Why 2019 AFCON remains a special affair for Matasi

When he won Harambee Stars first choice goalkeeper spot, Patrick Matasi did not the breakthrough had come towards a major tournament that every Kenyan player relishes to feature in, African Cup of Nations (AFCON).

He had only watched Francis Onyiso and Duncan Ochieng man Kenya’s goal in such a stage when he was still a young boy in 2004, the last time Stars had made it to the AFCON before the 2019 return.

He had no idea that in the next successful campaign to the tournament, he would be among the key players to traverse the continent in hunt for the ticket, from Sierra Leone to Ethiopia, and to Ghana.

He was instrumental indeed. Having won the number one shirt from Gor Mahia’s Boniface Oluoch, he conceded only a goal in the qualification journey.

He went on to stand between the posts in all group matches that Kenya played in the eebbiggest continental football fiesta.

Importantly, the march to Cairo came with sweet money, amounts he had not touched from the national team channel. This, enabled the former AFC Leopards, Posta Rangers and Tusker player to complete his three-bedroom house in Kakamega town.

“The preparations ahead of the qualification matches for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations finals were always top-notch right from our first match against Sierra Leone. Even before our last match against away to Ghana, we held discussions with Football Kenya Federation (FKF) in regards to the bonuses to agree on how to divide the same.

“This helped us to focus and had nothing bothering us ahead of the training camp in France. For myself, I added the money to what I had received as sign on fee from my move to St.George’s and I completed my house in Kakamega,” he told.

Matasi has revealed he also completed the construction of his mother’s house in the village, another reason he will remember the 2019 AFCON forever.

“My mother’s house was also not complete and I went ahead to complete it so that she can have somewhere decent to stay,” said Matasi.

The goalkeeper was one of the outstanding players in the tournament, drawing interest from some of the biggest clubs in Africa including former African Champions League winners T.P Mazembe.

He also remembers with nolstagia the penalty he saved from Senegal and Liverpool star Sadio Mane, during Kenya’s second match which the eventual finalists won 3-0.

“We did our best despite this being our first time for all the players in the tournament. Lack of experience was a big factor but now we have learnt and we believe it will better next time. This was a good opportunity for us and it helped expose a lot of our players. We only need to ensure we are in the next tournament,” noted the St. George’s shot stopper.

Matasi, who is in his second season in Ethiopia with George’s, says he has settled and is looking forward to doing even better.

“The first season was tough. I had a not so good first half of the season conceding 11 goals. The second half was better with only two goals conceded. I was looking to do even better this season but it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

With a burning desire to play again in the AFCON, Matasi says he will do hid best to remain competitive in the Stars squad, with the 2021 Cameroon journey already on.

Poignantly, motivated by the landmark achievements he made through the allowances of the tournament, it is his prayer that Kenyan players will be featuring in high profile competitions regularly.