Adel Amrouche, and the Harambee Stars Poisoned Chalice

by kenyantaboo

“As for the lifestyle, well, yeah,…there was more money and more celebrity around than anyone in football had ever known. I’ll say this, though, the Arsenal side that won titles when I first arrived in football, and the (Manchester) United side that began to dominate as I made a name for myself, both of these teams where much wilder than us (Liverpool), and I know that from some of the stories that I’ve heard while on England duty. They got away with it because they won.” – pg. 180

Robbie Fowler: My Autobiography

Anfield faithful have one rule, that when Robbie Fowler speaks, you listen. They didnt nickname him ‘God’ for nothing. Robbie has spoken, his word is law.

Two days have passed since Kenya marginally lost to Nigeria on home soil. It was new coach’s Adel Amrouche‘s second game in charge, although he was absent from the dugout after picking the red card away in Calabar. He’s barely settled into the job, but the lynch mob wont wait, they want him gone, and now. Yesterday, he asked fans to be patient and allow him to turn things around. But fans have turned up the heat, they want answers why we lost to the African Champions, and why, particularly, he played Jamal Mohammed, the bad boy of Kenya’s football. Newspaper front pages have showed a visibly intoxicated Jamal indulging in shisha smoking during Sunday’s socialites parade in the capital, in what is a clear case of breaking camp rules. It was not the first time, for Malo, and, certainly, not the last.

Jamal is a case study of rogue talent untamed. The free-spirited Harambee Star is unattached and, therefore, lacks match fitness. However, he was the first name on the teamsheet on Wednesday, and it was understandable that his inclusion caused a storm. I look at this as a sentimental decision rather than a footballing one, and we have numerous precedents, from higher leagues ashore.

“We are all delighted. It is especially pleasing for Paul Scholes and he will be the first name on my team-sheet for the Final. It was a fantastic goal. We can’t expect him to score 14 or 15 a season like he used to, simply because he is getting older. He has delivered a goal at a crucial time for us because we were getting nervous in the early stages.” – Sir Alex Ferguson.

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Jamal is hardly in the calibre of the Ginger Prince of Mancunia, Adel Amrouche is no Sir Alex Ferguson, either. But when a player shows nerves of steel, in front of such an expectant crowd, to score the winning goal, the only payback is to stick with him particularly when he’s doing his time in the trenches. And Malo is no different.

Fans must recall September 2008 when the Brave Warriors of Namibia landed in Nairobi for a World Cup qualifier. Namibia had never lost to Kenya, a loss to Kenya would take them out of contention, Kenya was missing talismanic Dennis Oliech. A win for Kenya would put them top of Group 2 on 10 points, this was Kenya’s only chance to qualify for her maiden World Cup finals. We came in large numbers, Harambee Stars had never been supported like this before. The stage was set for fireworks. We played well, by far the better team, created numerous chances but couldnt bury any. Crowd was growing frustrated, temperatures were rising, until the Burundian referee awarded Kenya a controversial penalty.

Never before had I seen cowardice on show. MacDonald Mariga, Allan Wanga, Robert Mambo and the twin towers of George Owino and Edgar Ochieng literally turned their backs on taking the spot-kick, the crowd was already celebrating. Then Jamal said, “why not”, and nonchalantly picked the ball and planted it on the spot. The crwod went silent you could hear a pin drop. Jamal, never been a coward all his life, sent the keeper the wrong way, fans went wild we were going to the World Cup. That game cemented Jamal’s place in the hearts of football fans. He showed Kenyans whom they should rely upon when the chips were down. Jamal has never changed, he remains the lion-hearted Bearded Prince of Nairobi, never intimidated, never backing off from a challenge. And that’s the guy you need when the African Champions dock on your shores. He’s never let me down.

Another thing that needed addressing is Adel Amrouche’s managerial approach. I’ll go out on a limb here and call out all those fans demanding Amrouche’s head. You, my friends, are the reason Kenyan football cant rise up. I’ve been in this camp, I know the feeling too well, I shifted because I realize managing Harambee Stars, with the two antagonistic elephant egos of FKF and KPL, is no mean feat. Lynching the manager has never worked before, and we have precedence on this, as well.

September 2006 and Eritrea came calling for an AFCON qualifying berth. Kenya had signed former France International Bernard Lama and this was his first game in charge. This was a walkover, we said.  The last time we played Eritrea, we whitewashed them NINE goals, and had a certain cocky Mathews Owino ‘Ottamax’ not had a blood-rush to his head and attempted to dribble past that Eritrean striker, we could have kept a clean-sheet. It was Ottamax’s last game for Harambee Stars, we were embarrassed Eritrea had scored a goal against us. So when Lama took his charges for his first game, it was a foregone conclusion, until Arnold Origi scored the infamous own-goal and Kenya missed a penalty. This game is memorable because it’s the only time I have watched home fans going to the dug out to fire the coach. Yes, Lama had to be shielded by his Assistant Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee from irate fans, under a hail of missiles, when the match was still underway. It was baptism by fire, he later resigned, inevitably. Barely two games in charge and the bell has been sounded for Adel Amrouche.

Fans love diversionary tactics, it’s hardwired in the Kenyan DNA. What they dont realize is that FKF loves it when we blame Amrouche for the dismal performances, because it shields them from the blame they must rightfully shoulder. We prepared against the African Champions without even a top-flight friendly match. Nigeria flew all the way to the USA to face Mexico, and drew 2-2, then circumnavigated to Germany for a prep camp, before landing in Nairobi a day to the clash. All the while, our boys were having fun in Naivasha, tackling each other in substandard training facilities. Against all odds, we still lost to a solitary goal. We choose not to see this, instead lining Adel Amrouche in front of the the firing squad. It’s convenient, it’s populist. Amrouche’s assistant, James Nandwa has not been spared, either. We suffer from selective amnesia.

I am not the only one who congratulated James Nandwa for taking a hurriedly -assembled team to CECAFA 2012 and losing in the final. The ‘lynch-mob’ also joined me, we all came to one conclusion that, with a little free hand and players’ morale boost, James Nandwa is capable of taking us to the the World Cup. The ‘lynch mob’ would want to make me believe that that assessment was made in the heat of the moment, and that they have never ranked Nash among Kenya’s best coaches. The same fate that befell high-flying Francis Kimanzi, nothing ever satisfies Kenyan fans. Ask Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee.

In 2004, when Kenya qualified for the African Cup of Nations, after I dont know how long, Mulee was criticized for ‘choosing his relatives and friends’ to represent Kenya. One player whose inclusion caused an outrage was Japheth Waweru, the beanpole leftback who later came back prematurely after suffering a neck injury. And when we went down against World Cup semifinalists Senegal and an evergreen Mali, Mulee was already bathing in his blood. But he was to have the last laugh in our final Group game against BurkinaFaso. The ‘lynch mob’ are yet to celebrate our beating Burkinafaso THREE-NIL. They will not apologize, because that is not in their job description.

We can choose to let Adel Amoruche rebuild or take out the knives and let him fall. One thing is for certain, that if the ‘lynch mob’ wont change their attitude, Kenyan football shall remain in the gutter, forever.