New Harambee Stars Coach Engin Firat and FkF President Nick Mwendwa at a press conference in Nairobi. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

It’s an all too familiar tale in Kenyan football – a huge backlash greeting a dismal performance from the national team – but on Friday, the harsh reaction to a 5-0 defeat to Mali in a 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier carried a tone of hopelessness.

On Thursday night, Kenya’s dream of qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup suffered a heavy blow when Ibrahima Kone’s first-half hat-trick inspired Group E leaders Mali to a crushing victory.

An early goal from Adama Traore and Moussa Doumbia’s 85th minute strike settled a lopsided contest played in the neutral venue of Morocco due to political upheaval in Mali. The result leaves Kenya third in the group with two points and an unfavorable goal difference, with Uganda (five points), who beat Rwanda 1-0, leapfrogging them to second behind Mali (seven points).

On Sunday, Kenya welcome Mali to Nairobi with the home side needing to win all their remaining fixtures to have a sniff of clinching the only ticket available from Group E to make the third and final round of CAF qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The opening 0-0 and 1-1 draws to Uganda and Rwanda prompted stinging criticism in Kenya, with Football Kenya Federation (FKF) changing head coaches after the second game to bring in Turkey’s Engin Firat on a two-month contract.

Firat’s first game in charge was as humbling as they come, and the repercussions for the new head coach and FKF president Nick Mwendwa as the team arrived in Nairobi on Friday morning bordered on the savage.

“Nick Mwendwa appointed Engin Firat to coach Harambee Stars on a two-month contract. Firat was previously coach of Moldova, where he won 0 matches. Moldova is 75 places below Kenya in FIFA rankings. We need to start asking whether Nick is just laundering money with FKF,” television journalist Ferdinand Omondi wrote on Twitter.

Harambee Stars defender Joseph Okumu dribbles the ball past Mali striker Ibrahima Kone during Thursday’s World Cup Qualifier match, at Stade Adrar, in Agadir Morocco. [FKF]

Jacob Mulee (2020-21), Francis Kimanzi (2019-20), Sebastien Migne (2018-19), Stanley Okumbi (2016-17, 2018) and Paul Put (2017-18) have come before Firat since Mwendwa took over running the FKF in 2016.

The FKF boss was Kenya’s fourth biggest trending topic on Twitter on Friday morning, with most of the posts making uncomfortable reading for the administrator who promised to take Kenya to the 2022 World Cup finals upon being elected for his first term.

“Instead, the illegal entity is still allowed to handle our national teams and our monies from the consolidated fund without the requisite legal requirements in place,” local football analyst Francis Ngira remarked in a long Facebook post.

As news of the 5-0 defeat filtered, morning radio talk show discussions were dominated by discussion on what the country’s football needs, with most callers asking for the heads of Firat and the federation boss.

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