Is Mulee the right coach to take Harambee Stars to the World Cup?

Once again, Kenya played out a boring 1-1 draw against Rwanda in the second qualification match for the 2022 Fifa World Cup on Sunday, in the kind of match and result that is becoming typical of Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee’s tenure.

The draw achieved at Nyamirambo Stadium in Kigali after striker Michael Olunga scored for Kenya before Abdul Rwatubyaye equalised for Amavubi came just two days after the Stars had picked up another drab 0-0 draw against neighbours Uganda in their opening Group E fixture at Nyayo Stadium.

Kenya have collected only two points from two rounds of matches, and a section of fans have already started to question whether Mulee is the right man to take the country to their first World Cup appearance in Qatar.

In this feature, Goal examines whether Mulee is the man to steer Kenya to the global showpiece.

FKF President Nick Mwendwa and Jacob Mulee.

Distracted coaching environment

Following his appointment, many Kenyans were quick to ask if Mulee was going to abandon his radio job and focus on the work of coaching the Harambee Stars, but the veteran tactician blew off those concerns saying his radio job was a part-time engagement that had no impact on his coaching job.

Clearly, however, Mulee was going to be under pressure if results didn’t go his way, and he’s now having to answer those who say the national team job must be a full-time assignment that requires dedication and commitment.

It is still unknown whether his contract with Football Kenya Federation allows for a part-time coaching role with the national team but, in all honesty, it is clear from the results that Mulee is better equipped to star on the airways rather than in the international arena.

Can anyone imagine England boss Gareth Southgate keeping a full job as a radio presenter with BBC Sport, or his French or German counterparts having radio engagements while engaged with their respective national teams?!

A negative tactical approach to the game

Since his appointment, it has been difficult to understand what Mulee’s tactics are, and he has seemingly played with the handbrake on.

This begins with his squad call-ups…

One wonders why, when making his call-ups, he has invited players who, with all due respect, have not developed the mettle and experience to shoulder responsibility. which is why the approach to games has been anything else but bold or pragmatic and he is always cautious in games.

That explains why, since taking over the job, he has only won once – away in Togo in a dead rubber tie for the postponed 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.

The rest have been disappointingly boring draws and a loss to Comoros.

He continues to be criticised for leaving out experienced players and sending rookies out to do battle for Kenya. There’s nothing wrong with bringing youthful blood into the team, but there has to be the right balance between the senior players and new call-ups.

For example, Uganda came to Nairobi with an experienced squad revolving around midfielder Khalid Aucho and captain Emmanuel Okwi, while Rwanda still have their experienced legs of strikers Jacques Tuyisenge, Meddie Kagere, and midfielder Haruna Niyonzima.

Kenya vs Rwanda.

Being unfriendly to the media

If there is one thing that Mulee has, reportedly, perfected then it is his arrogant way of handling everything and everyone who criticises his job.

The media has often accused Mulee of treating them with contempt and demonstrating an allegedly disrespectful attitude to sports journalists, as was evident after the Uganda draw when the scribes accused Ghost of being rude to them.

Mulee’s behaviour towards journalists when being asked questions he finds uncomfortable has generated notable displeasure among media men. It’s rarely a scenario that ends well for the coach.

Haphazard transition of players

In leaving out players like captain Victor Wanyama, winger Ayub Timbe, Johanna Omollo, Anthony Akumu, midfield genius Francis Kahata, and Zambia-based striker Jesse Were among others, Mulee’s intention was that he was preparing a new path for the team and establishing a new generation of players to carry on for the next few years.

However, it is evident this strategy, though right and proper for all intents and purposes, was never well thought-out in terms of how they would ship out the old hands and inject new blood without leaving the team as exposed as it has turned out to be.

The team, without being disrespectful to Olunga and some of the old-timers, seems to be lacking leadership, and there has not been anyone to take responsibility on the pitch when things don’t seem to work.

Victor Wanyama of Kenya during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Finals.

Nothing much is likely to change

Since his appointment to replace Francis Kimanzi, Mulee’s reign started with the Afcon qualifiers where the Harambee Stars finished third in their group as Egypt and Comoros sailed through to the final tournament.

It has hardly fuelled optimism, and it’s hard to see how things will take an improvement any time soon for the East African giants.

At this rate, Kenya fans certainly shouldn’t expect to see Mulee guide their side in Qatar for next year’s World Cup.

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