Legendary coach Rashidi Shedu says that Harambee Stars' chances of reaching the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final are very slim.
Stars are set to grace the continental showpiece for the first time in 15 years. The last time they took part in the competition in Tunis, Tunisia, Kenya failed to go past the group stages, despite picking their first ever win – 3-1 against Burkina Faso.
Football Kenya Federation boss Nick Mwendwa says that a quarter-final place is a realistic target for Stars, but Shedu, who has worked with some of the players, so far called to the provisional squad by coach Sebastien Migne, is pessimistic about the set target.
Legendary coach Rishadi Shedu.
Shedu, who has been out of active coaching for close to two years on medical grounds, says that Kenya lacks a structured youth system, that is very crucial when it comes to a tournament such as Afcon. “We might not do very well, not because we don’t have a strong team, but because we don’t have serious youth programs.
“The federation has started an elaborate program with the U-15, but it has come a bit too late when we are heading to Afcon. The real effect of this will be felt maybe 10 years to come,” Shedu told Goal in an exclusive interview.
“We must speak the truth, getting to the quarters will be a tall order. We’ve just started the youth programs and our success will entirely be dependent on the youth structure we have put in place as a country.
“We might say that we want to get far (in Afcon) but we are using the same players, who never went through the (youth) programs. For a team to succeed in a tournament such as Afcon, you need a squad with a lot of exposure, playing (consistently) for the national team right from U-13 to the U-23 then to the senior team.”
FKF President Nick Mwendwa.
Shedu also warned that the new Kenyan Premier League calendar might have some slight effect on the team. “The players will be a little worn out; playing three games a week plus training in between then they go for (national team) camps - so we might not do very well."
Shedu, however, says that the new calendar will be of great benefit to the national team in the long run. “Previously, we used to have serious problems getting our professional players in camp with the local lads because in most cases, you find that we played when the local league had just begun and there was a serious dearth of match fitness.
“Another challenge we used to face was to get the players released by their parent European clubs, but now we will not have to plead with clubs to release players. The national team will be stronger because we will be having all the players we need, including those on schooling program in Europe available during the Fifa international window.”
Harambee Stars coach Sebastien Migne.
“I know we have a qualified coach, but we need to give players in the national team some time to rest, the program must be able to accommodate them and the training shouldn’t be too much to an extent that it affects the players.”
Coach Migne has already set up an elaborate program with a one-day a week training schedule. Harambee Stars are also expected to pitch a two-week camp in France just weeks before the June tournament set to be hosted by Egypt.