NAIROBI, Kenya, August 28- Frenchman Henri Michel will need to summon all his 30 years of experience to make the desired impression having finally been enthroned to the poisoned chalice that is the Harambee Stars head coaching role.
On Tuesday night in Nairobi, Michel who has coached seven countries prior, six of them in Africa, was unveiled as the 31st manager of Stars with the fizzy pop of a champagne welcome never before accorded to his processors by Football Kenya Federation.
“I’m proud that the Kenyan federation chose me to be at the helm of this national team.
“Besides results, they have the wish to raise the standards of football in Kenya and I’m really interested in taking them to the highest levels in Africa,” said Michel through a translator.
His brief is simple on paper but in accepting one of the most thankless jobs in international football, Michel was ushered into the deep end of the cesspool that is the signature of the Kenyan version of the beautiful game.
In the past decade alone, the Stars coaching role has resembled musical chairs with no less than 13 changes at the helm, hardly the turnover a team aspiring to qualify for the World Cup or African Nations Cup needs.
“We know that during the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, we didn’t have a good start to the competition
“We will try our best to have good results and good behaviour on the pitch but we need time to work and consult on a few things,” he expressed.
Like those before him, he stressed his main focus will be lifting the dwindling football standards in the country that lies in position 126 on the latest FIFA World Rankings.
The tactician who has along standing experience in the continent will be assisted by his two French assistants, Florent Motta and Samir Ajam and one other local coach widely expected to be Rangers FC coach, James Nandwa who has been in acting capacity.
While conceding that the work that lay ahead for him was no mean task, Michel said that he was upbeat of matching up to the huge expectations of the Kenyan football fans.
Besides heading the national team, whose immediate task will be to prepare them for the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup later this year, he will be expected to oversee youth developments through the junior teams that include the Under 17, 20 and 23 sides.
“The next qualifier game will be in March next year, so we need time to get to work and give the opportunity to understand the local football which I don’t know very well.
“We ask for support from all the stakeholders since we need it to achieve this together and I really need this since it’s in our heart and biggest wish to achieving this goal,” he underlined.
FKF chair Sam Nyamweya delivered the dreaded vote of confidence when he stated they had confidence in the new tactician since he has wide experience with several African teams besides having been a player at national level himself.
“The unveiling of Michel is a significant step in our football, not just based on his nationality as a foreigner but since he’s the best from the several applicants we received.
“He has an impressive CV and understands the expectations that supporters have on him as we look to qualification to the World Cup and we are convinced he is up to task,” added Nyamweya as he showered praise on the new man.
However, Nyamweya is notoriously reputed to play to the gallery when the occasion calls as he displayed when hiring and firing Francis Kimazi, Michel’s immediate predecessor and should results not be immediate, the FKF boss will not hesitate to dump the Frenchman at the earliest opportunity.
“The new man has to focus on the critical issue of youth development which is the core for any football nation with a vision for continuity.
“He must bear in mind that we have many local talents particularly under the age of 23 who are eager to learn and only need some nurturing to see us have a team that is basically tailored towards the future,” said Jack Oguda, CEO, Tusker Premier League, the country’s topflight club competition.
“The federation should perhaps invest some funds to enable the coach travel to see how the professional players are fairing in the international leagues and keep up with their progress to avoid the disappointments that have been manifest when they fail to sparkle in the team colours,” he added.
And that has been the bane of all those who have handled the national team with the financial handicap being cited as the biggest impediment ad infinitum.
For instance, this is a team used to playing local sides in friendlies ahead of crucial qualifiers, lack of player and official allowances a refrain and above all development structures only exist in rhetoric.
Michel, the second Frenchman at the helm of the team in its history is a former French footballer, has been at the World Cup with Cameroon (1994), Morocco (1998), Tunisia (2002) and Ivory Coast (2006) in addition to coaching giant clubs like Zamalek of Egypt, Raja Casablanca of Morocco and South Africa’s Sundowns.
He was also instrumental in the preparations of this year’s Africa Cup of Nations co-hosts, Equatorial Guinea before falling out with the country’s federation chiefs over the sides’ final team selection.
Michel was selected from a wide list of applicants that were whittled down to four that included Adel Amrouche, Tom Saintfiet and former France coach, Raymond Domenech.
Former Le Bleu keeper, Bernard Lama pitched camp in Nairobi in 2006 and three months later, left in a huff when his ambitious decade-long plan for the team was resisted due to its spiralling costs with defeat to Eritrea used to hasten his exit.
Kenya has been without a national team coach since Kimanzi was fired in May at the height of the inquest to poor performances after the country was knocked out of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers and managed a solitary point from their opening two fixtures of the World Cup qualifiers.