Famous sport witnesses highs and lows as the season ends
As 2019 approaches the end, the year will go down in the annals of Kenya’s football history as the year in which Football Kenya Federation (FKF) recorded success and failure in equal measure and especially matters on national teams.
Admittedly, national senior men’s team Harambee Stars returned to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt after a 15-year hiatus marked the turning point of the country that had been reduced to strugglers in the international scene.
However, Stars failed to navigate past the preliminary stage came to haunt Stars yet again which lends credence that a lot more needs to be done by the football mandarins to put the country in the Africa map.
On the flip side, FKF under the stewardship of Nick Mwenda (pictured), who was elected President in 2016, takes credit in propelling Stars to the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup title a year later when the competition was held at home.
It is also not lost in the minds of many that during the tenure of the federation, most of the Kenyan players attracted the scouts of foreign clubs thus bringing in invaluable expertise to the national team.
Others who were playing in either Europe or Asia were snapped up by bigger clubs and had a vital contribution to Stars.
Among the players is Micheal Olunga who joined Japanese top league side Kashiwa Reysol from Chinese outfit Guizhou Zicheng.
Curiously, another breakthrough by the country was in form of national women’s team Harambee Starlets winning the Cecafa feminine Championships by beating hosts Tanzania 2-0 in the final match held in Dar-es-salaam.
But if this was a milestone to Starlets, they had earlier on grappled with the heart-break of failure to qualify to the 2020 Olympics after being bundled out by She-Polopolo of Zambia in the qualifiers.
Harambee Starlets, are set to grace the African Women Cup of Nations (AWCON) for the second consecutive time next year and will be gunning at astounding their critics. However, FKF takes credit in strengthening leagues which has, in essence, attracted sponsors.
The sponsorship of the national Super League by gaming company Betika could not have come at an opportune time when some of the clubs in the country like Sony Sugar and Chemelil Sugar were grounded due to lack of funds.
Further, the federation burned the midnight oil in well as capacity building in training coaches and referees which has contributed to the vast improvement of teams.
Granted, FKF strengthened the national teams’ setup by constituting age-group national teams as well as improving how the teams’ logistics were handled, in a bid to churn out positive results.