results. The team is not yet set for me to feel confident in whatever the task we have.
“I’m not disappointed because I believe I have not worked enough. I have to work harder and we need to keep planning. The players and the federation are focused, we have good players but we need to expose them more in game situations.”