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‘Roho Juu’ prevails as Stars defy odds

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OLUNGA ACTION

Harambee Stars striker, Michael Olunga (left) shields Cape Verde’s Carlos Garcia during their 2018 World Cup first leg second round pre-qualifier on 13th November, 2015 at Nairobi’s Nyayo National stadium.PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

NAIROBI, November 13- Wags had a field day on Friday when Harambee Stars stunned Africa’s rising giant, Cape Verde, 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier in Nairobi. This thing ‘Roho Juu’ should coach the Kenyan national football team!

Shambolic preparations and the high ranking the visitors enjoy at the top echelons of football left Kenyan football fans fearing the worst.

Pundits and other experts in matters football of the local breed preached hope but inwardly, knew Harambee Stars were up against it.

Minutes to the match, the blue-kitted Cape Verde team showed why their star is rising as Kenya’s is fading. They went through their warm-up routine like a seasoned European team, not to mention they shocked their colonial masters Portugal 2-0 in the recent past.

Their coaches were content to let the boys go through their routines without fuss and when the home team emerged minutes later, everything about them did not seem right. Coaches, apart from their boss, Bobby Williamson, went with them to issue last minute instructions.

The confusion looked like teachers trying to impart knowledge on candidate students when the exam papers were being handed out.

Former captain and assistant coach, Musa Otieno was with one group. Another assistant, David Ouma was animated with another bunch and keeper-trainer, Matthews Ottamax was busy collecting stray balls from the Cape Verde’s half of the pitch while also billowing out instructions to those who cared to listen.

If anyone needed more reason to be apprehensive, only a handful of fans trooped to the stadium, perhaps the memories of the crushing 2-1 home defeat to Zambia when the Nyayo was rocking still sore.

Putrid reports of unpaid allowances, players being forced to bathe with swimming pool water at their Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani Hostels and the usual tussle about refunding ticket money to foreign based players started wafting through the stands.

But when captain Victor Wanyama, the midfield rock of EPL high-fliers Southampton FC and his teammates stepped on to the pitch, the form book was in for a shredding and bookies were in for a nightmare.

It took only five minutes for the man of the moment, Michael Olunga, the lethal Gor Mahia striker, to sound warning when he broke free of centre halves Carlos Garcia and Fernando Valera but his finishing let him down.

Four minutes later, the improbable happened. Harambee Stars went ahead against the side ranked 32nd in the world and fourth in Africa! A football travesty was unfolding! Seismic shock developing!

And there are no prizes for guessing who it was. That lanky 21 year-old engineering student had done it again, a staggering 35th for the season, second for his country and a huge advertisement of his credentials as the latter day goal scoring hero his nation has been craving since Dennis Oliech.

Time seemed to stand still when Clifton Miheso, on for the injured Ayub Timbe, found space in the left and appeared to be moving the ball in slow motion on the by line. When he sent in his cross, almost with a lazy sweep of his boot, Olunga had started towering inside the box.

The tall forward planted his head to the floating ball and it had nowhere else to nest apart from the roof of Josimar Dias’s net for what proved to be the winner after nine moments.

Despite his scoring prowess in his Annus Mirabilis, Olunga is yet to develop as a clinical finisher. He missed a couple of huge chances moments before half time that could have sent Kenya to dream land.

Wanyama had one of his most commanding games in a Stars shirt and defenders David Owino and Harun Shakava made Boniface Oluoch a mere spectator in the game save for two occasions in the second half when he was troubled by substitute Heldon Augusto.

Had Wanyama’s potential net-buster with quarter of an hour to go not been met by a breathtaking Dias save, the Captain could have added gross to a performance that showed why he is the most expensive Kenyan player in history.

But if anyone thinks the result was achieved by tactical nous from Williamson or Stars are on the way up in the football ladder, then they’re in for a rude shock.

The celebrated local phenomenon known as ‘Roho Juu’ that is a cross between ‘indefatigable spirit’ and ‘hope to the last’ once again came to Stars rescue.

After the final whistle, jubilant fans invaded the pitch to salute their heroes in a crude act that could yet invite CAF sanctions on Nyayo Stadium but not that they will care. Kenyan football needed a huge release after string of disappointment and whatever happens in four days time, this was one.

Tellingly, Football Kenya Federation boss, Sam Nyamweya, who is a main architect of the decline of the country’s football, was not in the stadium to watch another fleeting moment of hope.

It was perhaps a sign that Kenyan football is headed for better times without him as he seeks re-election in polls that start across the branches end month.

For now, Kenya can have the audacity to dream.

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