Fifteen-year jinx and we made it back to the continental stage for the 2019 AFCON. 1 win and 2 losses and we came back home. Every fan almost had a thing to say on the team and their performance at the tournament. Were we too hopeful that the team could make it out the group into the round of 16, coming up against more better-prepared sides like Algeria and Senegal who were favourites from the word go?
Or is it that we were ill-prepared with no experience and we should have handled some aspects of our game better? AFCON returns in a little less than two years and by then, will improvements have being made? In other words, I am asking , what is the way forward for our national soccer side? What do we need to do to build on this performance that we had in this tourney here? Where did we do wrongs that we could improve on?
I could go on and on with these questions but let me pause them there for now. I know the epic moment for any football fan is when a team does not only qualify for tourneys but goes a step further to prove why they made it past the cut-off line. That is where we as Kenyans would like to see our national team get to. Is there a chance for us to build on what we already have at the moment? Quite frankly, there is, of course, but the steps to get there will not start being made in
That is not only work to the technical side of the national side or the FKF, or just the Ministry of Sports, Heritage and Culture but each and everyone of us needs to come together. The 12th man on the pitch will always be us, the fans. Not only turning up to support the national side just because we have a game against another national side, but also when it comes to the local leagues, we should turn up in numbers.
Let us not make it a preserve for games we consider to have heavy following like the Mashemeji Derby but for each and every game there is in the Kenyan Premier League as well as the National Super League. Support starts from there, not when team selections are made we do not even know where the named players play their local club soccer. If support begins from the lower levels and is properly followed through, am sure we could grow the sport to some new heights.
Another thing is that the national side should be highly competitive with a pool of players to pick on for each period. Be it friendlies, major or minor tournaments. A team should not really be the same group of people that are always known but an ever-changing one with coaches being able to evaluate team chemistry. This should take into consideration of players at the club levels over a period that should aim to find how players have being consistent in their roles as such.
A reason for the outcry by a group of fans was that the team was not really a reflection of the players who had really done well at club level as such and therefore it should have being more considerate of such issues I have outlined above. A competitive team could help players to really keep on their toes while at club level, not only because they are looking for a national team call up but also it improves their game at club level generally. Hence, this is a win-win situation.
The national side should also have a feeder system. Where they have pool of young talent who can be nurtured into future stars to carry the nation. This would really be helpful especially with a national side. Am quite happy that the stars have an Under-20 side, an U-17 side and an U-15 side, which is quite young system which is picking from the French and if everything goes well, the nation, should have quite a bright future with adequate preparations. That means we might have to wait for three or so years to see that our national side rises to levels that it needs and everyone envisions it to get to be.
Will we see improvements in 2021 hopefully and in the near future with this? Only time will tell.