It has been a month of mixed emotions in the Sports circle; from the appointment of a new Cabinet Secretary to head the Ministry that has lagged behind for years to the abrupt departure of Paul Put, the Harambee Stars coach.
The Football Kenya Federation (FKF) while breaking the news to the football fanatics in the country said in a statement that the Belgian had call it quits with the national team due to ‘personal reasons’. Prior to his departure, Put had requested that he needed a competent technical bench to aid him in bringing the glory days back to Kenya football something believed FKF were not ready to stomach.
Rumours have it that FKF were not in a position to pay the extra assistants that Put had requested citing money reasons and the withdrawal of betting firm Sportpesa who were responsible for Put’s monthly pay. It is claimed too that the federation were not willing to see the back of Stanley Okumbi, who is said to be a close ally to the powers that be. But we will treat those as rumours; the truth is, Okumbi, who has since been mandated to take charge of the team, doesn’t have the trust of the local Kenyan fan.
Put made it clear what he wanted if he was to succeed and it was the work of FKF to ensure that the same conditions were met; from the signs we gave, FKF were not interested in helping him succeed. Signs of discontentment surfaced last month where it is claimed that he had applied for the vacant Guinea job (a destination many believe he is headed to). The Belgian's pedigree could be seen even in his training and how he wanted his team to play. He won the CECAFA Tournament in his short stint and just as the federation said, getting a top coach, in the current African market if one harbors any ambitions to make it to AFCON, will be a tough job.
The Harambee Stars coach is FKF’s most visible employee, the figurehead for those in charge of the governance of the game and any mess in naming the person in charge will always paint the federation in bad light; they just have to get it right. The departure of Put further dents Kenya chances of marching teams at international level. As a matter of fact, going by our previous outings, our game at international level is a basket case; a total a waste of time and talent.
Call for a Local Coach
There has been a bandwagon castigating the influx of foreign coaches in the country, going to an extent of labeling them ‘tourists’; the same team vouching for a local coach to lead the team. If Put was a tourist, going by his records at his previous stints in Africa, then I don’t know where we should classify Okumbi. The reasoning behind this smacks of short-sightedness and you would hope the relevant people might know better given that, not long ago, Claude Le Roy ‘The African Witchdoctor’ wanted to take over the team after the departure of Bobby Williamson soon after the new office came into existence instead they went for Okumbi and the results was there for all to see.
Okumbi at that time had parted ways with Mathare United after some disastrous season and, given what we know now, FKF’s lack of curiosity is staggering. The initial contact from Le Roy’s camp did not even merit a follow-up; that was the point FKF could have gone and picked their man, the Paul Put way. Le Roy was to be shipped in by Togo, just days after we had held his team to a 1-1 draw, and finding the team’s chances of making it to the 2017 AFCON showpiece, he changed their fortunes instantly and Took Togo to the showpiece after four years of wait.
It's true that at times, picking a coach who understands the football terrain of a country helps in certain occasion; Florent Ibenge a perfect example with DR Congo but the point is FKF should not be handcuffed to such an arrangement with rumours now rife that the current Mathare United head coach Francis Kimanzi is being considered for the position. The truth is, we have some of the best coaches around, but not the best for the national team. Kimanzi of 2008 is not the Kimanzi of 2018; and his results at club level show this.
Not everyone will like this, but the list of Kenyan candidates feels pretty mundane. Okumbi, has many qualities of a good coach but as is in his previous tenure, the leap from working with the youth (an area where he thrives), to managing players of Wanyama’s pedigree was a big one (was he even able to ask questions to his captain). FKF feels they should promote their own homegrown coaches, which is a positive move, but that should not be hurriedly done. We need coaches who can question the authorities if things aren’t right-the YES men have stagnated the growth of football in this country.
If we are to make it to AFCON, we need a coach who will learn quickly and who understands well the terrain of African football. ‘Tourist’ or not, if you don’t win games, you will always be crucified, no matter where you are from.