Harambee Stars h**d coach Engin Firat optimistic of turning around team’s fortunes after a lengthy ban, eyes g****l show piece

Thursday, February 2nd, 2023 03:30 | By
Harambee Star’s head coach Engin Firat gestures during the team’s World Cup qualifying match against Mali at the Nyayo Stadium in 2021. PD/ Rodgers Ndegwa

Harambee Stars’ head coach Engin Firat if confident the team can make a historical maiden appearance at the 2026 Fifa World Cup if proper structures are put in place and preparations started early.

Kenya like all her neighbours in East Africa, have never qualified for the World Cup. However, Firat believes this is the time to break the jinx and has called on the support of all stakeholders including fans to make it a reality.

“If you look at our football history, we have never made it to any World Cup or Olympic Games, so some people may think that we have no chance, but I believe we have a big chance for two reasons, first, I know for sure that there is massive talent in Kenya but I’m yet to know the capacity we have, we need to start early search for these talents and make good use of them, then secondly, if all of us don’t fight each other and all of us worth together, believing on te single focus and stay behind the team, then we will be at the 2026 World Cup,” Firat told People Sport yesterday.

He added: “The next Fifa World Cup has an advantage for African teams since it will have more teams and that means more slots for African teams. I’m sure there could be some doubting Thomases, but we are here to make the surprises and we will do it.”

World football governing body Fifa last year increased the number of participating teams for the next World Cup to be hosted jointly by USA, Mexico and Canada, to 48 from 32, with Africa getting the lion share of the added slots as the continent will this time have nine representatives at the global stage, up from five.

Firat said the year long suspension had dragged back the country’s football, but he remains optimistic of turning Harambee Stars into a formidable side within a short time.

“We are not starting from the same place we were. Currently Kenyan football is several years back and that’s the reality, because the national team is the ultimate side in this chain because if the clubs are suffering, players are suffering mentally for missing almost one and a half years of international football, the ripple effects reach the national team,” the Turkish coach said.

He added: “I said it before the suspension that the sanctions would have radical consequences and pleaded for sober approach to all the issues, but in the end it happened, it has really affected players, clubs and every other persons involved. No is the right time to quickly put things together and forge ahead.

Firat ruled out chances of Kenya qualifying for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations to be held in Ivory Coast in February next year after Stars failed to honour two Group C qualifying matches against Cameroon and Namibia due to the Fifa sanctions.

“I don’t think there is any chance of qualifying for 2023 Afcon, I know our Minister tried to convince CAF to allow us honour the two matches we missed, but I doubt if that would be granted and starting with no points in the group while there is a team with six points, clearly limits our chances for qualifying. I don’t like to dream but I love to work a lot,” said the tactician who had only stayed with the national team for two months before Kenya was suspended.

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