2015 in review: A bleak year for Kenya

Kenya national team lines up ahead of a past match

For the ardent Kenyan fan the year 2015 bears very little to smile about and as the year heads to a close in a week, Kenyans can only look to 2016 with hope that it will come with better tidings for the national team.

2016 should be the year that Kenya secures a return to the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) though the country will be heavily bogged by the failures of 2015.

In 2015 alone, Kenya has been unsuccessful on five fronts; the country bowed out of contention for the 2016 Summer Olympics, the African U23 Championships, the 2016 African Nations Championships (CHAN), the 2018 World Cup, and the 2015 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup.

The country’s hopes of making it to the 2017 AFCON after last making it to the continental showpiece in 2004 hang in the balance after a poor start to the group stages, with a loss and a draw.

Kenya did not have the best of starts to the year, falling 0 – 3 to Egypt at the Petro Sport Stadium in the first leg of the 2016 Olympics qualifiers in a match played on 1st March 2015. Kenya, under Bobby Williamson, went down to Rami Rabia’s 45th minute goal before a quick brace from Mahmoud Karhaba on the 89th and 91st minutes condemned Kenya to an opening loss.

The second leg, staged in Nairobi at the Machakos County Stadium ended in a 1 – 1 draw which was not enough to see Kenya through to the next stage. In that game, Mahmoud Abdelmonem netted the opener for Egypt on the 17th minute before Vincent Omumbo leveled on the 24th minute.

On 29th March, Bobby Williamson, the team’s head coach managed a first win with the team since taking over in August of 2014, beating Seychelles 2 – 0 in a friendly match played in Seychelles at the Linite Stadium.

Collins Shivachi and Vincent Odongo scored the goals on the fourth and 43rd minutes.

A second friendly match against the same opponents a day later yielded the second win for Bobby, a 2 – 1 victory courtesy of goals from Amos Asembeka and Vincent Odongo.

Kenya’s calamitous outings in the year resumed soon after with a 3 – 0 thumping at the hands of Botswana in the first leg of the qualifiers for the 2015 Africa U23 Championships.

Omaatla Kebatho scored a brace in the match with Onkabetse Makgantai scoring the third in a game that saw Kenya reduced to ten men after John Nairuka’s red card on the 86th minute.

Kenya came close to advancing to the next phase of the qualifiers, but fell just one goal short in the return leg after beating Botswana 4 – 1 in Nairobi. In the match, Kenya’s poster boy, Michael Olunga announced his arrival to the big stage with a hat trick while John Ndirangu scored the fourth.

Omaatla Kebatho’s strike for Botswana however, saw Kenya eliminated.

The next set of matches for Kenya were at the Rwanda Genocide Memorial tournament in June where Kenya played two games, against the hosts and South Sudan.

While they drew 0 – 0 with Rwanda, Kenya thumped South Sudan 2 – 0 in their second game to win the tournament. Victor Wanyama and Michael Olunga scored in the match played at the Amahoro Stadium on Sunday 7 June.

Next up for Kenya was the start of their 2017 AFCON campaign, with a game against Congo Brazzaville away. In the game, Kenya had a dream start with Paul Were giving them a 12th minute lead.

However, as the game headed to the break Kenya suffered a setback with Jackson Saleh handling in the box and Prince Oniangue stepping up to slot the penalty home.

The downward trajectory continued with a double header against Ethiopia in the 2016 CHAN qualifiers, Kenya going down 2 – 0 in the first leg courtesy of goals from Girma Asechalew and Gatoch Panom before only managing a barren draw in the return leg in Nairobi.

Kenya was then served another loss at the hands of former African champions Zambia on Sunday 6 September in the 2017 AFCON qualifiers. Michael Olunga opened the scoring for Kenya but quick replies from Collins Mbesuma and Winston Kalengo saw Chipolopolo take a 2 – 1 win from the clash.

Harambee Stars got some reprieve in their next game, a first round 2018 World Cup qualifier against Mauritius on 7th October, beating their hosts 5 – 2 with goals from Ayub Timbe, Harun Shkava, Michael Olunga and a brace from Johanna Omollo. Sophie Jean Pierre and Jonathan Bru netted for the hosts.

The return leg, four days later ended in a barren draw to see Kenya advance to the second round of qualifiers where they met Cape Verde.

Michael Olunga scored the lone goal that gave Kenya the lead in the tie in the first leg played at the Nyayo Stadium on 13th November but the return leg, on 17th was marred with preparation and travel hitches and Kenya, arriving in Cape Verde just three hours to the game, went on to lose 2 – 0.

After the Cape Verde disappointment, came the disastrous CECAFA outing. Kenya, then the defending champions, started their campaign well with a 2 – 0 win over arch rivals Uganda but went on a slump thereafter.

Kenya drew 1 – 1 with Burundi in the second match before falling 1 – 3 to Zanzibar in their final group game and only qualified for the quarterfinals courtesy of Uganda’s win over Burundi.

At the quarters, Kenya managed a barren draw with Rwanda in regular time but were sent packing after Eric Johanna missed his spot kick in the penalty shootouts.

Kenya will now head to 2016 with the hope of doing well in the 2017 AFCON qualifiers to help end a miserable run.