Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls. It’s back, what? The dreaded match; Nigeria v Kenya. I didn’t intend it to be this way but it’s the bitter fact- can’t really remember the last time Kenya beat Nigeria, but I can of cause remember one draw. 0-0 it was and wished you saw our faces; that was a huge result.
Quick look forward, a few years later- Nigeria are African Champions. The best in the continent, not just by name, population of its masses if so you thought but they shoved aside every opposition at this year’s tournament to land their hands on Africa’s most coveted trophy. It’s never a matter of how they won it- It was in style I must say.
Thank God for Pay TV it’s now much easier to catch a game or two of the Nigerian Professional Football League/ The Kenya Premier League at the comfort of your living room. For the NPFL- It’s not just the accent of the commentators that draws a few non- footballing fans, the quality of the game, the beauty of the saves and the glamour of the strikes sure draws us more and more to it. How they know the KPL isn’t for me to judge but this just brings into account the fact that these two teams aren’t new to each other. It’s like meeting an old friend after 3 years. You of cause expect them not to have changed too much but what you’ve read about them in recent time makes you itch to meet them by each passing day.
Calabar is the venue; of what significance it does hold on this match I don’t know but a quick chat with the Harambee Stars team manager a few days ago pointed out that the pitch’s condition is fine and that Harambee Stars will have no reason to complain about the turf. The Nigerians of cause will have to blame themselves should they not pick maximum points and goals from this tie and any excuse will sure be a let down to their fans who would love to see them play not just as the Super Eagles but African Champions.
The Super Eagles rise to the top hasn’t been rosy as some may tend to believe. Actually up to very recently most football fans in Africa thought the Nigerian game was on a downward trend. Having missed the 2012 AFCON; Immediate work began. Amidst all the challenges, one thing stood out. Sticking to the right principles will always bring you success.
But now on to a team I know so well- the Harambee Stars. Can we say we are prepared for the Calabar clash? Can we say we have done enough to guarantee an away draw or even a win at the home of the Champions of Africa?
I think for far too long, Kenyan football fans have been reduced to the level of a hopeless man, stuck at the bottom of a 50 plus yards hole and at the mercy of a huge built man at the top who pretends to be stretching his arm but just right beside him lies a ladder that can reach to the bottom. In the simplest of words, pretending to be helping but joyriding in the long run- showing zero commitment and hiding in the cloud of ‘we’re trying to help’ when surely they are not.
It’s no surprise anyway that many Kenyans no longer feel at ease anytime the squad makes its way to the pitch whether home or away. The quality of the league has experienced a tremendous growth over the years and that has seemed to cloud the Federations imagination they are doing well.
Clubs do so much for this country’s game but the structural challenges of the federation over time even after an election that promised change has done little to help the cause of the Harambee Stars.
It’s exciting to note though that the new coach who of cause will be taking part in his first assignment doesn’t want the fans to judge his performance on this Nigerian tie but the performance of the team in the long run.
A quick glance at the squad one thing clearly strikes me- the changes that have taken place in the past few years. Whereas players like George Blackberry Odhiambo cold manage to make it to the plane to Abuja last time, not only is his National team position at stake now- his club form has taken a dip and currently features for Shirak FC in the Armenian League. For others their positions as ever guaranteed, talk of the likes of Mugubi, Jamal Mohammed and the ever green Arnold Origi.
One ray of hope though is that the National team recently damaged Libya 3 Nil a score line that got many by surprise taking into account the country’s record against North African sides.
Nigeria though is a different ball game. It’s not just the tactical mastery of the game Nigeria boasts of, the fast pace, the stars, the whole pressure from the Nigerian fans of a must win and even the history.
Sadly I’m no octopus myself, who am I to write off anybody and above all my team- Kenya?
I’m thus gonna be like any other fan, watch every completed pass with awe, sneer and jeer at every misplaced pass, get surprised or applaud a substitution and bite my nails away at the sight of every missed opportunity.
A few comments on Social media caught my eyes yesterday, one particularly stood out. It said- ‘’Nigeria will use this tie to spread its warning message across Africa. Kenya are gonna use this tie to announce their arrival to Africans’’
What is it then going to be?
Meanwhile to something a little bit interesting- The last time the Harambee Stars played Nigeria which was in 2011. The team shipped three goals and even though most of us never caught the action, some interesting Live Text update of the game still exists. The interactions are exciting and you can view it here
The last time Kenya failed to qualify for the World Cup was in 2009. The last time Kenya and Nigeria met in the World Cup qualifiers interestingly was in 2009. Here in the final match of that group on November 14 2009. Nigeria won it 3-2 but note the price paid for the third goal by Obafemi Martins. Kasarani Stadium meanwhile might confuse you- it had no plastic seats then. Take a further look at the Harambee Stars technical bench, any familiar faces?
Watch the video here http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xb5wt1_kenya-vs-nigeria-2010-wcq-november_sport#.UUkcbDe87Ho
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