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Exclusive: Ex-Gor Mahia coach Dylan Kerr backs Kenya to qualify for World Cup despite setback

Former Gor Mahia coach Dylan Kerr is optimistic about Kenya's chances to qualify for the 2026 FIFA World Cup despite recent setbacks. Kerr highlights the changing dynamics in world football and encourages Harambee Stars to stay resilient.

Dennis Onsare
Dennis Onsare

Last Updated: 2024-06-14

Louis Hobbs

5 minutes read

Dylan Kerr - Gor Mahia News

Former Gor Mahia coach Dylan Kerr does not see why Kenya’s Harambee Stars cannot qualify for the 2026 FIFA World Cup despite drawing two matches in the just concluded qualifying round.
Harambee Stars returned from Malawi with two points after drawing 1-1 against Burundi in their matchday three fixture on June 7 before registering a 0-0 draw against Ivory Coast three days later in matchday four.

The outcome saw Kenya drop to fourth position on the six-team table with five points, and their qualification hopes suffered a blow after the Swallows registered a 3-0 away win against Seychelles to move above them to third with seven points. Ivory Coast, who are yet to lose a match, having won three and drawn one are top with 10 points while Gabon are second with nine points.

The results from Malawi left a section of Kenyans admitting their slim hopes of watching the national team play at the global tournament for the first time had gone up in smoke, while others asked the team to focus on other assignments because they had killed their hopes of qualifying.

Image Credits: The Standard (Kenya)

Image Credits: The Standard (Kenya)

Kenya Should Not Give Up, It Is Possible to Qualify

Kerr, who was a darling of many football-loving Kenyan fans during his coaching time with K’Ogalo, a side he joined in 2017 after leaving Simba SC of Tanzania, is one of those not giving up that Harambee Stars are out of the race. The 57-year-old Kerr believes with the changing dynamics in world football anything is possible.

“Kenya to qualify for 2026 World Cup? Why not qualify because the dynamics in world football have changed and by that I mean everyone is playing the same brand of football and it's based on stats not what football is about scoring goals and winning games,” Kerr told SportsBoom.com.

“It is too soon for Kenya to give up; we have seen setbacks and shocking results in recent qualifiers, who knew Sudan would be sitting at the top of a group where we have former African champions Senegal and even Togo? Do you want to tell me this was scripted, no I don’t think so, dynamics have changed, it doesn’t matter whom you are playing, a game can change in seconds, so Kenya must not give up.”

Sudan under head coach Kwesi Appiah remained among the surprise package in the qualifiers so far as they lead Group B with 10 points, two more than the Lions of Teranga, DR Congo are third with seven points, Togo fourth on three, South Sudan fifth on two and Mauritania last with a single point.

To make the group more interesting, Sudan are still unbeaten alongside Senegal in the first four matches, as they have recorded three wins and one draw.

According to Kerr, who won the FKF Premier League title with Gor Mahia in his first season before he completed a trophy treble in 2018, winning the league, Kenyan Super Cup and SportPesa Super Cup, the Harambee Stars group is still wide open and any team including Kenya can spring a surprise to make it to the top.

“And again, the Kenya group is still open, we have only played four matches, and it is a group of six teams, Kenya have five points and table leaders Ivory Coast have 10 but what if Ivory Coast loses their next two matches and Kenya win their two? What will happen, will you not see a change at the top?” asked Kerr, who began his playing career with Sheffield Wednesday before moving to Leeds United in 1989.

Kerr added: “It will be suicidal for Kenya to give up at this stage; they must keep the trust because anything is possible.”

Kerr however, bemoaned Kenya’s failure not to haul at least four points from the two matches but hailed their fighting spirit to restrict the African champions to a vital draw. “A point is always a good result but a point against a so-called bigger team and not getting full points against so-called lesser teams is suicidal,” added Kerr.

“From my understanding yet again although an amazing point against a good team, Kenya should have come away with the three points because they played well, took the game to Ivory Coast, and created many chances but were wasteful in front of the goal.”

Firat Should Have Started Two Strikers in Qualifiers

Kerr further waded into the debate of why Kenya head coach Engin Firat fielded lead striker and captain Michael Olunga (in the two games) as a lone ranger without giving him support from another striker.

Firat had John Avire, who plays for   Misr el Makasa in Egypt, and Benson Omalla of Kenyan champions Gor Mahia in his squad of 25 players in Malawi but opted to let the Al Duhail SC forward lead the line on his own, and ended up not scoring from the two matches.

Olunga already has two goals to his name in the qualifiers both coming in the 5-0 demolition of Seychelles on matchday two.

“Michael (Olunga) will always be the favourite to start for me, teams are more careful when playing the so-called bigger teams but Engin (Firat) should have gone with two strikers especially as one (Omalla) has had a good season for his club but you have to understand what the coach is thinking,” explained Kerr.

Kerr admitted to being impressed with the work being done by Firat saying with consistent results, Kenya will likely have the opportunity to grace the global tournament to be co-hosted by Canada, Mexico, and the United States.

“The results have been better for Harambee Stars and it’s good new players are being involved because the coach has to get this right, 2026 is an amazing tournament as it’s on a vast continent where the game is growing so if he can get some consistency in the results, who knows where they can go,” concluded Kerr.

Kenya’s next World Cup qualifying assignment will be against the Gambia away on March 17, 2025, and then return home to host Gabon in a reverse fixture on March 24. Kenya lost to Gabon 2-1 in the opener.

Dennis Onsare
Dennis Onsare Sports Writer

Dennis is a seasoned journalist in Kenya with over 18 years of experience. Having started his career at Kenya Times Newspaper, Dennis worked for Standard Newspaper for nearly six years as a Sports Writer. At Standard, he was privileged to cover Kenya's national team Harambee Stars outside the country, the biggest of all being the Four Nations tournament in Cairo, Egypt. He also covered the U17 team in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.