Features & Opinions

Will Kaizer Chiefs regret choosing Gavin Hunt over Adel Amrouche?

20:40 EAT 17/09/2020
Gavin Hunt & Adel Amrouche
The Glamour Boys opted for the ex-Bidvest Wits boss ahead of the former Harambee Stars gaffer; will they regret their decision?

Despite rumours linking ex-Kenya coach Adel Amrouche with the vacant Kaizer Chiefs post, Amakhosi moved to appoint former Bidvest Wits chief Gavin Hunt on Thursday, unveiling the former SuperSport United boss as the replacement for Ernst Middendorp.

While there's largely been excitement around Hunt's arrival, will the Glamour Boys regret overlooking Amrouche? 

Goal Kenya editor Dennis Mabuka believes that Chiefs may have missed a trick in not considering a head coach who could have reinvigorated the fallen giants of South African soccer.

When  Amrouche beat over 20 applicants to take over as Kenya national team Harambee Stars coach on February 20, 2013, few knew what the future could hold of a team that had struggled to leave a mark in the region and across Africa.

Amrouche walked into the team replacing Frenchman Henri Michel, who had quit in a huff, and what awaited him was a baptism of fire, as he was to lead the team against the then-African champions Nigeria in a World Cup qualifier.

At that time, the Super Eagles, who had just won a third Nations Cup, were leading Group F on four points from two rounds of matches, while Kenya were lying last with a point, which they had secured after a 0-0 draw against Malawi having lost to Namibia away in Windhoek.

His journey began in Calabar where he helped Kenya to resuscitate their 2014 World Cup qualifying hopes after his side managed to hold the Super Eagles to a 1-1 draw that saw the hosts equalise in the dying minutes of the game.

Kenya had taken a deserved lead courtesy of a well-taken free-kick from midfielder Francis Kahata, which left goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama rooted to the ground, and the final result stunned the Super Eagles to the core.

Amrouche took little time to build a strong national team, he brought young players like Kahata, Allan Wanga, Anthony Akumu, David Owino, Abud Omar, Peter Opiyo, Edwin Lavatsa, and Clifford Miheso, and built a team around them. And then there was Victor Wanyama, McDonald Mariga, and Dennis Oliech, who were the key players when he arrived.

Though Kenya did not make it to the World Cup, the gains achieved in the qualifiers came to the fore as Owino, Kahata, Wanga, Omar, Opiyo, Lavatsa, and Miheso played key roles when Kenya clinched Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup held in Nairobi in December 2013.

The 2-0 win against Sudan in the final was sweet for the country as they were celebrating Golden Jubilee on Jamhuri Day and was also historic for Amrouche, as he had won his first silverware as Kenyan coach.

It had also taken Kenya 30 years to win the Cecafa trophy on their home soil.

What could Amakhosi fans have expected from Amrouche?

Amrouche, who arrived in Kenya after leading Burundi between 2007 and 2012, took it upon himself to entrust national team duties to young upcoming players in the Kenyan Premier League.

He took a risk and built a national team around the local-based players, a decision many Kenyans questioned at first, but it later turned out to be the turning point.

Most of the players under Amrouche were playing in the Kenyan league, the Algerian-born Belgian coach did not look at foreign-based players to build his career in Kenya, he only resorted to using some of the best local talents and they later turned out to adore his style.

“Under Amrouche, we enjoyed every bit of the game, we enjoyed being in camp, we enjoyed it when going outside the country, he was like a father figure to us,” Kakamega Homeboyz striker Wanga told Goal . “He gave us the freedom to express ourselves and also guided us if we did anything wrong, I think he remains one of the best coaches in Kenyan history.”

Under his watch, players like Ochieng, Kahata, Owino, Miheso, Akumu, Lavatsa, Opiyo, and Omar managed to secure transfer moves to clubs outside Kenya.

The Amakhosi fans could therefore have anticipated a coach who would have been prepared to work with the talent available to him, and prompt an improvement in some of Chiefs' underperforming stars.

Amrouche would have been a no-nonsense coach at Chiefs

By the time he took over as Kenya coach, lead striker Oliech, then playing for AJ Auxerre in France, was among the untouchable players in the squad.

Oliech could skip camp and training sessions without permission and would later resurface on matchday. Amrouche's predecessors would readily give him a starting role ahead of those who had been training in camp, despite his ill-discipline.

Such cases were very rare during Amrouche’s time, he would not tolerate players with disciplinary issues, and on many occasions, had issues with Oliech, previously a talisman in the eyes of Harambee Stars fans.

However, it was Amrouche who made the daring move to strip Oliech of the captain's armband and pass it to young Wanyama, who remains the team's skipper to this day.

He is a coach who could have instilled discipline in the Amakhosi squad and would have given them the much-needed belief to fight for the title again in the new campaign after last year's disappointment.

Amrouche could have brought the excitement back to Naturena

During his stint with Kenya, the Harambee Stars turned out to be the most exciting team in the region. Amrouche is a coach who advocates for the game to start from behind, but with an emphasis on attacking play.

He is a tactically gifted coach, not a defence-minded one and he proved it on many occasions during Kenya matches, like in the Calabar game, despite playing away from home, Kenya never tried to defend their 1-0 slim lead.

He also did the same in the final of Cecafa, where Kenya played a very entertaining game to win 2-0, he prefers a four-man defence with the wingers also aiding the attackers, and it's a strategy that Chiefs fans would surely have fallen in love with.

It is the reason Amrouche is still beloved in Kenya, and in his recent visit, he was accorded ‘a red-carpet welcome’ at the airport, with those present begging him to return and take over the Harambee Stars.

“I am not looking after a job, I am enjoying my return to Kenya and taking it easy,” Amrouche told Goal during the visit. “I have come to visit my family and friends.

"I am not anticipating to work in Kenya now, I have big projects outside the country.”

The 52-year-old, who is currently contracted to Botswana Football Association for the next two years, could have been the missing link between Chiefs and the trophies that their fans crave, and while Hunt's arrival has been well received, might Amakhosi regret overlooking a coach who could have ended that long wait for silverware in style?