NAIROBI, December 22 – It has been another 12 months jam-packed with raw emotion, thrills and spills in Kenyan football sullied by another embarrassing early exit of Harambee Stars in the second round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Africa pre-qualifiers.
However, amid the disappointment, local giants Gor Mahia once again hogged the limelight as they not only went on to complete three-peat success in the SportPesa Premier League (SPL) but crowned it unbeaten to emulate the venerated class of 1976.
Bandari’s surprising GOtv Shield win for their maiden domestic title aptly wrapped up the season that saw the most qualified coach in East Africa; Francis Kimanzi unceremoniously ‘stepping aside’ from Tusker FC as fellow titans AFC Leopards; endured a nightmare season that saw them fall from title challengers to mid table mediocrity.
Serial escapologists, Nairobi City Stars used up another of the proverbial nine lives to survive the SPL chop in a dramatic conclusion to the season at the expense of KCB who bade the top flight goodbye after an uninterrupted nine-year stay.
Stars captain and English Premier League side Southampton midfielder Victor Wanyama had a brilliant year that saw him become the first East African to captain the Saints when he steered his side to a 2-1 Capital One Cup win against Aston Villa.
‘Big Vic’ as he is fondly known to his team-mates scooped the President’s Choice award at Southampton for the 2014/15 Barclays Premier League season in May.
The current Football Kenya Federation (FKF) regime produced another master class in ineptitude and mismanagement to rival any other since they came to power in 2011.
Federation president Sam Nyamweya became embroiled in corruption scandal that saw him grilled by the Criminal Investigation Department over the delay of Stars departure to Cape Verde after a back-breaking 22-hour flight.
-World Cup fail –
Kenya failed to make it to the group stages of the World Cup qualifiers for the first time since 1994 after highly ranked side Cape Verde eliminated them 2-1 on aggregate in the second round of the pre- qualifiers.
Stars started well, knocking out minnows Mauritius 5-2 on aggregate, their biggest away win in the first round, to book a date with Cape Verde who were ranked 93 places above them.
Bobby Williamson’s charges stunned the Islanders 1-0 in the first leg courtesy of a Michael Olunga header, but things fell apart when FKF and the Ministry of Sports, Arts and Culture officials traded accusation over the infamous trip that saw the weary team land in Praia only three hours before kick-off.
The home leg win saw Kenya shoot up 27 places to 98th in the FIFA World Rankings and 25th in Africa to break into the top 100 for the first time since Nyamweya took over as president in 2011.
Nyamweya was summoned by CID officers and top ministry officials grilled after it emerged Sh17m had been wired to the federation to pay for allowances and travel three days before the scheduled travel for the return leg.
Stars qualification quest for their first Africa Cup of Nations finals showing since 2004 is in limbo as they await a first victory in the qualifiers for the 2017 edition.
They began on a bright note, holding Congo Brazzaville 1-1 away but slipped in the second match when they threw away a 1-0 lead to go down 2-1 at home to Zambia.
The loss was blamed on indiscipline in the squad after some players were accused of taking part in an orgy and sneaking alcohol to the team hotel adjacent to Nyayo National Stadium.
FKF consequently suspended then reinstated Tusker FC duo Jesse Were and Danson Kago following the public backlash over the incident with the team sitting third in Group E with a point ahead of Guinea Bissau on goal difference.
Stars travel to Guinea Bissau in March, a game they must win to revive their dreams.
Nyamweya and his administration failed to learn lessons when the Government remitted Sh3.5m to settle allowances of the team that did duty at the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup.
In Ethiopia, players once again threatened to boycott their last preliminary match against Zanzibar where they ended up being shamed 3-1 by the islanders, before being bundled out of the tournament by Rwanda 5-3 on post match penalties to surrender the regional title.
The FKF circus sunk deeper after Team Manager; Willis Waliaula was detained in Addis Ababa for unpaid bills, only for the Ministry to come to his rescue.
Waliaula, who replaced former Stars midfielder, Simeone Mulama who had quit in April threw in the towel just four months after his appointment.
Earlier, Kenya were tossed out of the Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) by Ethiopia 2-0 on aggregate to prolong their wait for a maiden appearance at the continental showpiece open to local players.
The competition which will be on its fourth edition will be held closer home in Rwanda from January 16 – February 7 with Kenya lined-up as the next hosts.
Kenya’s attempts to qualify for this year’s All Africa Games and 2016 Olympics Games also went up in smoke after the Under-23 side failed to go past the first round.
In April, their hopes of making the Pan African Games held in Congo Brazzaville were snuffed out by Egypt who thrashed them 4-1 over two legs.
At the Olympics African qualifiers, it was Botswana who sent Stars home on the away goals rule after their two-legged cliff-hanger clash ended 4-4 aggregate.
Kenya lost 3-0 away in Lobaste after arriving there short of time due to bungled travel plans before Olunga netted his first international hat-trick to inspire his side to a 4-1 victory in the return leg hosted at Nyayo.
Even though they bowed out of the Africa Olympics qualifiers, the women’s national team Harambee Starlets deserve standing ovation after they reached the third round despite the difficulties they went through, the furthest a Kenyan team has reached.
After sleeping on the changing rooms’ floor at Kasarani Stadium, Starlets edged out Botswana on the away goal rule in the second round after a 2-2 aggregate with Dorcas Shikobe’s late strike saving the day for Kenya in the return leg in Machakos.
In the third round, Starlets were paired with African giants South Africa but they gave the fancied Banyan Banyana a run of their money despite being stranded at the South African High Commission with Visa troubles to arrive for the away first leg tie on match day and duly lost 1-0.
The South Africans repeated the same score line in the return to advance to the final round of the qualifiers.
It was the only major competition they would play after FKF failed to enter the team for the All Africa Games qualifiers.