KISUMU, Kenya, Dec 15-Harambee Stars head coach Paul Put has urged fans to turn out in their droves on Sunday when the team plays in the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup final, insisting on the importance of the 12th man.
Stars have found favor among fans in the two games played in Kisumu and Kakamega, but the atmosphere has been hugely underwhelming playing at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos.
Giving an example of his time at the Burkina Faso national team when he led the side to the African Cup of Nations Final, the Belgian tactician says the fans have a huge role to play if Kenya will go on and win the tournament as well as succeed in future assignments.
“When I came to Burkina Faso, there was a problem. Players were afraid to play at home because of the public. I told them that once they came behind the team, we will see better results and we ended in the AFCON final. I hope our fans will push our team in the final on Sunday and also for AFCON with the senior team,” Put said.
He added; “I hope it’s the same with Kisumu because the fans came. If you have the support for example for AFCON and it’s 12 v 11, you have the advantage. We need people to come.”
Harambee Stars will be seeking their seventh Senior Challenge title, having last won it in 2013 when they beat Sudan 2-0 at the Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi.
Put is however worried with the fitness of his side after a grueling tournament that has already cost him three dependable players. Massoud Juma is out of the tournament after picking an injury against Libya on match day two.
Musa Mohammed and Vincent Oburu were both substituted in the semi-final against Burundi on Thursday.
“It will be tough for the players because we have had very tough matches. I don’t know whether Musa and Oburu will be available again; we will have to see over the next two days. But if they are out it will be an opportunity for other players to stand up and show themselves,” the coach said.
He has also admitted they got lucky against Burundi who he said were the better team, but blamed it on difference in fitness.
“We played four matches, Burundi had three. They were sure of qualification after two games and rested six of their players. For us we played with same players for four games. Add on that we had to travel a long way and you can’t really blame the players,” Put said on his side’s performance.
“We are not Barcelona, we are not Real Madrid; we have to be realistic. The first half Burundi was better and I was disappointed. We have to understand that we have played many games in a short period. We were lucky in first half because Burundi is a good team.”
The tactician now says they will put in their best effort to ensure they win the tournament, saying the players have a chance to show their best infront of the whole continent.
Kenya has a good history in playing CECAFA finals as they have won six of the seven finals they have played in. Their only final loss was in 2012 when they suffered a 2-1 defeat to the Uganda Cranes in Kampala.