NAIROBI, Kenya, March 26- It was pomp, colour, pageantry and loads of cash as Harambee Stars milked a warm return from Nigeria on Monday night following their heroic 1-1 draw against African champions, the Super Eagles over the weekend.
For a team used to limp returns home following their abysmal away record, all stops were pulled, a traditional band in place, jubilant fans and above all, Nairobi Senator-elect, Mike Sonko, making good his pledge as he handed team captain, Dennis Oliech, Sh1.1m in cash.
President-elect, Uhuru Kenyatta, has also promised the side Sh1m with Sonko awarding the team Sh1m for the ‘win’ and Sh100,000 to Francis Kahata the goal.
The man of the moment was of course, Thika United youngster, Kahata, who bent in the wicked free-kick to the top corner to leave Super Eagle’s captain, Vincent Enyeama clutching straws for the opener on the 36th minute.
“The Super Eagles were not an easy target but with the teamwork and a coach who understands us we were able to draw the game,” he said mobbed by fans.
Speaking after giving his reward to the stars at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Sonko challenged political leaders to put political differences aside and stand with the national team
“We must restore our soccer back to its lost glory,” he added noting he had decided to pay out the win since by the end of 90 minutes, Stars had ‘won’ the game 1-0 before the Super Eagles equalised in the fourth minute of added time through Nhamdi Oduamadi.
Algerian born Belgian coach, Adel Amrouche, also came for praise for organising the team to counter the threat posed by the African champions who were crowned last month in South Africa in his first game in charge.
He was however, still seething from being sent-off in the dying minutes of the match at the behest of the fourth official, a factor he contributed to the lapse in concentration that allowed Oduamadi, the AC Milan rookie.
Speaking to SuperSport.com earlier, Amrouche promised Nigeria ‘hell’ during the return, fired up by the mal-treatment his team received in Lagos where they were forced to train in an estate primary school ground and lodge in a boarding school.
“My team played the last 10 minutes without me; it is tough for any team playing like that. I was asked to leave at the time they needed me most. My absence caused us a lot.”
“I was talking to my players and didn’t infringe on any other person’s territory. Or is there any rule that says a coach cannot stand at the lines and talk to his players all through the game? It was a funny decision,” Amrouche told the website.
Football Kenya Federation (FKF) chairman Samuel Nyamweya said that they have protested to FIFA on the conduct of the referees during the match and Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) for the treatement the side got when they arrived in Lagos on Wednesday.
“We know what the Stars went through in Nigeria, in terms of cheating where an extra five minutes were added and there were no injuries. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the Stars and let Kenya know that that the journey world cup qualifier has just started.’” he claimed without explaining why there was no FKF official on hand to receive the team when they landed in Nigeria.
Nyamweya added the team needs more support from Government and sponsors in order to flourish.
A luncheon in their honour is scheduled for Wednesday with Stars taking on Nigeria in the reverse fixture in a yet to be confirmed date. NFF requested Kenya to reschedule their tie since the Super Eagles will be featuring in the forthcoming FIFA Confederation Cup in Brazil.
-By Kennedy Njoroge