NAIROBI, Kenya, May 28- The international career of Kenya’s record goal scorer and former captain, Dennis Oliech, hangs in the balance after he was left behind from the travelling party to Comoros on Wednesday.
The forward who was relegated from French top flight Ligue 1 with AJ Ajaccio at the end of last season, fell out with head coach Adel Amrouche, who banished him from the starting XI on Monday after he absconded the team’s camp for a week.
A bitter Amrouche vowed not to include the striker who has sunk 34 goals in 63 appearances in the side, ordering him to train with the fringe players and despite a grovelling apology from the star, the Belgian twisted the knife by omitting him altogether from the squad that faces the islanders on Friday.
“For the next game he should forget since I will not field him, he is a good player and may be our opponents will be happy but I will not entertain this,” the coach said on Monday when axing Oliech from the team for the second time since he took charge in February last year.
Following the latest incident, Oliech’s days in the national side he has served as an almost permanent fixture when available since he made his debut at the 2002 Cecafa Senior Challenge regional tournament appear numbered.
Amrouche has established himself a strict disciplinarian with other stars of the team, including captain and English Premier League side Southampton FC midfielder, Victor Wanyama and his elder brother MacDonald Mariga who is set to exit Italian Serie A giants, Inter Milan, staying put in camp.
Another seasoned veteran whose future is uncertain is Oman based midfielder, Jamal Mohammed, a popular ball artist with the fans who was also axed from the travelling party despite playing in the first leg of their 2015 Africa Cup of Nations preliminary round qualifier against Comoros in Nairobi where Kenya won 1-0 on May 18.
Amrouche axed the flamboyant creative midfielder after he reportedly claimed he was sick although his past disciplinary record planted doubt in the Belgian’s mind with team mate and defender, David Ochieng, also reporting late to camp due to illness but he travelled.
“Ochieng and Mohammed were sick and they came to ask for permission and I gave them but Ochieng reported for training. Mohammed he has not come back yet so I will not give him a chance since he has not trained,” the coach explained.
“If one doesn’t want to play I can’t force him, I will give the chance to other players that I have been working with,” Amrouche gainsaid as he curbs indiscipline among the country’s foreign based players who have in the past ran roughshod on the squad.
Last June, Oliech was dropped from the team and stripped off his captaincy by the head coach after he led team mates Mohammed and Patrick Osiako to attend a local entertainment event three days ahead of a crucial 2014 World Cup qualifier against Nigeria.
Mohammed and Osiako were pardoned and featured in the 1-0 loss that ended Kenya’s interest in the Brazil Mundial but the latter was not even called up for the Comoros knock-out clash.
However, it has not been lost on observers that by elbowing out Oliech and Mohammed, two of the team’s most vocal and influential players, Amrouche is slowly ushering in a new side anchored around the talents of Wanyama.
The Southampton midfielder and most expensive player in Kenyan history after moving from Scottish giants Glasgow Celtic to the Saints in a 12.5 million pounds transfer at the end of last season is soft spoken off the pitch but a commanding general on it, attributes that have endeared him to Amrouche.
“I build my teams from the back, then midfield and finally upfront. When I came, we had a problem in striking and my aim is to build a solid team defensively and Wanyama is very important,” the Belgian said last year.
Efforts in the past to replace Oliech as the main striking force has been a headache his predecessors have failed to resolve but Amrouche’s steady construction of a mean team is proving to be a possible solution.
Under his watch, Kenya won their first title in 12 years when they lifted the Cecafa regional trophy last December and besides eight foreign based players, Amrouche retained most of that squad against Comoros.
Without Oliech, the goal scoring burden in Moroni falls on the shoulders of local stars, Allan Wanga and Jacob Keli who play for AFC Leopards although the pair have failed to hit the heights domestically this season.
Belgian based, Ayub Timbe, who impressed during the Comoros match and Algeria based Edwin Lavatsa are set to aid the goal hunt from the flanks but Kenya who need a draw to advance to the second round of the qualifiers will definitely line-out to defend and feed from possible scraps from set-plays and counter attacks.
Having forced Africa champions and World Cup bound Nigeria to a 1-1 draw away in Calabar last year that shook the Super Eagles to the core; it is not beyond Amrouche to leave the hosts red faced in Moroni by another master class in rearguard action.
The winner of the preliminary tie between Liberia and Lesotho that is also 1-0 to the former from the first leg awaits Kenya or Comoros in the second round where they will contest on knock-out basis the right to join the final 2015 Afcon qualifiers Group C that has Burkina Faso, Angola and Gabon.
Kenya are seeking passage to their first continental showpiece since 2004 in Tunisia when they exited at the group stages but notched a first Afcon victory against Burkina Faso when they ran out 3-1 winner in the last pool clash.