SWILA: Kimanzi has his work cut out, but player call ups must be above board


SWILA: Kimanzi has his work cut out, but player call ups must be above board
Francis Kimanzi instructs Teddy Osok during their Under 23 African Cup of Nations qualifier match against Mauritius at Kasarani stadium in Nairobi on November 14, 2018. Kenya won 5-0. Photo/Kelly Ayodi/Sportpicha/Citizen

In Summary

  • Early this week Football Kenya Federation President Nick Mwendwa officially unveiled the Dutch trained tactician Francis Kimanzi and former international Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno as head coach and assistant respectively for the national football team Harambee Stars.
  • The duo takes over on two-year contracts replacing Frenchman Sebastian Migne who left his role on what the federation termed as “mutual consent” after 15 months at the helm.
  • Before Monday’s event where they were officially handed over the reins of guiding and building the team, the media had been awash with reports that the duo was poised to make a return to the Stars dugout with the powers that be at FKF House maintaining a studious silence.
Isaac Swila

Early this week Football Kenya Federation President Nick Mwendwa officially unveiled the Dutch trained tactician Francis Kimanzi and former international Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno as head coach and assistant respectively for the national football team Harambee Stars.

The duo takes over on two-year contracts replacing Frenchman Sebastian Migne who left his role on what the federation termed as “mutual consent” after 15 months at the helm.

Before Monday’s event where they were officially handed over the reins of guiding and building the team, the media had been awash with reports that the duo was poised to make a return to the Stars dugout with the powers that be at FKF House maintaining a studious silence.

Important to note though is that Kimanzi is making a return to the team’s technical bench after two separate spells in the past.

Harambee Stars coach Sebastian Migne talks to Michael Olunga during evening first training session in Cairo, Egypt on June 19, 2019. The Kenya National team team is preparing ahead of their opening match of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations against Algeria on June 23, 2019. Photo/Stafford Ondego/Sportpicha/Citizen

His first stint as Stars head coach was between November 2008 and January 2009 and later in November 2011 and June 2012 while ‘Zico’ who will be the second in command has also previously handled the senior team between December 2010 and December 2011.

Kimanzi’s first spell was arguably the most ‘successful’ as he not only brought Stars  agonizingly close to qualifying for the 2010 World Cup finals held on African soil, in South Africa, but also guided the Stars to their highest ever Fifa ranking, at position 68. That was in 2008. His second stint though was devoid of spark.

Looked at deeply, Kimanzi has also held sway at Kenyan Premier League club Mathare United for the last three seasons but it is hard to pin-point his successes at club level.

Prior to joining his boyhood club Mathare, he had also been coach of Tusker FC but again I find it hard to pin-point the major successes he had with the brewers.

Taking over Mathare in December 2015 alongside Salim Ali, the ‘Slum Boys’ made lots of promise at the beginning of the 2018 season but fizzled out as the going got tougher.

Soccer Football - Africa Cup of Nations 2019 - Group C - Kenya v Senegal - 30 June Stadium, Cairo, Egypt - July 1, 2019 Kenya coach Sebastien Migne REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
Soccer Football – Africa Cup of Nations 2019 – Group C – Kenya v Senegal – 30 June Stadium, Cairo, Egypt – July 1, 2019 Kenya coach Sebastien Migne REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

It is no brainer that the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) graduate has the right coaching credentials having attained an UEFA A license. However, what Kenyan football fans are looking for are successes. They want Kenya to be mentioned in the same vein as Algeria, Senegal, Cameroon and the likes.

These soccer loving fans do not relish the prospects of forever being the punching bags at major competitions – No, Kimanzi! They want to grace AFCON showpiece pregnant with hope that their boys can pull an equal weight and challenge for the trophy. They want to go shoulder-to- shoulder with giants such as Algeria and not be whipped even before the game begins. They want to see the team improve to an extent that even the bookmakers can give them rave reviews and respectable odds in matches.

In short, these soccer fans want to witness real and meaningful growth.

Team selection must be on merit and must not be informed by friendship. As national head coach Kimanzi must owe no allegiance to any club but the Kenyan dream.

Kimanzi, as exhibited in the past, has had a frosty working relationship with the media and it is my considered advice that for success to be achieved, he needs to bring every stakeholder on board; the coaches, the players and most importantly, the Fourth Estate.

By being head coach, Kimanzi has his in-tray full. He needs to scout talent by watching the lower tier league matches. It is only by developing a pool of talents from the junior ranks that the national team will not be bereft of future stars.

By now he needs to start thinking beyond Victor Wanyama or Johna Omollo. He needs to start grooming the next Michael Olunga. As head coach, success is planned, it doesn’t just happen.

On the same vein, his deputy Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno has elected to also stick to his club duties.

Though this arrangement has been agreed upon between him and his two employers – FKF and KCB FC, Zico needs to soul search.

Gor Mahia FC assistant coach coach Zedekiah Zico Otieno. (PHOTO/File/Sportpicha.com)

Guided by conscience and the desire to give optimum output and maximum concentration, it’s proper for the good Zico to pick one job.

Both of them are respectable, energy draining jobs, painstaking and require maximum concentration.

National duty overrides club duty and Zico needs to be brave enough to pick one for optimum results.

The work they have begun together with Kimanzi at the national team should not just be seen as an economic opportunity but a sacred job, a national call, a duty that requires them to go out of their way, to share notes with their counterparts, not just in Africa but across the globe, attend coaching seminars, burn the midnight oil and roll out their master plans if the national team is to succeed, and I find it hard to understand how he’ll juggle both roles.

The federation, on the other hand, and the government needs to offer unwavering support to the two coaches if the Stars are to grace the 2021 African Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon.

Soccer Football - Africa Cup of Nations 2019 - Group C - Algeria v Kenya - 30 June Stadium, Cairo, Egypt - June 23, 2019 Kenya players huddle at the end of the match REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
Soccer Football – Africa Cup of Nations 2019 – Group C – Algeria v Kenya – 30 June Stadium, Cairo, Egypt – June 23, 2019 Kenya players huddle at the end of the match REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Migne and his backroom staff of fellow Frenchmen were no doubt accorded the maximum support and it is imperative that the same be replicated.

In paying Migne some colloquial Sh45million in termination of his contract, it’s my hope and believe that the federation, in future, will prevent such losses by being frugal with its finances. Kila la heri Kimanzi na Zico.

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