Kenya lost to Senegal, but there are reasons to be optimistic for the future

 

Kenya are depending on other teams to see if they’ll qualify for the knockout round of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations. Their tournament hopes are hanging by a thread at the moment but, despite a poor campaign, Kenya should be happy for what the future holds. Bet on AFCON here.

Kenya’s fate in the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations is hanging by the thinnest of threads. A painful 3-0 defeat to Senegal in the last Group C match meant that they’ll have to rely on other teams in order to have the slightest chance of progressing to the next round.

Harambee Stars fans waking up to find that their beloved team had suffered a humiliating defeat to the Lions of Teranga was not a terrible dream but a reality. A reality that a moment they waited for 15 years is about to come to a screeching halt. A terrific penalty save from keeper Patrick Matasi early in the game was a sign that Kenya were about to pull off the unthinkable, but it wasn’t to be.

Since their last AFCON appearance in 2004, they went into oblivion. The 15-year AFCON drought was one of near misses, neglect and mismanagement. Qualification to this tournament is a huge achievement for the East Africans and a true testament of what patience and good management can drastically change a nation's fortune.

Inauspicious stints by Stanley Okumbi in 2016 and 2018 did not bring significant changes. Before, Belgian Adel Amrouche and Scot Bobby Williamson failed in the hot seat. Enter Sebastian Migne, a relatively obscure coach in Africa. He played second fiddle to Claude Le Roy, a popular name in African football in DR Congo, Congo and Togo.

The Football Kenya Federation (FKF) appointed him in May 2018 and who would’ve countenanced that he’ll be the one to take Kenya to its first AFCON finals in 15 years. He created a positive and winning environment where players could express themselves. Although AFCON expanding the competitions to 24 teams helped Stars qualify, the preparations and support from the fans and the federations was valuable.

The Kenyan squad in Egypt has an average age of 26. Most of them are in their prime and if they keep it together they could grow to become a much more experienced team than the one we’ve seen in this year’s showpiece.

The leadership and experience of Victor Wanyama and Patrick Matasi will be crucial in this team’s growth. Michael Olunga has demonstrated that he can carry the goalscoring load if provided with better service. Brian Mandela’s leadership and quality in defence was a big miss.

You can say one of the things that led to a disappointing tournament for Kenya was inexperience. Migne might have the experience, but some of the players have not been at this stage before. Nonetheless, they showed that given time, they can compete.

People have fallen back in love with Harambee Stars after years of treating it with contempt. But now, things are looking up. Kenya could still go through as one of the four best third-placed teams depending on how Group E and Group F play out.

Even if this might be the end of their 2019 AFCON journey, they are just getting started.