To effect change the strategy and the implementation has to be spot on, starting with those given the mandate and privilege of serving the national team. The contrary is rolling out within the local football fraternity.
The mediocrity witnessed in the appointment of the national men’s football coach epitomizes what Kenyan football has been- punishing success and rewarding failures consistently in successive regimes at the national federation. Qualified coaches for the national team have been left scratching their heads wondering if they should reverse their ages in order to get the national team job. It is inhuman, disrespectful, antagonizing to overlook coaches who have worked hard over the years to beef up their CVs for consideration of such jobs only to be shoved aside because they are not “youthful”. If the current action by the FKF in appointing Stanley Okumbi as the national team coach is anything to go by, then the change slogan witnessed during the campaigns will just be that but negative change. The mediocrity will have a ripple effect into the selection of the national team squad hence mediocre quality of play on the pitch.
It is an honor to become head coach of the senior team, it is a new environment, and every new environment for a coach means new challenges. You have to build a new staff of people and you have to get familiar with your environment, meaning who you play against and under what conditions. Robert Muthomi, the FKF Secretary General to be, opined in one of the social media pages with regards to the appointment “Our national team future is dependent on the youth and a coach who is willing to take that risk. Our eyes are on the 2022 WC and Chan 2018. Let’s judge him based purely on his results”. Okumbi’s appointment is premised on the youth centric euphoria being shoved down football stakeholders’ throats. The Youth mantra is not synonymous to age but to character, mentality, intelligence & actions. There is no federation in the world that would appoint a coach purely based on his age, it’s a fallacy. The qualifications of a head coach are purely on coaching academic credentials, experience, championships won, personality and maybe age as an added advantage. If the above factors are put into criterion then a qualified coach will be nominated. Ours is not qualified –a recipe for failure.
His record locally is abysmal. Supporters of his appointment argue that his tenure at the Mathare United was mired by all sorts of issues hence undermining players’ performances. Nothing can be further from the truth. The same issues being fronted were just the tip of the iceberg compared to those at Ingwe and Sofapaka yet the two finished 3rd and 7th respectively ahead of Mathare at 9th . Some have ridiculously argued that Pep Guardiola was signedfrom oblivion at Barcelona ending up to be a success. Pep is a former Barca & Spanish player who achieved success during his playing days. His appointment was for the reason that he understood the culture, traditions, mentality and expectations of the club having been a player. Okumbi, with all due respect, has never been with the national team or any club plus hasn’t won any major championship as a coach or player.
Okumbi is not familiar with club’s continental assignments leave alone the national team. His record with the national U-20 team in a tournament in Egypt was 4 losses and one draw out of 5 matches. It is preposterous for the assistant coaches Musa Otieno and Frank Ouna who have better qualifications in terms of championships won, credentials and experience to be expected to take orders from a non qualified coach. The cohesion in the technical bench will be negative. Players expected to get call ups from the national team :Arnold Origi, Boniface Oluoch, Victor Wanyama, Michael Olunga, Brian Mandela, just to mention but a few , already have more experience than the head coach in continental qualifiers and yet we expect those players to respect the coach and take his instructions without querying?? It’s ludicrous. While the likes of Morocco are appointing a two time AFCON winner Herve Renard into their ranks we are busy experimenting with our locals (this is not to say a foreign coach is more qualified than a local). it’s really important to build a strong chemistry within the team obviously, but also within the staff and the people you work with. To build a really good feel for each other. Its important to build a chemistry that is more about givers than takers and create a real focus on the willingness to improve day by day. Im afraid this won’t happen for the national team.
Okumbi is a fantastic coach when handling the youngsters but has not shown or dared to show his acumen when handling senior players whether at the club level or at the national team. He should maybe be given the Youth Technical Director’s position.
Handling the national team is not the same as handling lower tier teams locally. It’s a big challenge knowledge-wise, climate- wise, and culturally, technically and tactically, psychologically meaning understanding the opponents and understanding what their motivations are to beat the likes of Kenya to qualify or win major tournaments.
Coaching is not just about tactics. How do you communicate with players, with their environment, with their egos? How do you handle certain elements in the professional world, meaning the media, the commercial side of it, the politics behind the scene? How do they build those bridges? What is your leadership like? Okumbi hasn’t shown any of this before.
The highest sign of credibility is to get the right coach at the helm with proper credentials. If you do not have proper credentials you do not have credibility. If parents send their boy or their girl to school, and the teacher doesn’t have the highest teaching credentials, they would question the school. They would probably change schools and take action right away. It’s the same with soccer. You don’t want potential partners, players, media, fans questioning the rationale of hiring the national teams coach. If it’s wrong then it disqualifies you from sponsorships, from demanding performances from players, from expecting fans to turn up in large numbers and from media covering your events.
Harold Ndege is a former Tusker FC player