{Photo courtesy of  FKF}


By Dennis Mungai


The draw for the FIFA 2026 World Cup qualifiers was made and Kenya finds itself in a tight Group “F”, having being pitted against Gambia, Gabon, Seychelles, Côté D’Ivoire and Burundi. With the team’s first matches set to be played between November 13 and November 21, Harambee Stars has enough time to prepare for these matches.

Kenya has not even qualified for the World Cup in recent memory. The furthest the national team has come to participating in the global or continental stage was the 2019 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) where they were in a group featuring Sénégal , Algeria and Tanzania. Kenya only won one game in that group stage, beating neighbors Tanzania 3-2.

With the increase of participating countries in the World Cup from 32 to 48, this has seen African countries get a rise from the usual 5 countries to 10. From the face value, the only tough challengers in the qualifiers group would be Burundi. Out of the 10 slots, only 1 is through the play- off round while the other 9 are direct qualification. The winners of the groups qualify directly.

This might seem like a long shot, but with proper training and support, Kenya might just pull the surprise of the year by beating Ivory Coast and emerging as real contenders for group winners. Obviously they have to get maximum points from the other games as well, as the other teams would also be fighting for a chance to put their nations on the global stage.

Over- reliance on specific international players like Victor Wanyama does not send a good picture. One factor that leads to long lasting success is the ability to produce new talent almost on a daily basis. European teams like Belgium and Croatia may have ageing players like Kevin De Bruyne or Luka Modric respectively, but they already have younger and more upcoming players like Jeremy Doku, Thorgan Hazard( Belgium), Josko Gvardiol, Andrej Kramaric( Croatia).

Harambee Stars does not necessarily have players of such high caliber, but at least the aspect of developing talent should be at the fore front if we are to give a proper fight for glory. Even in the African countries that have qualified before, almost all are usually from either West Africa ( Ghana, Ivory Coast, Sénégal, Cameroon) or North Africa ( Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia). Last year’s edition saw Morocco become surprise semi finalists, beating the likes of Portugal and Spain on the way to a top four finish.

Young players are being recruited from the Kenya Premier League teams, which is a good sign. More recruitment needs to be done at grassroot level, where there may be hidden gems ready to shine their light to the world. The government together with all other stakeholders must have ensure everything is set and not allow room for sideshows: politics, leadership strangles, corruption cases and whatnot. Such incidences lower players’ morale and we should take advantage of this expansion. As they like to say in Swahili, “wakati ni sasa na kama si sasa ni sasa hivi.”

1 thought on “2026 FIFA WORLD CUP: IT’S TIME FOR KENYA”

  1. Spot on. Beautiful. Indeed the future is here with the world cup hosting @KE. And with the unveiling of a new sports writer in the globe

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