NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 30- Belgian tactician Paul Put maintains his biggest target is to get Harambee Stars to their first Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) since 2004, this coming right at the end of his two-year tenure when the next edition will be hosted in Cameroon in 2019.
The tactician, hired a fortnight ago to help actualize Kenya’s dream of not only being at the 2019 AFCON but the 2022 World Cup, will begin his tenure on Sunday when he lines up his charges for the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup.
Put says the tournament is important and comes at the right time as he tries to learn his players and will give him a priceless opportunity to build up and lay a foundation for the next two years.
“This tournament gives me a good opportunity to look at the local players in terms of technical and tactical ability, discipline and mentality,” the tactician said after conducting his fourth training session on Thursday in Nairobi.
“The most important thing is that I am focused for 2019 but with this tournament we have a chance to start the work.”
His bosses at the Football Kenya Federation have given him the target of winning the Senior Challenge Cup on home soil and though he says he will be going out to clinch the trophy, he has asked for patience as he enforces his philosophy on the team.
“In football everything is possible, but you have to be realistic. We have been working for five days now and it is not enough to prepare for a tournament in that period. However, we play at home and it is a motivation. I can see the drive in the players and I have a good feeling,” Put said.
Kenya is drawn in Group A alongside Rwanda, Zanzibar, Tanzania and guest team Libya and Put believes it will be a tough group especially with Rwanda and Libya who have both qualified for next year’s African Nations Championship (CHAN).
“It is not easy because the two teams will definitely bring quality players to prepare for CHAN. I know Libya because when I was in Algeria we played couple of matches with Ahli Tripoli who have many national team players and I know they are a quality side,” the coach noted.
“It is important to play in such kind of a difficult group because it will give me a chance to see the level of our players and an opportunity for them to learn and improve,” Put further opined.
The Belgian tactician comes into the country with a rich Curriculum Vitae dangling in his briefcase. He has coached Gambia and Burkina Faso in Africa as well as Jordan. His previous engagement was with Algerian club USM Alger.
He beams confidence that he will be able to take the country to the 2019 AFCON but has pleaded patience from fans.
The coach says he has been pleased with what he has seen so far in his five days coaching the team in camp and already, he says there are a few faces who have impressed him enough to be considered in the main team.
“So far it has been good; the will is there and I can see the motivation of the players. It’s a good sign already. There is a long way to go and a lot of work to do, but as long as the players want to work and there is a good mentality of them wanting to improve we will be able to have a team to show Kenyan people we are willing to play,” the coach said.
He has admitted that most of the work will revolve around the tactical and technical ability of the team which he says will need more work but notes that it is something that will be improved especially with the readiness of the players to learn.
“There is a long road to travel and a lot has to be changed but you cannot change with one minute. It takes time. For example Spain and Germany who ruled the world for a long time started building with young players before getting to the top,” Put revealed.
“We have the belief, I trust the players and we will do everything possible to make the Kenyan fans happy,” promised the 61 year-old.