Kenya face an uphill task when they play defending Africa nations cup champions Nigeria in Calabar on Saturday in a 2014 world cup qualifier.
The Nigerians will be supremely confident given that they will be playing at home and are fresh off their glorious Africa cup campaign. Kenya will be playing with a new coach. Indeed Adel Amrouche faces a baptism of fire. He has not even had a chance to test out his strategies in a friendly match.
Kenya will be without Italy based MacDonald Mariga who is still boycotting the national team over unpaid air tickets. Kenya will also be without the dependable Humphrey Mieno has apparently chosen to ignore a call up by switching off his cell phone. According to James Nandwa, the Kenya assistant coach, Mieno was unreachable because his cell phone is turned off. Go figure.
Also inexplicably left out of the team are defensive players Anthony Akumu and Jockins Atudo. Both would have added much needed steel to the Kenya defense which will be under severe pressure.
Nigeria has always proven to be a difficult for Kenya and playing games in Nigeria has never been a happy hunting ground for Kenya.
Much of that has to doe with the fact that Kenya have always been extremely intimidated about playing in Nigeria. Secondly, the heat and humidity of the West African coast has often proven a challenge for Kenyans accustomed to high altitudes
Down Memory Lane
The two teams have clashed at senior level 13 times previously, with Nigeria coming out tops in 11 of them, the remaining two drawn.
Their first clash was on May 8, 1968. The Nigerians, were on the way from an Olympic Games qualifying match in Ethiopia, stopped by in Nairobi for a friendly and inflicted a 2-1 defeat on their hosts.
The next clash was a friendly in Nairobi in 1981. A determined Kenya side held the Nigerians who had recently won the Africa nations cup by a score of 1-1. In August 1981, Nigeria faced kenya again in a fridnly in Nairobi and won 3-1 with goals from Henry Nwosu, Ifeanyi Onyedika and Emmanuel Osigwe.
The first competitive match between the two teams was a 1986 world cup qualifier at Nyayo stadium. On that day the stadium was filled to capacity by 12pm. Such was the passion for local football in Kenya back then. This was before the English premier league took over.
It was a nightmare scenario for Kenya which at the time was under Marshall Mulwa. The Kenya defence of Mickey Weche, John Arieno, Bobby Ogolla and others had no answer for new sensation Rashidi Yekini who along with Fatai Amoo scored as Nigeria won 3-0. The return leg in Lagos 2 weeks later ended in a 3-1 defeat with Joe Masiga scoring Kenya’s lone goal.
In 1988 the two teams met in the opening match of the Africa nations cup. A highly divided Kenyan team lost 0-3 yet again. The match will be remembered most for the comical errors of goalkeeper Washington Muhanji who gifted Nigeria two of the goals. The first one occurred when Muhanji in an attempt to pass the ball to a defender , passed directly to Sam Okwaraji who made no mistake , planting the ball into an empty net with Muhanji completely out of position. Kenya’s John Okello “Zangi” was named man of the match on that day.
The two teams met again at the 1992 Africa nations cup. This time Kenya was yet again plagued by a player boycott. Captain Mickey Weche claimed that the players, demoralized by coach Gerry Saurer only gave half effort.
Kenya lost 1-2. Both goals due to defensive lapses that left Rashid Yekini wide open. The lone goal for Kenya came via a penalty converted by Mickey Weche after Alfayo Odongo was fouled.
The match Kenyans will remember the most was the 1998 world cup qualifier at Kasarani. To a packed stadium, Kenya went toe to toe with the Nigerians who had recently been crowned Olympic champions. Kenyans cheered as the youthful squad took the lead in the 22nd minute via Ken Simiyu. Nigeria equalized late in the game via Jonathan Akpoborie.
John Odhiambo “Baresi” must have been man of the match. Not only did he mark Austin Okocha out of the game but often found space to launch most of Kenya’s attacks from his central midfield position. The return leg was however a nightmare as Kenya went down 0-3.
The last two clashes came in 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in 2009. Nigeria won 3-0 in Abuja. ; Ikechukwu Uche and Obinna Nsofor were the scorers . The critical return leg was marred by poor officiating. The referee who clearly had a fixed mind allowed two Nigeria goals which were clearly scored from an offside position. In that game Dennis Oliech proved a handful for the Niaja defense especially Joseph Yobo who had a torrid time keeping up with Oliech who sliced and diced the Nigerian defense with a series of mazy runs and one-twos with Emmanuel Ake. Oliech scored Kenya’s first goal and Allan Wanga scored the second. Kenya went down 2-3
Kenya Vs Nigeria in 1992