Stars’ midfielder believes Kenya can go beyond the first round

Harambee Stars’ midfielder Francis Kahata believes Kenya will sail to the second round of the Africa Cup of Nations if they pick maximum points from either Senegal or  Algeria.

Stars constitute Pool ‘C’ which has the two tournament pre-favourites and neighbours Tanzania and the playmaker has tipped Kenya to punch their way into the round of 16 should they upset either of the two African football giants.

Kenya are set to have a torrid time in containing the pacy Algerian and Senegalese players but Kahata is confident the team can pick three of the six points before putting Tanzania to the sword—an outcome that will see the team write their name in the second round for the first time.

He, however, expects a tough match from the neighbours who are understood to be eyeing the Kenyan scalp and has cautioned his teammates against underrating them.

“It’s possible for us to grace the second round of the tournament if we pick maximum points from the two group favourites. It will be easier for us if we beat one of them. We will be approaching each match at a time and with an eye of three points and I know it’s not a far-fetched target. We can’t also underrate Tanzania or any other team for there are no underdogs in modern football. Our success in the tournament will also be greatly influenced by how we perform in the first match.”

Kahata said making the Afcon-bound team is a dream come true for him having played previously in the junior national teams. He has, however, downplayed the notion that the team is under pressure as the entire playing unit will be making their maiden appearance in the tournament.

“It’s a dream come true for me to play at Afcon. I began my journey with the national team with the junior sides and it was always my dream to play in the continental showpiece. We have already adapted in playing away and we are not under pressure at all. The players are mature enough and ready to take the challenge as well as represent the country and rest of the players who did not make it to the cut.”

The left-footed midfielder credits his footballing journey to Thika United who scouted him while playing his grass root football in Ruiru and handed him a four-year scholarship at Chania Boys High School.

He says he is indebted to the club which is expected to make its debut in the Division One league after being relegated from the second tier for bridging him to opportunities he had never imagined at his tender age.

“I owe it all to Thika United for they helped in moulding me to the player I am today. I began playing football in Ruiru but the club spotted my talent and gave me a four-year scholarship and later signed me after school. They gave me the opportunity to play in the KPL which opened doors for me to ply my trade in South Africa, Albania and Italy.”

The talented midfielder, who is a penchant for entertainment, prefers to spend his off the pitch time with his family and friends. He says he is yet to face a challenge in balancing football and other activities which require his attention.

“I like spending my free time with my family especially my daughter and friends. I have no challenge in juggling between football and other activities for each has its own time.”