Kenya:Harambee Stars Coach Infuriated with hosting WC Qualifiers in Malawi

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Kenya national team (Harambee Stars) head coach, Engin Firat, has expressed his frustration with the recent decision to relocate the team’s 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches against Burundi and Ivory Coast to Malawi. The Football Kenya Federation (FKF) announced on Tuesday that the matches would be held at the Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe on June 8 and 11, with Kenya facing off against the Swallows and the Elephants, respectively.

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Reason why Kenya to play home games away from home

The decision to move the matches to Malawi was made due to the unavailability of a Confederation of African Football (CAF)-approved stadium in Kenya. The government had closed both the Kasarani Sports Complex and Nyayo Stadium for renovations in preparation for the 2024 African Nations Championships (CHAN) and the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

Firat hits hard on the Federation

Coach Firat openly criticized the decision, questioning the lack of suitable infrastructure in Kenya to host international matches. His comments highlight the challenges faced by the national team in finding appropriate venues to compete in competitive matches. Playing important World Cup qualifiers in a foreign country not only disrupts the team’s home advantage but also adds logistical complexities for players and staff.

The move to play in Malawi raises concerns about the team’s preparation and readiness for these crucial matches. Home support and familiarity with the local conditions can play a significant role in determining a team’s performance on the field. The absence of a suitable stadium in Kenya emphasizes the need for better sports infrastructure development to support the country’s football ambitions.

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As Kenya strives to compete at the highest level in international football, it is essential for all stakeholders, including the government and sports authorities, to prioritize the construction and maintenance of modern sports facilities. Providing adequate venues for national teams to train and compete not only benefits the athletes but also fosters a strong football culture and promotes the country’s sporting prowess on the global stage.

In light of Coach Firat’s criticism and the challenges faced by the national team, the spotlight is now on the authorities to expedite the stadium renovations and invest in long-term sports infrastructure to avoid such situations in the future. The passionate football fans in Kenya deserve the opportunity to support their team on home soil, and it is crucial to create an enabling environment for the development and success of Kenyan football.

“It is no secret, it is a big disappointment, very disappointing for us because we play nearly one year only away, no more than one year only away, and it is tough to play always in different places to be travelling all the time to have never found support (from our fans) and these are always difficult situations for us,” Firat said as quoted by Flashscore in an exclusive interview.

He added: “We were hoping very much to play these two matches in June at home with the support of our fans to have a good atmosphere in the stadium with our fans at home, you know everybody thought it was possible, but I was if you remember from my previous press conference sceptical about it and now you see it doesn’t work.”

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Kenya’s immediate neighbors will host from own grounds

On neighbours Tanzania and Uganda managing to host their qualifiers on home soil, the Turkish tactician said: “It is disappointing because our neighbours like Uganda and Tanzania, who are close (to us in the East African region) and playing in AFCON qualifiers can afford to play their respective home matches at home and these make our job more difficult, more difficult but there is nothing me and my players can do but to focus and do a good job in the two matches.”

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