By Brian Homewood
CAIRO (Reuters) – Kenya still have a long, hard road ahead if they are to come anywhere near matching the success they have enjoyed in athletics on the football field, coach Sebastien Migne said on Wednesday.
Kenyan, known as the Harambee Stars, are taking part in the Africa Cup of Nations for the sixth time and have won only one match out of 15 — beating Burkina Faso 3-0 on their last appearance in 2004 when they had already been eliminated.
They have never got past the group stage and have never qualified for a World Cup.
Migne said that travelling to other countries had made him aware of the gap between the popularity of football in Kenya and elsewhere.
“Kenya was until now not a country of football,” he told reporters. “During the qualifying competition we went to Ghana and I saw kids everywhere in the street playing football. In West Africa, they are everywhere.
“I lived for three years on Oman and, from four o’clock in the evening on the beach, on all the coast you have small games of football.”
This was not the case in Kenya, however.
“You can go along the coast, which is wonderful, but it is difficult to see a football match,” he said.
However, things were starting to change. When Kenya hosted Ethiopia in their decisive qualifier in October, a game they won 3-0, Migne said that the stadium was full two hours before kick off and thousands of fans were left outside.
“We have to go step by step because we have some talented players,” he said. “The Harambee Stars are becoming important for the Kenyan people — we are on the way but the road will be long to get to the top 10 in Africa.
Kenya face East African neighbours Tanzania on Thursday in a key match for both sides, who lost their opening games against Algeria and Senegal respectively.
Migne admitted he was disappointed with their performance.
“We’ll enter the pitch tomorrow to try to show our qualities, to start our game from the first second,” he said. “I believe in my team and we have some qualities. I think for the next game we will be there. It will be important to learn quickly.”
Migne said his team must not throw away their chance after such a long absence from the tournament.
“We were absent for 15 years so we cannot miss this event. We need to be alive, to feel all the moment. I hope tomorrow you will see another face of my team,” he said.
“Tomorrow, the players will to try write history and win the first game with something at stake during the final of CAN — and after that everything is possible.”
(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Toby Davis)