Tunisia 2004: Missed Chances and Not Size Led to Kenya's Losses

The Nation (Nairobi)
OPINION
February 6, 2004
Posted to the web February 6, 2004

By Elias Makori

A regional soccer organisation has taken issue with UK press reports that the region performed dismally at the Africa Cup of Nations here.

The Confederation of East and Central Africa Football Association's general secretary Nicholas Musonye said under the difficult circumstances under which Kenya and Rwanda operate, their performances were not too disappointing.

Musonye, said reports in the Observer that Harambee Stars were outmuscled by Senegal in the West Africans' 3-0 Group 'B' win were out of context.

The Observer on Sunday argued that the small size of the Kenyan players was responsible for the defeat.

But Musonye reacted that size was not an issue during that match played at the October 15 Stadium in Bizerte.

"I don't agree that Senegal outmuscled Kenya," Musonye, a member of the Confederation of African Football's media committee said.

"In fact, in terms of possession and play, the two teams were almost at par and Kenya matched Senegal foot for foot. It is only that Senegal got their chances and converted them while the Kenyans did not.

Our players are not small and hopeless as the reports claim. If our teams were hopeless, then they would not have qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations finals and won matches here."

The Observer quoted an American anthropologist John Entine as saying that east Africans are among the world's worst soccer players, comments that Musonye did not appreciate.

"Rwanda and Kenya were not hopeless in this year's tournament. I would say they were average as Rwanda lost one match, drew one and won one while Kenya lost two and won one," Musonye argued.

"The teams' success in qualifying for the tournament and winning matches is a result of the consistent organisation of regional tournaments like the Cecafa Challenge Cup and regional clubs' championship."

The Cecafa official said the region would now aim to have three teams in the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Egypt. Four countries in the region Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Sudan are through to the group stages of the qualifiers which start in June.

In the qualifiers, Uganda have been drawn in Group Two alongside Ghana, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa and Cape Verde while Sudan are in Group Three with Cameroon, Benin, Egypt, Cote d' Ivoire and Libya.

Rwanda are in Group Four with Zimbabwe, Gabon, Nigeria, Algeria and Angola while Kenya will play in Group Five with Malawi, Bostwana, Guinea, Morocco and Tunisia.

However, Musonye agreed with the UK media reports that the east Africans lacked the exposure of playing in big clubs.

"I agree that our players are not exposed and would hasten to add that lack of support from the governments has affected football in the region. Look at Cameroon for example, there is a soccer budget read every year by the government while in countries like Kenya sport is only a small department of a ministry. This has set back the development of sport in the region and football in particular."

Musonye said, for example, since the Kenyan government withdrew its support for clubs participating in continental competitions, the standard of play had deteriorated.

"In the 1970s and 80s Kenya did very well in club tournaments when the government was financing their participation in continental tournaments. But since the government withdrew this support, the clubs, like Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards have crashed.

"Even institutional clubs like Tusker, Mumias and Nzoia are not getting adequate funding to effectively prepare for and participate in continental tournaments."

Musonye wants the governments in the region to invest more in soccer and monitor how funds are used by federations.

"This is because most of the federations are not sincere in their financial dealings and there is, therefore, need for governments to strictly monitor the federation accounts."

The UK reports also quote Manchester United scout Nicholas MacGowan as saying that Kenya's sensational striker Dennis Oliech could not make it in the English Premiership, an argument Musonye dismisses.

"Oliech is better than most players in the English Premiership. All he needs is a little bit of sharpening and good coaching and he could outperform the majority of strikers in the Premiership I totally disagree with the argument that he is not Premiership material."