NAIROBI, May 28- In terms of bizarre motivation and match-preparedness methods, Harambee Starlets head coach, David Ouma certainly takes the biscuit after claiming it was his idea to have the girls sleep in the changing rooms of Safaricom Stadium, Kasarani.
For two nights, the squad of 26 slept on mattresses in the cold concrete floor of the men’s changing rooms at the sporting complex they were camping before the National Youth Talent Academy came to their rescue and provided them with beddings.
His peculiar strategy seems to have created the siege mentality that saw Ouma lead the team to a 2-1 defeat in the away leg in Gaborone against Botswana with the precious away goal placing Starlets in a good position to advance on Saturday when the teams clash in the Machakos return leg.
That is, if he is to be believed and he is not taking the flak on behalf of his Football Kenya Federation (FKF) bosses who were once again accused of ineptitude in handling a national team.
“As a coach, I needed my players to be closer to the pitch so that we can have double sessions and for sure I’ve seen their fitness levels improve. We had an option of sleeping in the Goal Project Centre but it was easier for me to be here, so there is nothing to worry about.
“It was my decision as a coach because I need special training with the players; we are having three training sessions in a day, two on the pitch and one theoretical in the evening,” Ouma, who also doubles up as Kenyan Premier League side Sofapaka FC assistant coach, told Capital Sport.
“If we were not confident enough then I think the results could have been different in Botswana, that’s why we did well to pick an away goal so we know we have a chance to turn the tables. The team was motivated having being paid their allowances before travelling,” he offered another face saving explanation to an embarrassing situation.
However, that is in the past with FKF who were quick to welcome back the team like heroines announcing entry for the return leg at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos would be free to encourage fans to roar on the girls in their pursuit of the Olympics dream.
The Safaricom Stadium Complex has proper hostels just metres away from the main stadium but FKF reportedly could not afford the rates.
Captain, Wendy Achieng declared they had put their woes or ‘boot camp experience’ behind them and the team was focused on at least getting the 1-0 victory they need to advance or better to book a date with either South Africa’s Banyana Banyana or Gabon in the next round.
“According to FKF, they had partnered with the Ministry of Devolution and Planning alongside National Talent Academy to secure us a place to sleep in the first two days and that’s what happened. As a team, we accepted the situation and we are comfortable,” 21-year-old underscored.
However, the team that returned on Tuesday from Gaborone, resumed training immediately and Ouma was upbeat his charges will overturn the deficit and revive their chances of playing in the Olympics for the first time in history.
“I was looking to contain the opponents away but it didn’t happen although we dominated the second-half. After conceding two quick goals, we had to push hard to get the away goal.
“It was just a tactical error in the defence but I think we have the qualities to overcome the deficit. We just need to improve on our mental capability when we are not in possession of the ball since they are a physical side that plays very direct and with that kind of play they get worn out after 25 minutes,” Ouma outlined how they lost.
Despite having the home advantage, the coach said they intend to approach the encounter cautiously to ensure they keep a clean sheet as they seek for the goal.
“We have to exploit the home advantage and having an away goal is a plus and I’m confident we will make it since I have very good finishers. Our aim is not only to play South Africa but to go all the way to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics.”
Achieng who is featuring in the senior team for the second time said starting the game on a slow pace and lack of coordination in defence cost them but was confident they stand a good chance of progressing to the third round set to be played in July.
“Chances of us overturning the result are high because morale is soaring in camp and we will be playing at home, I urge fans to turn out in large numbers and give us that support that we need,” Achieng, a Spedag FC defender charged.