Exclusive: Ex-Harambee Stars Forward Elijah Onsika Calls for Coach Engin Firat Sacking

Former Harambee Stars forward Elijah Onsika urges the Football Kenya Federation to sack coach Engin Firat after disappointing World Cup qualifiers.

Dennis Onsare
Dennis Onsare

Last Updated: 2024-06-12

Louis Hobbs

5 minutes read

Former Harambee Stars international Elijah Onsika has made a clarion call to the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) to bite the bullet and sack head coach Engin Firat stating he will not take Kenya anywhere.

Harambee Stars returned home with two points from their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches against Burundi and African champions Ivory Coast denting their lingering hopes of qualifying for their first-ever World Cup in history.

In their matchday three fixture at the Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe, Malawi on June 7th, Harambee Stars gave away a late goal to draw 1-1 against the Swallows before putting up a brave fight to snatch a 0-0 draw against the Elephants on June 11.

Though the draw against Ivory Coast felt like a vital point gained for the East African nation, Burundi's 3-0 victory against Seychelles saw Kenya relinquish third spot in the six-team table to settle at fifth with five points from four matches.

Image Credits: Capital News

Image Credits: Capital News

quote icon

From naming the squad to picking the starting XI, we have hard questions that need to be answered?

Elijah Onsika

Firat Squad Selection and Fielding Questionable

Onsika, who played for Harambee Stars in the late 80s believes Kenya deserved to yield at least four points from the Malawi tour but added the Turkish tactician's poor squad selection and fielding was to blame for what he described as a “disastrous outing”.

Onsika further explained why he felt Firat’s time at the helm of Harambee Stars had reached a dead end and outlined that for Kenya's game to rise again, he should be sent packing alongside his technical bench for a new start.

“Firat has lost the plot, he has been here for a very long time, but he doesn’t understand which players to select for camp training and, who should start in respective matches, is that the type of coach we want for the national team?” he told

Onsika continued: “For example, ahead of Burundi, and Ivory Coast matches, he summoned three new call-ups from Europe, but at the end of the matches, no one played, and none was on the bench, reason, he summoned players even not confirming with them whether they have proper travel documents, at the end it means Kenya had less players in Malawi.”

While naming his provisional squad for the qualifiers, Firat handed debut calls to European-based players - Bruce Kamau, who turns out for Perth Glory in Australia, Adam Wilson of Bradford City in England, and Tobias Knost (24), who plays in Germany for SV Verl. However, on naming the travelling squad of 25, only Knost made the list, alongside another late inclusion Zak Vyner, who plays for Bristol City.

It later emerged that Knost and Vyner had not accompanied the team to Malawi because of a hitch in their travelling documents.

In the process, Firat then went ahead to summon players based in Kenya – youngster Baron Ochieng from Sofapaka, David Okoth and David ‘Cheche’ Ochieng from Kenya Police FC, and Clyde Senaji, who features for Nyasa Big Bullets in Zambia - to link up with the squad in Malawi, and it happened after they had played against the Swallows.

What irritated Onsika more was the fact that none of the late summons made it to his starting XI for the Ivory Coast clash.

“He (Firat) then went for panic replacements, airlifting players to Malawi after the Burundi game as he planned to face Ivory Coast, and out of the players he handed a late call, none of them played, they sat on the bench, so what was the sense of calling the players late on?

“Why couldn’t he prepare the team with the players we have in the country? We have massive talent in the FKF Premier League, but Firat has neglected it, if he summons a local-based player to camp today, tomorrow he drops them, he doesn’t understand what he is doing, and he doesn’t know what he wants. It is a difficult situation that must be addressed, and the only way is for FKF to fire him.”

quote icon

He (Firat) doesn’t even understand the system he plays, he just fields players for the sake of fielding, and he leaves out good players for the best reasons known to him.

Elijah Onsika

Local Coach Best Option for Harambee Stars

Onsika, who handled Kenya's U19 national team in 2002 and took them to the CECAFA youth tournament in Zanzibar where they reached the quarterfinals, further wondered why the government through Cabinet Secretary for Sports Ababu Namwamba not implored FKF had to do away with Firat and trust the job on a local coach.

“Firat he is an opportunist, he will take Kenya nowhere, I even am wondering why the Ministry of Sports has not talked about what happened in Malawi or even asked FKF to intervene and clean the technical bench,” said Onsika.

Onsika gave an example of former coaches Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee and Francis Kimanzi saying during their time in charge, Kenya was a feared football nation across the East African region.

“We have local coaches, who can do better than Firat. If you compare the performance of the team during the time of ‘Ghost’ (Mulee), Kimanzi, and earlier on Mohammed Kheri, it was the best team to sit and watch with players in the local league and fans fighting to associate with the team, Kenya was the best team in the East African region, we must come to the table and give local coaches a chance.”

He concluded: “Former players should be given the chance to have a voice in matters national team but as it stands, we are going nowhere, we can’t go to the World Cup with that coach (Firat), and Kenyans should forget and focus on other things.”

Firat's Sojourn Since Joining Harambee Stars in 2021

The 54-year-old Firat took charge of Kenya on October 12, 2021, replacing ‘Ghos’ Mulee. His first assignment took him to Malawi, a World Cup qualifier, where Kenya suffered a humiliating 5-0 defeat.

He returned home to face the same Mali and lost 1-0 in the reverse fixture, but he picked his first point in Uganda after a 1-1 draw. His first victory with Harambee Stars came in the 2-1 win against Rwanda, with Michael Olunga and Richard Odada scoring in the first half.

With Kenya being disqualified from the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers following a FIFA ban imposed by the World governing body FIFA for alleged government interference, Firat took a break and retreated to Turkey.

However, when the ban was lifted, he returned to continue with his role, his first game coming during a Four-Nation friendly tournament where they lost the opener 2-1 against Iran, beat Pakistan 1-0, and lost 1-0 against Mauritius. He then picked a famous 2-1 friendly victory against World Cup hosts Qatar at Al Janoub Stadium on September 7, 2023, with defender Joseph Okumu and substitute Amos Nondi getting the goals.

After Qatar, Firat returned to Kenya to lose 1-0 against South Sudan in a friendly but on October 16, he managed a 2-2 draw against Russia.

Kenya then kicked off their current World Cup qualifiers, with a 2-1 defeat against Gabon, but recovered to beat Seychelles 5-0. They then headed for a Four-Nation tournament in Malawi, where Kenya lifted the trophy, beating Malawi 4-0 in the group opener before thrashing Zimbabwe 3-1 in the final.

The last two matches saw Kenya draw 1-1 against Burundi and 0-0 against Ivory Coast.

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.