Cabinet Secretary for Sports and Culture Amb. Amina Mohamed poses for a photo with the entire Harambee Stars team during her surprise visit to the team's training camp in France.

Players who were lucky enough to get a call up to Kenya’s national team have had a one of a kind experience in the team’s preparations prior to their African Cup of Nations (AFCON) campaign.

The team has been shown more support than it has ever been before. Qualifying for AFCON is a rare thing for Harambee Stars and the government as well as other stakeholders realized this hence the immense support.

Before they left the country, each player was given Ksh 254,625. After the coach announced the final 23-man squad, each player was added Ksh 509,250. Other bonuses will come in after they win a match, draw a match or make it to the knockout stage of the competition.

Having a training camp in France, the same place Portugal trained before winning the 2017 Euro, is just the icing on the cake. Players have individually been well taken care of ever since they started their campaign from the tournament’s qualifiers. Kenyans have been witnesses to the support the team has got in their journey to Cairo. The fans will be expecting the team to portray a performance that matches their preparations despite the quality of players in opponent teams.

The smiles on players’ faces depicts the amazing experience they have had preparing for AFCON.

It all started in when they were set to play Ethiopia in their second last AFCON qualification match. It was clear that all Harambee Stars needed was a win against Ethiopia and they would secure a spot in the continental tourney.

To start it off, Nairobi County governor Mike Sonko guaranteed Kenyans of a free entry into the Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani where the match was to be staged. Kenyans filled the terraces of Kasarani stadium creating an atmosphere that will go down in history as one of the best if not the best.

With the fans playing their part, all the team had to do was deliver on the pitch, which they did. A 3-0 thrashing of Ethiopia summed up Harambee Stars’ qualification. This meant they were to receive a Sh 50 million reward for qualifying following the promise of the deputy president William Ruto. A promise he honoured.

[Read: Speedsters who will engineer Harambee Stars’ counter attacks at AFCON]

Then came the tournament preparations. Harambee Stars had gotten a once in a lifetime chance to represent the country at the continental tournament, they had to leave a mark. It was clear that Harambee needed to prepare well in order to get an AFCON experience that will forever stick in Kenyans’ minds.

Through their entire AFCON preparation, Kenyans have witnessed an improvement in players’ motivation as it was evident in the two friendlies the team played in France. The players have been kept well and have already been paid their allowances.

For years, Complaints about unpaid allowances has been making news most of the times a national team gets back from an international campaign. This year Harambee Stars cannot complain about this as the management has played its part.

The ball is now on the Harambee Stars’ court, the country has put its trust for them. Lucky for them, they do not have to achieve a lot before setting new records. Making it to the round of 16 is enough to set a new record as it will be the first time the team does so. Winning two games in the group stages is enough to set a record as it will be the first time.

There are less or no excuses for the players. This time round everything as been taken care of to the players’ satisfaction. It is now time for the team to deliver.

[See also: KBC acquires rights to air all AFCON matches]

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