As a Kenya Premier League fan, I’m sure you lament about the lack of stats and general info about the game you love. You also can’t point a finger to Kenyan football’s style of play. Do we even have such an identity?
Football identity not only builds on the pride fans have for their favourite badges but it also provides for seamless transition from generation to generation. The most famous is Total Football of the Netherlands. Kenya’s identity has no name yet but we can deduce from trends we see in the national team selection and how the game is approached locally.
It’s not easy to do because tactical management of Kenyan football is not systemic. It’s not in the way we are renowned as middle and long distance runners; when it comes to athletics.
I’ve mentioned before that to understand football you have to watch grassroots football. This is where young footballers are shaped and their norms established. A product of our youth football was stated by Luc Eymael (former AFC Leopards coach). He said that Kenyan footballers “are not used to thinking tactically.”
When you think tactically you play in an organized manner. This is why European football is the pinnacle of football. While they may have fewer stars compared to South America, when it comes to quality of average footballers they are peerless. The Kenya Premier League does not pay too much attention to the basics of tactics. These include compaction, movement and positioning. It is why I have to spend every year smarting from our clubs crashing out of the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup.
Youth football in Kenya is largely desperate. The approach is not one of directing and managing but one of jostling to breakthrough into professional football. That is why the Harambee Stars U20 team was banned for age cheating.
Without proper attention given to fledgling footballers, we end up with pretty raw stuff. This raw stuff is thus our identity. It’s what you watch and what I have featured here many times. In the next piece I will bring out the personnel in the game and approach by our coaches.