Harambee Stars coach  Engin Firat shares frustration and hope amid stadium dilemma

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Harambee Stars coach Engin Firat shares frustration and hope amid stadium dilemma

Festus Chuma 05:34 - 17.05.2024

Harambee Stars coach Engin Firat has voiced his disappointment over venue change for World Cup qualifiers but remains hopeful for team success.

Harambee Stars head coach Engin Firat has openly voiced his disappointment regarding the decision to host Kenya's upcoming 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Burundi and Ivory Coast in Malawi instead of on home soil. 

This change comes after the Kenyan government closed two major stadiums for renovations leaving the team without a local venue.

The Football Kenya Federation (FKF) was forced to select the Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe for the crucial matches scheduled for June this year.

 "It is no secret, it is a big disappointment, very disappointing for us because we play nearly one year only away, no more than one year only away, and it is tough to play always on different places to be travelling all the time to have never found support (from our fans) and these are always difficult situations for us,” Firat explained in an interview with Flashscore.

Despite the setbacks Firat remains optimistic about his team's abilities and spirit. 

"We were hoping very much to play these two matches in June at home with the support of our fans to have a good atmosphere in the stadium with our fans at home, you know everybody thought it was possible, but I was if you remember from my previous press conference sceptical about it and now you see it doesn’t work," he said.

The situation is made even more frustrating by the fact that neighboring countries like Uganda and Tanzania are able to host their matches locally.

 "It is disappointing because our neighbours like Uganda and Tanzania, who are close (to us in the East African region) and playing in AFCON qualifiers can afford to play their respective home matches at home and these make our job more difficult, more difficult but there is nothing me and my players can do but to focus and do a good job in the two matches,” Firat added.

Amidst these logistical challenges, there is a glimmer of hope for future matches. 

The Ministry of Youth Affairs, Sports and the Arts is making strides to have the Nyayo Stadium re-inspected by the Confederation of African Football (CAF). 

This follows a previous inspection that deemed the facility unfit for hosting qualifiers.

 Principal Secretary Peter Tum appearing before the National Assembly Committee on Sports conveyed optimism.

“The CAF inspection team has confirmed that they will be in the country in one or two weeks to inspect Nyayo Stadium again,” he reported.

According to Tum, these efforts are part of a broader campaign led by Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba to meet CAF’s standards and bring international football back to Kenyan soil. 

“The fact that the CAF team has agreed to come again for an inspection exercise after a request by CS gives the country and football fans hopes of watching Harambee Stars start their World Cup qualifier campaign on home soil," added Tum.  

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