Monsieur Migne’s tough balancing act as AFCON finals beckon

Frenchman Sebastien Migne has endeared himself to many football fans in Kenya after he masterminded what seemed an impossible feat – guiding the Kenya national team, Harambee Stars to the 2019 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals, which are due to be held in Egypt in June.

However, after successfully negotiating through a group that has Ghana and Ethiopia (with Sierra Leone barred), the bittersweet feel checks in, with the team having to go through the ever existent financial woes as plans for its return to the continental showpiece start.

Time and again, Migne has stated his desire to have the team get the best preparation for the qualifiers and now the finals. He reiterated the same during the team’s first training session for the year 2019, on Tuesday and now he is set to enter a new frontier, as far as the team’s preparation is concerned, with the proposal to have the team camp in France pre – AFCON 2019.

Good for team

“Training in France will be good for the team, because first we will be based at a place where movement is easy and we will be only four hours from Cairo. We need to be fit for this kind of competition before getting to Egypt in the final week before the competition.

Harambee Stars head coach Sebastien Migne is keen to see the team train in France ahead of the 2019 AFCON finals

“My point is, the full job, physically, will be done in France,” Migne said in an earlier interview.

In an earlier revelation, Football Kenya Federation President, Nick Mwendwa noted that the body needs about Kshs 200m to effectively prepare the team for AFCON 2019. The assumption here is that this isn’t inclusive of the France camp. Assuming so.

It means the budget could go higher, and the institution entrusted with filling in the gap – the Kenya government – is not known too well for coming in strongly in such situations.

Salary debacle

While Migne keeps high hopes, that the team will get to train in France, he will bear another headache – that of his salary. Time and again this issue has replayed itself where foreign nationals handling Harambee Stars are concerned and with Migne it has not been different.

The Kenya government is the body supposed to handle this issue and delays over the same are slowly becoming a norm. As Monsieur Migne looks to motivate his players, we can bet this factor will play a key role in the Frenchman being able to convincingly lift his charges.

There have been loud calls to have the legendary Dennis Oliech called to Harambee Stars for the 2019 AFCON finals. Will head coach Sebastien Migne give in?

One other factor the Frenchman cannot avoid, is the noise from all over calling for the inclusion of legendary Dennis Oliech in the team for AFCON.

Oliech headache

Oliech recently returned to actively playing, and joined the most successful club in the country, which also happens to have the biggest following and a vociferous support. The raucous support for the former Harambee Stars skipper, who is the only player still active from the 2004 AFCON team, could not escape Migne’s attention.

He was forced to react on the same as Stars converged for the first time in 2019.

“He will have to prove it on the pitch. He will have to score goals and not just from the penalty spot,” he noted.

Well, the easier bet on which forward Migne will carry to AFCON is Japan based Michael Olunga. He has been the key point man up front for Migne in the qualifiers and has proven his mettle. It is hard to bet on who will accompany Olunga as the auxiliary forwards and betting on Oliech remains hard.

Of Migne’s wide options, there’s Zambia based Jesse Were, who has not been as prolific for Harambee Stars as he has been at Zesco United, where he is the all-time lead scorer. There is also Masoud Juma, who has been on and off at Harambee Stars but has shown great potential. Having moved to Libyan champions Al Nasr further boosts his chances.

John Mark Makwatta, who has featured for the national team before, has been doing his business silently in Kuwait with top flight side Al Nasar while locally, Nicholas Kipkirui of Gor Mahia and Sydney Lokale of Kariobangi Sharks have shown great potential.

The ball is in Migne’s court.

Goalkeeping department

The coach will also have to make a decision in the goalkeeping department. His liking for Brian Bwire has rubbed him the wrong side with fans, given the Kariobangi Sharks keeper has not featured a lot for the team.

Patrick Matasi’s place at the 2019 AFCON seems assured, as the Kenya national team plots for an impressive show at the continental scene

Migne remains unmoved but did not shy from expressing that Ethiopia’s St. George keeper, Patrick Matasi remains his first choice in a department that also has Bandari’s Farouk Shikhalo and John Oyemba of Kariobangi Sharks.

“Oluoch will be there, but (only) if Matasi is injured. I don’t want to put pressure on him (Matasi),” the coach said.

Injuries to key men

As the coach hopes for great preps, he will also be crossing fingers, that none of his key men gets long term injuries. This particularly is a prayer he will be saying, after a number of senior Harambee Stars played spent lengthy periods in the sidelines, including skipper Victor Wanyama, winger Ayub Timbe and defenders David Owino and Brian Mandela.

They are all back to full fitness and the hope is that they will not only stay so but also gain enough game time.

Among the best results Migne has engineered includes the 1 – 0 win over Ghana in the qualifiers and as the draw for the competition nears, he will be hoping for a favorable draw. The last time Kenya played at this level, Stars were drawn with West African giants Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso. They managed just a win in the group and got eliminated in the first round.  Per many top betting sites, the odds are good this time that Kenya will do better in the upcoming rounds.

With a number of debutants sealing qualification in the expanded format of the competition, Migne will be following the Friday 12 April draw with keen interest. For all his plans with the team, and the qualifiers, we can only tell Monsieur Migne, Bonne Chance.