Kenya’s 3-match winning run a home in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers came to a grinding halt at the hands of Tunisia’s ‘Carthage Eagles’ last Saturday. Shabik’s De’ Stefano was on location to deliver a blow by blow account of the sequence of events.
1) The Preparation
2:05 pm - Am still at home, less than 2 hours to kickoff, but I need a fast shower!
2:15 pm - I grab a quick bite.
2:25pm - Am literally dashing out of the hao. I hear its raining those sides of tao I hate bebaing a brollie… I don’t have to.
2:35pm - I hop into the first mat that pulls up at my stage. Traffic aint mbaya, should be there within the next 35-40 minutes.
3:00pm - a potentially terrible traffic is beginning to build at the Langata Road-
Mbagathi Way-Mai Mahiu Road roundabout with absolutely no traffic cop in sight.
3:10pm - The Brrrrr Stadium. Wow! Unbelievable, the crowd that is here. A huge crowd is milling around the gate on the Nairobi West side, where the flow of traffic has been greatly hampered.
3:12pm - I try circumventing the long queues here and checkout the other entry
points on the eastern side. Hard luck. The queues are longer and the crowd more chaotic.
3:25pm - The heavens sudden open; its pouring like nobody’s business and part of
the crowd is scampering for shelter on the fringes of the parameter wall.
-Police on horsebacks are not helping either as they attempt to ward off the surging crowd.
-The the existing queues don’t same to be moving either. Damn it! Will I really make it in at this rate?
3:30pm - Still yet to find a queue that looks relatively short.
3:45pm - Back on the western wing. I find a queue which has snaked its way to the
parking lot in front of the main entrance. This one seems shorter and less chaotic, so I join in. It’s moving…
4:06pm - Am through the turnstile! Oh my God! The Coca Cola stadium is
literally bursting on its seams… Incredible! Why on earth did I loan out my digital camera?
- No time to waste, up the terraces I scale.
2) The Action
4:07pm - Kickoff. I’ve taken my seat.
4:13pm - A lucky strike on the murky surface gifts the Tunisians goal number one.
4:17pm - Stars are chasing the game. Towering Tunisian captain Radhi Jaidi nearly
concedes an own goal under great pressure from Denis Oliech.
4:22pm - Oliech heads agonizingly close from a looped pass by Robert Mambo.
4:44pm - The sun finally breaks through the clouds on the western side of the stadium.
4:55pm - Halftime.
Tunisia 1: Kenya 0
[Such a wonderful atmosphere inside the stadium. Flags, blurring horns and from a distant, the faint sound of the ‘Isikuti’ all add up to the pomp and fanfare. One in every five people is clad in the Star’s white replica jersey; many faces are painted black, red and green. Lots of beautiful women are also in the house, mostly in the company of jamaas]
*** *** ***
5:11pm - Kipindi cha lala salama.
5:26pm - As the Stars are pressing for an equalizer, a ‘Mexican Wave’ flows 4 times around the stadium.
- The Tunisians seem content in letting the Stars string their passes around.
5:35pm - Yeeeeesss!! Denis Oliech does it again and the roof comes down!!
5:38pm - Heartbreak… Goal number two for Tunisia.
5:42pm - Robert Mambo strike the crossbar with a powerful header.
5:50pm - Fans begin streaming out. Technically we are a beaten side now. All that huffing and puffing comes to naught.
6:01pm - Final whistle.
Tunisia 2: Kenya 1
[Time to take a brief moment of reflection on the terraces as the multitude of fans makes it way out. Am disappointed we’ve lost a game we should have won; but am proud of our boys who’ve gone down fighting.]
Sunday, Maputo – Hosts Mozambique contrive an unlikely scoreless draw against a coy Nigeria even after having 2 ‘goals’ disallowed. As it stands now in Group 2:
Team P W D L GF GA PTS
1. Tunisia 1 1 0 0 2 1 3
2. Mozambique 1 0 1 0 0 0 1
3. Nigeria 1 0 1 0 0 0 1
4. Kenya 1 0 0 1 1 2 0
So there you have it folks, things look abit thick at the moment. It’s bad enough that we lost our first game at home and even worse that our next stop will be in Lagos on 7th June against group favourites, the Super Eagles.
Its gonna be a tough match for us because Nigeria will not be willing to drop any more points so as to stay in touch with Tunisia who at worst can only draw at home to Mozambique over the same weekend. Furthermore Mozambique’s stellar performance against Nigeria should serve as a warning to us that perhaps they are not the pushovers we all thought they are.
That leaves us in a very precarious position. Its really grim but considering the poor travelers that we are (we’ve never beaten Nigeria home, away or ‘anywhere’, for that matter), I see us still rooted at the bottom of the group after the second round of matches.
• Lesson No. 1: Always take the words of a been-there-done-it sage seriously. Former Harambee Stars coach, Mohammed Kheri, sounded an early warning before the match that the Tunisians have a knack for scoring early goals. We conceded a 6th minute goal…
• Lesson No. 2: It’s true that you are most vulnerable within the first two minutes of scoring a goal. That’s when you momentarily let down your guard and whack! The sucker punch. The Tunisians went ahead again only 3 minutes after we equalized.
• Lesson No. 3: It’s also true that Oliech is the fulcrum the entire team revolves around and that we tend to over relay on him. The AJ Auxerre hitman accounts for 5 of the 9 goals we’ve scored so far.
• Lesson No. 4: And finally, on match day, ensure you are at the venue 3 or 4 hours before kickoff; Kenyans are well known for the last minute rush…