Kenyan Premier League (KPL) AllStars lost 1-2 to a Hull City Select side made up majorly of upcoming youngsters in an exhibition match played at KCOM Stadium on Monday 27th February.
So embarrassing was the display by the Kenyan Select side that Philip Buckingham, a Sport Journalist working for the Hull Daily Mail chose to use satire to describe the situation in his match report.
"On a night designed to showcase the best of Kenyan football, it was Hull City's crop of home-grown youngsters who shone brightest under the KCOM Stadium's floodlights," read the intro,
"The AllStars had travelled over 4,000 miles for their eagerly-anticipated crack at English opposition but a Hull City XI made up almost exclusively of local rookies had just too much .."
"There was even a cameo for club ambassador Dean Windass. The 47-year-old, whose 89 goals for the Tigers spanned almost two decades, emerged as a second-half substitute to delight a crowd of around 5,000," he continued.
The Hull City XI that faced Allstars
Charlie Andrew 17 years (goalkeeper), Stephen Akbas (18), Ben Adamson (18), Jacob Greaves (18), Josh Tymon (17), Ben Hinchliffe (19), Greg Olley (21) MaxSheaf) (17), Jarrod Bowen (20), Marc Kelledy (17) Greg Luer (22) Elliot Holmes (16) and Dean Windass (47)
The following players have had first team experiences, featuring in mostly League cups and FA Championships; Josh Tymon, Jarrod Bowen, Greg Olley and Greg Luer while Dean Windass is retired.
AllStars Starting Team: Patrick Matasi, Wesley Onguso, Robinson Kamura, Haron Shakava, James Situma, Osborne Monday, Humphrey Mieno, Amos Nondi, Cliff Kasuti, Mark Makwata and Allan Wanga (Captain).
Substitutes: David Okello, Chris Oruchum, Haron Nyakha, Samuel Ndung'u, Moses Odhiambo, Geoffrey Kataka and Joshua Otieno.
Comparing the squads, you can see clearly Hull City for the youth while KPL AllStars was a combination of experienced players. And that is the tragedy facing Kenyan football my friends.
Here the two most vital lessons to pick from the whole exercise.
1. Youth are the future
The KPL AllStars team was completely outrun by the Hull Youngsters and this should ring a bell at football managers in this country. Hull, a team struggling to survive in the English Premier League (EPL) fielded fringe youngsters and dominated the "experienced" Kenyan stars but this did not happen overnight. The team has invested in the players from their youth set ups and what we saw is a culmination of years of hard work. The custodian, Charlie Andrew, for instance, has been with the club from the Under 10s. Do we have such structures in the Kenyan clubs? No. Time to rethink the whole Kenyan football structure.
I think it would have been more beneficial if the Kenya U20 side faced the Hull City XI and I honestly believe the likes of Ovella Ochieng and Jeffery Owiti would have given a run for their money. Most of the AllStars players that featured in the game are way past their prime and the exhibition match was, to be kind, useless for the nation and doesn't help in the journey towards qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.
Interestingly enough, the youngest members of the KPL AllStars, Harun Nyakha and Joshua Otieno, were benched with the latter coming in at the last minute and never even had a touch of the ball. Development?
According to wikipedia, the KCOM Stadium (also known as the Hull City Stadium due to UEFA sponsorship regulations) is a multi-purpose facility in the city of Kingston upon Hull, England. The stadium was previously called the KC Stadium, but was renamed as part of a major rebrand by the stadium's sponsors, telecommunications provider KCOM, in 4 April 2016. Conceived as early as the late 1990s, it was completed in 2002 at a cost of approximately £44 million. The stadium is owned by Hull City Council and operated by the Stadium Management Company (SMC), who are looking to expand the stadium up to 32,000. How has Sports Kenya used the sponsorship money to improve stadia in Kenya especially the playing surfaces? Why can't the County Government of Nairobi attract potential sponsors and partners to renovate the City Stadium and turn it into a modern facility? Food for thought.
The surface is perfectly maintained and also according to Wikipedia, it is composed of natural grass combined with artificial fibres, from the Dutch Desso group, known for their carpet. The artificial grass fibres are injected 20 centimetres (7.9 in) deep, and cover about 3% of the surface. While the grass is growing, the roots intertwine with the artificial fibres. The designers claim this anchors the field to create a solid, even structure with good drainage and 'playing comfort'.
This is how serious teams are in developing surfaces suitable for players to express themselves freely. Our goalscorer, Humphrey Mieno, plays for reigning Kenyan Premier League (KPL) champions Tusker FC, a team that chose to use the bumpy Railways Ground for their preparations for CAF Champions League game and were subsequently eliminated by minnows AS Port - Louis from Mauritius, a lowly team that has a pretty decent facility back at home. Our players struggle to play because they train and play in bad pitches. We are not even sure of hosting the CHAN 2018 because, basically, we don't have standard pitches.
Word doing round is that Guinness Kenya plans to renovate four stadia around the county and my hope is they can work together with the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) and respective county governments to identify suitable fields for this noble venture.
The Government promised four world class stadia and that has remained just another promise. Ideally they should from the forefront in developing facilities.
Imagine the results we would reap if the money used in this whole programme was invested in proper youth leagues. This should serve as a wake up call to football administrators in Kenya.