• Mandela suffered a nasty knee injury which needed surgery while Onyango hurt his ankle.
• The federation boss also refuted claims that he influenced the selection process.
Football Kenya Federation president Nick Mwendwa believes injuries to Brian Mandela and Joash Onyango were partly to blame for Harambee Tsras’ dismal display at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations.
The two centre halves were ruled of out action on the eve of the tournamnet thanks to injuries and Mwendwa, speaking on Citizen TV yesterday, noted that their unavailability was a big blow to the team which ended up soaking seven goals in three matches.
Stars were in Pool ‘C’ where they lost to Algeria (2-0) and Senegal (3-0) with a win over Tanzania (3-2) separating the defeats and which was not enough to send them to the 16 as one of the best four losers to the disappointment of Kenyan fans who had sky-high expectations.
Mandela suffered a nasty knee injury which needed surgery while Onyango hurt his ankle leaving coach Sebastien Migne to pair an inexperienced Joseph Okumu and Musa Mohammed at the heart of the defence. Mwendwa feels the result would have been positive had the team not lost the battle-hardened defenders.
“Going to the tournament, our strongest pillar was our impenetrable defence but we lost the best pair at the centre which hurt our plans. During the qualifiers we had the best defence on the continent as we leaked just one goal and out of the three centre backs we used, two could not play in Cairo,” said Mwendwa.
“We played against teams which are on a different level and we have to build from there and seek to narrow the gap in terms of class. I am not the coach but I believe it affected his plans and those of the entire team.”
The federation boss refuted claims that he influenced the selection process.
“I am satisfied with the results the players reaped. It was the decision of the coach on the choice of camp and players picked. He has been to seven major tournaments as a coach and he knows if he performs well his profile will rise and there is no way we could coerce him to pick certain players,” said Mwendwa.
“Meanwhile we are in discussion with Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed to bring in a foreign coach for the women’s team just to accord it similar attention to the men’s.”