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Sebastien Migne: Evaluating the former Harambee Stars coach's tenure

12:40 GMT+3 14/08/2019
Sebastien Migne of Harambee Stars v Algeria.
Goal evaluate the Frenchman's time as Kenya head coach, remembering the highs and the lows

On Wednesday, the Football Kenya Federation and Frenchman Sebastien Migne ended their short association by mutual consent.
 
The latter had been at the helm of the Kenya national team since May 3, 2018, qualifying the Harambee Stars for the Africa Cup of Nations in the process.
 
“Kenya Football Federation and Harambee Stars coach Sebastien Migne have agreed to terminate the coach’s contract on mutual consent.

"Consequently, FKF and [Sebastien] Migne have agreed on a settlement for the coach, over a period of time," said the statement signed by FKF acting Chief Executive Officer Barry Otieno.

Whether the Federation bowed to pressure from the fans to fire the coach or the recent poor run led to the decision remains to be seen, but Kenya fans have already begun assessing Migne's tenure.

“Today [Wednesday], when I am about to take a different path in my career, I would like to say thank you and goodbye to the fans, players, and staff of Harambee Stars," the coach stated, after his exit.

“Indeed, following a reflection initiated after the Chan [qualifier] with my federation, we concluded that it was better to terminate our collaboration.

“The initial objective of qualifying the team to the Afcon 2019 having been achieved, it is for me the moment to set myself a new professional challenge. And for the FKF, to operate new motivational levers to confirm its progression."

However, what were the highs and lows of Migne's tenure, and how will history remember the French coach?
 
When he was appointed to take over from Belgian Paul Put, who had quit after falling out with the Federation, it was a huge gamble for the nation to lay its hopes on someone with limited experience in coaching senior teams.


 
He had just coached the Democratic Republic of Congo U-20 team before taking the mandate to coach the Republic of Congo national team for one year.
 
During his tenure, the team registered just two wins out of the twelve games played, amassing seven draws and three defeats that included a humiliating 5-1 loss at home against Ghana.
 
FKF President Nick Mwendwa still believed Migne was the right man to help Stars develop and become a powerhouse in Africa.

“Migne shares the same ambition with us, and his main objective will be to take us to Afcon 2019 and 2021 as well as Chan 2020. He will also build a strong side to help us qualify for the 2022 World Cup,” Mwendwa said of Migne.

While Migne achieved the first objective, that success - Afcon qualification - ought to be caveated by the fact that Kenya were significantly aided by the tournament expansion to 24 teams, meaning they were allowed to qualify behind Ghana in second place from their qualifying group ahead of Ethiopia and disqualified Sierra Leone.


 
The Harambee Stars were lucky to get past the Black Stars in Nairobi by a solitary goal, where Migne's defensive tactics paid off, meaning that matches against Ethiopia would ultimately prove decisive.

Certainly, two key factors - out of Migne's control - underpinned Kenya's qualification for Egypt, and his greatest achievement must be considered within this context.

Ultimately, their performance at the Nations Cup itself was underwhelming, even if the Harambee Stars did defeat neighbours Tanzania 3-2.

However, their defensive performance in this match, as well as in one-sided defeats against eventual finalists Algeria and Senegal, left a lot to be desired.

At best, it was a par showing for the Stars, although the manner of their losses - their lack of composure in the first half against Les Fennecs, and their capitulation against the Teranga Lions - proved particularly disappointing for supporters.
 
Then came the selection issues, which constantly appeared to represent a problem under Migne; players like Peter Odhiambo, Harun Shakava and Nicholas Kipkirui of Gor Mahia, all of whom had done well in continental assignments, were overlooked by the coach.

So too Jesse Were, excellent in Zambia with ZESCO United, and Allan Wanga, in the form of his life, and Cliff Nyakeya of Mathare United.
 
The coach went for untested Jeff Oyemba and Brian Bwire - both at Kariobangi Sharks - and Ovella Ochieng, largely ineffective, and the unattached Masoud Juma. At times, it was hard to see the logic.

The inclusion of Sydney Lokale in the team ahead of Kipkirui and Tusker's Boniface Muchiri was also eyebrow-raising.
 
Many believed there was a powerful hand involved in the selection, but Migne denied it.

“When it comes to matters of selection, I only discuss the players that we should choose with only my technical staff,” Migne told Goal. “If the president of Kenya calls me, or a minister, and demands a player is selected, I will resign immediately and go back to my country of origin.”
 
The Frenchman was also tactically poor at times, he appeared to struggle to understand his players, especially their weaknesses and strengths. He was a defensive coach who played cautiously regardless of the opponent faced.
 
His first eleven was wanting and at times he was not sure of what he wanted. The final nail in the coffin was the African Nations Championship qualifier against Tanzania, as Kenya crashed out of the competition early.

“I expected Kenya to attack us from the first whistle because they were playing at home, but we were surprised it was not the case," Taifa Stars head coach Ndayiragije Etienne told Goal after Tanzania's shock victory.

“They were playing cautiously, a defensive game. So I had to change my tactics and told my players to attack.”

These comments may well have sealed Migne's fate. Despite his average performance, he dared the federation to fire him, and ultimately, his gamble didn't pay off.
 
Former Kenya international Boniface Ambani believes Migne failed to deliver despite massive support from all corners.

“Migne had been given targets, if I am not wrong and with the kind of support from the federation and the government and he never achieved much, pressure was definite,” Ambani told Goal. “I think the last nail was the loss against Tanzania in Chan qualifiers.

"He had to leave. All in all, I wish him well in his endeavors.

 

“We have local coaches who can be entrusted with that job as long as the same support is given to them. I am sure they can perform," he added. "We have seen Senegal and Algeria perform with indigenous coaches.”

However, KCB assistant coach Godfrey Oduor thinks otherwise.
 
“Coach Migne's exit is normal in football, coaches come and go. I know he would have wanted to stay longer.

“During his tenure, we learnt something of cause from him. Featuring in the just concluded Afcon after 15 years is no mean achievement.”

Certainly, ending Kenya's wait for an Afcon showing for the first time since 2004, is a fine achievement for Migne, represents the defining moment of his tenure, and ultimately will ensure his time in charge wasn't a complete bust...even if there were caveats behind that qualification.

Ultimately, however, Kenya's performances at the tournament itself, as well as their failure to qualify for the African Nations Championship, ensure the FKF's decision to part ways with the Frenchman is justified.