Why there is great need for Kenya to qualify for the 2021 Afcon – Juma

The Harambee Stars started their pursuit for a slot in the continental showpiece with a 1-1 draw against Egypt in November 2019

Retired Harambee Stars midfielder Tom Juma has explained the need for the country to strive for a back-to-back African Cup of Nations qualifications.

Kenya were part of the 2019 finals in Egypt and, again as was the case with their predecessors, failed to make it into the knockout stages. 

For the 2021 Afcon qualifications, Kenya have already amassed two points after 1-1 draws against African heavyweights Egypt and Togo, and are second on Group G’s log where Comoros are the other opponents.

Juma was part of the 2004 Afcon finals in Tunisia where they lost to Mali, Senegal and won against Burkina Faso in Group B’s last match.

“Had we qualified for the next Afcon edition [2006], things would have been different for sure,” Juma told Goal.

“It is the case that we have now if the team does better and qualifies again for the competition, things will be different for us especially if somehow we maintain the players that featured in 2019.”

Juma, who is now serving Kenyan Premier League (KPL) side AFC Leopards as football operations manager, says the problem with inconsistent participation means a nation cannot build a competitive side.

“The problem would be if we fail to qualify and spend another 15 years in the cold by the time we qualify again, it is perhaps a different generation of players that would be playing,” he explained.

“This is not a good way of developing a team because we would be going back again and again.

“That is why we really wanted to qualify for the 2006 edition but again we failed as everyone knows.

“With time one realises they [opponents] are just but normal players you are facing and you can compete marvellously.”

Speaking about the 2004 squad under coach Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee, Juma says the tactician did a good job in selecting the best of teams.

Francis Onyiso, Duncan Ochieng, Moses Gikenyi, John Muiruri, Japheth Waweru, Adam Shaban, Musa Otieno, Phillip Opiyo, John Baraza, Dennis Oliech, Mike Okoth, Robert Mambo, Emmanuel Ake and Issa Kassim were notable figures representing Kenya t in Tunis.

“That was the best team listen to the names that you are mentioning to me and tell me if it was not a good team,” Juma continued.

“Best players in the local league were picked as well as professional players and it is right to say Mulee assembled the best team.

“Remember some players had worked with the legendary coach [Reinhard] Fabisch before and were therefore experienced in their own right.

“[Dennis] Oliech was our top player at that time and naturally was marked hard by the opponents.”