Ending a 15 year drought of continental football is a great achievement for the country as it adds to the history of the nation.
The 2019 edition of the continental showpiece will mark Kenya’s sixth appearance in the competition, having featured in 1972, 1988, 1990, 1992 and 2004.
Kenya has been pooled alongside Senegal, Algeria and Tanzania as they hope to break records and make their first knockout stage qualification in the history of the tournament. Harambee Stars will kick off their campaign against Algeria on Sunday at the 30 June Stadium in Cairo, Egypt.
Being the sixth time that Kenya is playing at the competition, how did we fair in our previous attempts? Business Today looked back at Kenya’s performances at AFCON and came up with talking points from the previous campaign at the tournament.
Kenya played their first match in 1972 against Cameroon and fell to a Jean-Baptiste N’Doga double, scored in the seventh and 20th minutes of the match.
Kenya responded with a strike from Niva Jonathan in the 44th minute but eventually lost the match 2-1 having failed to equalise in the second half.
The late Niva Jonathan goes down in history as the first scorer for Kenya at the African competition. Kenya never scored again until the 2004 tournament when Titus Mulama found the back of the net against Mali in Kenya’s AFCON opener.
The farewell group game at the 2004 tournament saw Kenya register its first win in the history of the competition. In fact, Kenya registered its first win with a bang thrashing Burkina Faso 3-0.
John Barasa, Emmanuel Ake and Dennis Oliech found the back of the net to give ‘The Menace’ a deserved 19th birthday gift. Kenya’s next match after the Burkina Faso win will be played on Sunday against Algeria and fans are optimistic about the match.
Kenya, under Jacob Mulee, qualified for the Tunisia-held finals with the country’s all-time top scorer, Dennis Oliech, leading the team. Kenya, in Group B, were pooled alongside opponents from the West once more, just like in their debut campaign.
Oliech won Kenyans’ hearts when he led the country to the tournament when no one would have predicted it. At only 19 years, Oliech was captain of the team and his exemplary talent earned him the nickname ‘The Menace’.
Top Kenyan Stars who never played in the tournament
Believe or not, Kenya’s best dribbler of all time Joe Kadenge never played at any AFCON. In 1972, when Kenya qualified for the competition for the first time, coach Eckhardt Krautzun did not call Kadenge to the squad. The player who made the ‘Kadenge na mpira’ phrase a household term, suffered the same fate as Zesco United’s Jesse Were.
The next time Kenya played at AFCON was in 1988 and this time it was Mahmoud Abbas who was left out. This led to cries from fans like what happened when Jesse Were was left out of this year’s AFCON squad. In the 1990 AFCON tournament, Abbas had more or less retired from active soccer so he never participated.
Just like Kadenge, JJ Masiga was a household name when the player was in his prime. However, Masiga has never represented the country at AFCON. During the times that Masiga was on his prime, Kenya never qualified for the competition. AFCON eluded him altogether until he hanged his boots and retired into his medical profession.