Regrettably since then, no other Kenyan club has managed to scale the heights of continental football and lately, the country’s cream of top flight football have found the regional scene also hard to countenance.
The elimination of domestic league title holders, Tusker at the group stage of the Cecafa Club Championships over the weekend brought into sharp focus the sad reality of our dwindling standards.
The Brewers who departed for the tournament at the summit of the Kenya Premier League (KPL) crashed out without registering a win or scoring a goal in their three-team Group C matches.
Former Brewers and Harambee Stars head coach Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee who was the last tactician to bring home the Cecafa club title in 2008 feels that new players are not adequately grilled on demands of regional/continental football and lack of build up matches is their main undoing.
“The newly recruited players had not bonded enough with the older ones to bring out the cohesion needed besides lack of playing in matches in preparations for the challenge and that saw Tusker drop out that early,” the former national and Brewers head coach now football commentator intoned.
Mulee who won the regional tourney three times at the helm of the club pointed out that our local league is overrated since the performance at such tournaments was testament to the plummeting standards we have locally.
“We all expected Tusker to go all the way since they are past champions, but it’s sad that a club that is performing well at domestic level cannot replicate the same ability at the regional stage.
“It’s been several months since we voted in the new office but where are the results in terms of the structures particularly for our youth?” he posed in a dig at the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) officialdom.
He added stakeholders must urgently establish a road map that will see talent tapped from a relatively young age, conditioned to play locally and outsides besides maintaining a database that can be called upon to monitor their progress in the coming years.
“The national secondary schools national finals will be held beginning next month but even though we will see some of the players joining our local clubs, where are they coming from?
“We have several foreign imports like Jimmy Bageya and Dan Sserunkuma (both from Uganda) doing well in the league at the expense of our own and it’s deeply worrying,” he lamented.
Former footballer turned administrator Sammy Sholei also attributed the wanting performance to the way we have handled local football affairs over the years.
“It’s all about management and structures of our football, unless we embark on tapping and develop our youth talent the scenario will replicate each year.
“Let’s not lie to ourselves that our league is up to the desired standards as yet. If you compare with our neighbours, we still have a long way to go,” decried Sholei who was recently suspended from the post of Vice-Chairman of FKF.
He asserted that despite the growth of the KPL due to the sound management by the local clubs, more needs to be done in terms of grassroots development to bring in fresh players into the scene.
“A quick look into our transfers shows the worrying trend of recycling players which in the end does not translate to tangible results.
“Such players can’t be expected to challenge the big teams in the region when they had failed to do so with their former clubs the previous year,” the former Tusker and Stars midfielder argued.
KPL CEO Jack Oguda concurs with Sholei further stating coaching development and capacity building for our players was an area of concern in regard to participation in regional tourneys that our teams qualify for.
“We have to engage the federation to get expert advice perhaps from beyond our continent to stem the dismal run in addition to nurturing talents.
“Having youth coaches in the grassroots will be our best bet in a strategic plan that has to span over five years in a bid to bring in new skills into our teams,” added Oguda pointing out that he noticed Tusker strikers were shy on goal which was also alarming.
He also slammed the dependency on the same players in clubs which was retrogressive and believes the recent awarding of coaches with various levels of coaching certificates from CAF was just one of the steps to achieve progress.
In March, Tusker were eliminated from the CAF Champions League after failing to go beyond the first round while Gor Mahia’s campaign in the Confederations Cup came to a halt at the hands of Mozambique’s Ferroviario de Maputo at the first hurdle.
Sofapaka, then Football Kenya Cup winners embarked on a fine run in the Confederations Cup last year but were knocked out by Tunisian giants Club Africain in the group stage play-offs on their fourth attempt at the continental campaign.
They had dismissed Angolan side Aviacao in the first round before eliminating Egypt’s Ismaily in the second and finally seeing off Congolese club St. Eloi Lupopo to qualify for the last hurdle prior to the group play-offs.
Needless to say, the team that was handled by first Ezekiel Akwana and then Francis Kimanzi was anchored by foreign talent among them, the naturalised Bob Mugalia, Musa Mudde (Uganda), Heritier Luvualu and Patrick Kagogo among others.
Kenyan outfits used to rule the region in the past with current KPL table toppers AFC Leopards have won the Cecafa Club Cup on five occasions in the years; 1979, 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1997.
Their performance at the CAF Champions League has however, been dismal with many first round exits while their best effort was the semi final appearance in 1985.
Their arch rivals Gor have added three Cecafa titles to their name in 1980, 1981 and 1985 while Tusker have claimed the crown five times namely; 1988, 1989, 2000, 2001 and 2008.
The national team last won the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup in 2002 when they beat Tanzania 3-2 in the finals and were runners up to Uganda, the most successful side at the tournament in 2008.