Harambee Stars will not be participating in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations set for next year in Ivory Coast for obvious reasons.
However, three Kenyan referees will be hoping to play the ambassadorial roles in the absence of the national that didn’t participate in the qualifiers.
The three will have to undergo a preparatory course set for October 11-16 in Ivory Coast and later encounter another one in January before being shortlisted for duty in the finals scheduled to run between January 13 to February 11.
Among those who have been earmarked for the course is Stephen Yiembe who is bidding to debut at the top inter-country football tournament in the continent should all go in line with his plan.
Others who have been listed for the course are experienced whistler Peter Kamaku and the long-serving assistant referee Gilbert Cheruiyot.
Overall, CAF has listed 32 centre referees, 33 assistants and 4 VAR officials drawn from more than 26 different countries for the course set to be held at the host nation.
The prospects of joining the elite field of Kenyan referees who have done duty at the AFCON are one which excite Yiembe.
Cheruiyot and Kamaku officiated in the 2019 edition held in Egypt and would have plied trade in the 2021 finals held last year in Cameroon but unfortunately, Kenya was under FIFA’s suspension back then.
“It means a lot for me to be shortlisted for the application course. I consider it a miracle and a dream come true in my refereeing career,” said Yiembe.
A closer look at Yiembe’s progression at the international level this year shows that he is ripe for the AFCON task.
He officiated in the u17 tournament held in Algeria back in May and was involved in the U23 tournament hosted by Morocco in June.
Yiembe, alongside Kamaku officiated in the U23 final pitting Morocco against Egypt at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat.
Besides that, Yiembe has been involved in CAF inter-club competitions as well as the AFCON qualifiers with his last being the clash between Ghana and Central African Republic in Kumasi, Ghana where he alongside Cheruiyit were assistants to Kamaku.
“It hasn’t been a walk in the park for me to be where I am. I believe CAF assessed my performances in the previous assignments and found them good enough to warrant a place in the list. I believe I did my best in the assignments,” stated Yiembe.
Yiembe discovered his passion for officiating ten years ago and immediately enrolled for a training course offered by the Football Kenya Federation.
He started manning matches at the sub-branch level now known as counties in Nakuru.
Yiembe scaled to the branch/provincial leagues before making way to the nationwide competition later.
His performances thrust him to the Kenya Premier League in 2015 and three years later, he landed the FIFA badge.
“I have come through the ranks courtesy of the hard work, dedication, support from FKF and colleagues as well as prayers. I started this journey ten years ago in Nakuru and scaled all the way up to the top level,” he said.
Rubbing shoulders with the seniors who he used to look up to when he signed up for refereeing has been nothing but fulling for Yiembe.
“It feels great to be in the same space with senior referees whom I used and still draw inspiration from. It installs confidence in me. They have supported and continue to do so especially in adapting to the CAF philosophy,” he praised his seniors.
He also reserved praised for FKF referee’s manager Sylvester Kirwa for holding his hand throughout his journey.
“You can’t come this far without the blessings of the federation. Kirwa he has been very instrumental in supporting me, together with the Referees’ Committee. They are always instrumental in proposing, seconding, giving referees progress reports and releasing referees to CAF tournaments,” he added.
Before landing the badge, Yiembe attended a non-FIFA course organized by CAF in 2016 and was included in a similar training in Switzerland that was set up by UEFA in partnership with CAF in 2018.