Mulama back in Stars fold

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NAIROBI, Kenya, May 6- Harambee Stars coach, Zedekiah 'Zico' Otieno has coaxed seasoned midfielder, Titus Mulama out of retirement to feature in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Angola in Luanda next month.

While announcing the team featuring 24 local and nine professional based players, Otieno said Mulama who played in the last Kenya Nations Cup appearance in Tunisia 2004 would fill in for suspended Inter Milan ace Mac Donald Mariga.

The qualifier scheduled for the weekend of June 3 and 5 in Luanda where Kenya are keen on inflicting a second defeat on the 2006 World Cup finalists after stopping them 2-1 in Nairobi in April.

“Mulama told us he was not ready to play under the previous coach and if we thought he was okay to come back to the team, he was ready to return that is why we brought him back.If you look at his form, he is playing very well and his experience will come in handy against Angola,” Zico told reporters Friday when unveiling the team.

Mulama, 30, made 47 appearances for Stars scoring four goals before falling out of favour with  Twahir Muhiddin, Zico’s predecessor in a row that saw the player who scored Kenya’s consolation in their 3-1 opening defeat to Mali at the Tunisia Nations announce his retirement.

He has formerly played for Mathare United, APR FC in Rwanda, CS Herediano in Costa Rica and Vasteras SK of Sweden.

Besides Mulama, Sweden based midfielder, Patrick Osiako and goalkeeping pair, Noah Ayuko (Karuturi Sport) and Boniface Oluoch (Tusker FC) are among those that have also earned recalls to the national team.

At the same time, Otieno urged the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) to consider moving their congested midweek match programme starting Monday to allow his technical bench ample time to adequately prepare for the crucial match.

“Our camping will not run smoothly since KPL has arranged too many matches on Wednesday. My appeal to them is to accommodate the must win match in Angola or if we do not win, at least a draw to keep our chances of qualification alive,” the coach decried.

Otieno, who took charge of the team in March blamed KPL CEO, Jack Oguda, of failing to put the national side into consideration when re-arranging league matches after the Angola home game where Kenya won 2-1 with a Mariga late winner that added to Jamal Mohammed’s equaliser.

Besides Mariga who was suspended after picking two bookings, the second for his over enthusiastic celebration after netting the winner, Kenya will also miss their first and second choice custodians, Arnold Origi and Francis Ochieng who are injured.

Ayuko looks the likeliest replacement for Origi with Oluoch and Frederick Onyango the understudies between the sticks.

 “It is difficult for us without Mariga and Arnold since they did a very good job against Angola. It upon the players who will replace them to prove themselves,” Otieno added.

On the upcoming match, the coach asserted, “Angola are a good team going forward from mid field but they have a loophole in defence and goal keeping. Our plan is to sit low and hit them on the counter since we have quick forwards.”

French Ligue 1 AJ Auxerre striker, Dennis Oliech, Denmark’s Randers FC forward, George Odhiambo and Czech based attacker, Patrick Oboya are Otieno’s trump cards to execute the swift breakaways.

Oboya returns to the team after his club denied him permission to field in the match against Angola in Nairobi where Kenya’s victory lifted them to second on four points in Group J, three in arrears to pool leaders Uganda.

Sofapaka, who play Congolese side St Eloi Lupopo on Sunday in a third leg CAF Confederation Cup return match have the lion’s share in the national squad with seven.

SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Boniface Oluoch (Tusker FC), Frederick Onyango (Gor Mahia), Noah Ayuko (Karuturi Sports); Defenders: Anthony Kimani (Mathare United), Noah Abich (Tusker FC), Edgar Ochieng (Sofapaka), Joseph Shikokoti (Tusker), Pascal Ochieng (Rangers), John Njoroge (Sofapaka), Eric Masika (Gor Mahia), Robert Kwaye (Western Stima), Dennis Odhiambo (Pretoria); Midfielders: Kevin Ochieng (Vietnam), Ali Bhai (Western Stima), Kevin Kimani (Mathare United), Victor Mugubi (Belgium), Osborne Monday (Sofapaka), Patrick Osiako (Sweden), James Situma (Sofapaka), Titus Mulama (Sofapaka), Joseph Nyaga (Rangers), Johanna Omolo (Luxemborg), Patrick Oboya (Czech Republic), Chester Okoyo (Ulinzi Stars); Strikers: Jamal Mohammed (Unattached), Humphrey Mieno (Sofapaka),  Mike Baraza (Ulinzi), Bob Mugalia (Sofapaka), Allan Wanga (Vietnam), Moses Arita (Thika United), George Odhiambo (Randers), Dennis Oliech (AJ Auxerre).   

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