Firat explains logic behind Harambee Stars friendly matches against big nations

FOOTBALL Firat explains logic behind Harambee Stars friendly matches against big nations

Mark Kinyanjui 11:00 - 01.01.2024

Kenya could play a friendly match against a top European nation in 2024, having already played Iran, Qatar and Russia in 2023.

Harambee Stars head coach Engin Firat has revealed a number of reasons  why taking part in matches against top footballing nations will benefit the country’s football.

Stars took part in historic fixtures against Qatar, Russia and Iran in 2023, doing reasonably well in all three games, but in 2024, the calendar will be occupied largely by competitive fixtures, with the 2026 World Cup qualifiers and the AFCON 2025 qualifiers, as well as the 2024 African Nations Championship (CHAN) taking place in September

There will only be room for one international window that Stars could use to continue stepping up preparations, which will be in March.

Firat has revealed that trying to grow the country’s reputation in football is one of the reasons, considering the country is known better for athletics.

“Let’s start from the beginning, the marketing of the football in the country,” Firat told Radio Jambo.

“You have never played these kind of teams. If you ask anyone in the world of sport what they say about Kenya, they say athletics. You will not find a single person talking about football.

“Most important for us was to organize it, we have done it, then with the football we played, first we start with Iran.”

Firat has revealed that financial challenges could hinder the side from taking part in such friendly matches, but he will try his best to still find a way, revealing a conversation he had with a senior journalist who claimed that 2 million euros (Ksh 348 million) would be needed to take part in a friendly against France.

He has revealed that their performances against the three aforementioned nations opened the door in the Middle East, as well as Eastern Europe, for Kenyan footballers to potentiallty ply their trades there.

“Sometimes I get totally confused here. I spoke about why not try to play teams like France and Italy and what happened was that one of the senior journalists in Kenya called me and he said to me, I heard everything is okay and we are going to pay 2 million Euros  to France, and I was like, eh! how can we have 2 million Euros, from where?

“I will try my best because the only way how we will improve in international football is if we play these kind of teams and they see what they can do. Against Qatar, we showed the whole of the Middle East who we are.

“After Iran and Qatar, now we have a market in Middle East and everyone take us seriously.

“ When we played Russia before the match because I gave lots of interviews to the Russian media, some of them, even former  players of Russia, they said about Kenya ‘Oh, they do not even have football boots, why we play like this?’ This is how they was perceiving about us because they do not know anything about Kenyan football.”

“What happened is that in East Europe, we now have a market there. This will open doors for all Kenyans in future and it will make it easier in future to make the next step because they will say, Kenya is not a team we beat 8-0.”

Firat also believes the self confidence of the players has improved considerably because of the exposure they got playing abroad.

“Russia after us, the next friendly match (against Cuba), they won 8-0, so therefore if we are able to hold such a team, it brings alot to the self confidence of the players, who start to believe they can do big things.

“Otherwise, you have no chance, if a player does not believe, what does he do?”

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