NAIROBI, July 4- A penalty taker who took matters into his own hands and missed, the broadcast rights war that overshadowed the match itself and another limp exit from a international competition, welcome to the muddled world of Kenyan football.
Harambee Stars turgid 0-0 home draw against Ethiopia’s Walia Ibex that saw them crash out unceremoniously from the running for a maiden 2016 Africa Home Nations Championships 2-0 on aggregate was another vexing reminder of all that is wrong in the local game.
The spiritless manner Stars ended their interest in the second tier CAF continental showpiece open to domestic talent is all the more annoying when you consider the players who took to the Nyayo Stadium turf are the best the country has to offer from the home front.
Unbeaten Kenyan Premier League (KPL) champions, Gor Mahia, had six starters for example but against a group of players who are largely Ethiopia’s Under-23 team, the much vaunted local stars fell on the sword of their own hype.
The epitome of local stardom getting into their heads was Victor Ali Abondo, the top scoring K’Ogalo midfielder who defied head coach Bobby Williamson orders and elected to take the 65th minute penalty awarded in dubious fashion.
With Ibex keeper Tariq Getneb doing the best to unsettle the man who has plunged in eight KPL goals this season, Abondo, perhaps with headlines flashing in the whites of his eyes, took two languid steps back before crashing his shot to the right post. Chance gone!
He must have thought he was playing against Chemelil Sugar and Williamson was beside himself with boiling rage when he lamented post-match, “It’s disappointing. I told Dennis to take the penalties before the game but Ali felt confident to take it.”
He was alluding to Thika FC captain, Dennis Odhiambo, who was designated for spot-kick duty before Abondo took matters to his own hands.
At 2-1 on aggregate with 25 minutes remaining, Stars had a whiff of a chance of at least forcing the tie to post match penalties if not completing the turnaround but even his subsequent substitution could not inspire the fight back.
In Ethiopia, another KPL star, Kevin Kimani of Tusker FC was the culprit from the spot and Williamson was justified to believe if his side were lethal from 12-yards, then passage to the next round would have been the outcome, not another crushing exit.
Despite missing the few clear cut chances that came Stars way in a game Ibex took them to football school, Abondo was not the only local luminary who earned his stripes bar Gor’s Collins ‘Gattuso’ Okoth and his keeper club-mate, Boniface Odhiambo who came up with the goods when called upon.
Odhiambo made a breathtaking point blank second half save from Ibex captain, Behailu Asefa.
In form K’Ogalo striker, Michael Olunga, finally sagged under the huge pressure placed on his shoulders to replicate his club form on the continental stage when he had a game to forget, often fluffing his lines and failing to impose his presence on the match.
Again, the perils of placing too much weight on the feet of a young forward, 21, who has been elevated to an almost messianic pedestal by local media, were there for all to see.
You simply can’t trust a boy to do a man’s job, so the saying goes.
– Chronic failure-
With the pockets of ebullient Ethiopian fans chanting ‘M-Pesa, M-Pesa’ as they referenced the popular mobile money transfer service in mockery of what was visibly biased officiating against their side renting the air, Abondo and fellow flops should not bear the large chunk of the blame for yet another dispiriting exit from international competition.
The inept approach to international matches and shambolic preparations by Football Kenya Federation (FKF) is a tired narrative that once again stunk out Nyayo Stadium with the putrid smell of failure.
With federation boss Sam Nyamweya receiving another earful of vocal unprintable insults laced with “Nyamweya must go! Nyamweya must go!” chants, it is incomprehensible to conceive how progress will be made under his guidance as he enters the final lap of his first term as president since the 2011 elections.
Under his watch, the country’s football continues to engage the reverse gear, much like the chosen style of play by Stars who were pressed high by Ibex on Saturday, with the sideshow of a bitter broadcast rights battle for the game the latest in his long curriculum vitae of shameless acts.
Instead of focusing on how Stars would overhaul a yawning 2-0 deficit from the first leg, all attention up to match day was on the tussle between FKF new media partners, StarTimes and South Africa’s SuperSport International.
One wonders had Nyamweya and his henchmen placed as much energy like hiring police officers to lock SuperSport crew from Nyayo to ensuring Williamson and his boys got all the support and confidence needed to complete a minor football miracle, then the final whistle would not have been greeted with the verbal revolt that followed him as he disappeared down to the bowels of Nyayo.
Attempting to crowbar all that ails Kenya’s football into one article is an impossible task akin to Harambee Stars qualifying to an international tournament in current form, so wallow in grief dear reader as the ink runs out on this piece.