NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 27 – There was hue and cry when Stanley Okumbi was appointed the Harambee Stars head coach in February 2016, with many questioning his credentials having only coached one top flight team, Mathare United.
But a year and one month down the line, Okumbi has somewhat proved his doubters wrong taking the national team through an enviable streak of 10 unbeaten matches ahead of the 2019 African Cup of Nations qualifiers which begin in August.
But despite the run which has seen the side pick five wins and five draws, Okumbi is not yet pleased and doesn’t believe the team is a finished product yet.
“It is a good run, but still I am not happy because there are games like in Uganda and Zambia which we would have won. We still need to work more especially ensuring that we keep clean sheets. The beauty is that we are scoring and if we can ensure we defend better, we are in for a good run,” the tactician, now speaking with a more commanding and confident voice opined.
His eyes are now quickly turned to the next assignment in August where Kenya will be taking on the journey of qualifying for the African Cup of Nations for the first time since 2004. The journey for the 2019 qualifiers starts away to Sierra Leone in August.
Having cluttered through the 2017 qualifiers, Okumbi will now hope to grab the brand new opportunity with both hands and he already has a strategy lined out for the campaign.
“If we ensure we win at home, then we can go away and get in the least a point. Winning home matches is very key in such qualifiers. We have Sierra Leone next and our focus now is to analyze them, know how they play and come August we will be ready,” Okumbi added.
He appears impressed with the performance of the team in the twin matches against DR Congo and Uganda and he believes the growth in attitude as well as fighting spirit are key ingredients that will take his charges across the line to the 2019 AFCON in Cameroon.
Okumbi also praised the new boys he brought into the fold and of particular attention to him was Ulinzi Stars winger Samuel Onyango who accumulated 90 minutes against DR Congo having played 76 minutes of the Uganda match.
“Of course his performance was brilliant. He has had two wonderful games. Against Congo he missed one on one but he later made an assist for the winning goal and I think he did a marvelous job,” Okumbi noted.
As he looks forward to the August Sierra Leone trip, the tactician will also have his eyes cast on the African Nations Championship (CHAN) next year which will be hosted in Kenya and the group of home based players might have a few build up matches ahead of the championship.
On Sunday, three local based players started the match while five were on the starting team against Uganda. Okumbi believes giving the home based lads more playing time will build their confidence ahead of the January biennial showpiece.