Victor Wanyama's Kenya still have a long road ahead to join Afcon elite

Kenya coach Sebastien Migne hopes the Harambee Stars, featuring Francis Kahata, Dennis Omino and Victor Wanyama, will produce an improved display against Tanzania in their second Afcon 2019 fixture. Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

CAIRO -- Kenya still have a long, hard road ahead if they are to come anywhere near matching the success they have enjoyed in athletics on the football field, coach Sebastien Migne said ahead of their Africa Cup of Nations Group C fixture against Tanzania.

Kenya, known as the Harambee Stars, are taking part in the Africa Cup of Nations for the sixth time, and they have won only one match out of 15 -- beating Burkina Faso 3-0 on their last previous appearance in 2004, when they had already been eliminated.

They have never got past the group stage and have never qualified for a World Cup.

Migne said that travelling to other countries had made him aware of the gap between the popularity of football in Kenya and elsewhere.

"Kenya was until now not a country of football," he said.

"During the qualifying competition we went to Ghana and I saw kids everywhere in the street playing football. In West Africa; they are everywhere.

"I lived for three years on Oman and, from four o'clock in the evening on the beach, on all the coast you have small games of football."

This was not the case in Kenya, however.

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"You can go along the coast, which is wonderful, but it is difficult to see a football match," he said.

However, things were starting to change.

When Kenya hosted Ethiopia in their decisive qualifier in October, a game they won 3-0, Migne said the stadium was full two hours before kick-off and thousands of fans were left outside.

"We have to go step by step because we have some talented players," he said. "The Harambee Stars are becoming important for the Kenyan people -- we are on the way but the road will be long to get to the top 10 in Africa.

Kenya face East African neighbours Tanzania on Thursday in a key match for both sides, as they each lost their opening games against Algeria and Senegal respectively.

Migne was disappointed with Kenya's performance against Algeria.

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"We'll enter the pitch tomorrow to try to show our qualities, to start our game from the first second," Migne said. "I believe in my team and we have some qualities. I think for the next game we will be there. It will be important to learn quickly."

Migne said his team must not throw away their chance after such a long absence from the tournament.

"We were absent for 15 years so we cannot miss this event. We need to be alive, to feel all the moment. I hope tomorrow you will see another face of my team," he said.

"[Thursday], the players will to try write history and win the first game with something at stake -- and after that everything is possible."