NAIROBI, June 11 – Kenyan Premier League top scorer Ali Abondo and Belgium based midfielder, Johanna Omolo are among notables axed as Harambee Stars head coach, Bobby Williamson named a 20-man squad that will do duty in Sunday’s 2017 AFCON qualifiers opener away to Congo Brazzaville.
Also dropped are AFC Leopards duo of striker Jacob Keli and experienced keeper Wycliffe Kasaya as well as South Africa based defender Brian Mandela.
Football Kenya Federation Premier League’s Posta Rangers keeper, Ian Otieno and Chemelil Sugar midfielder Stephen Wakanya are the surprise inclusions in the team that departs Friday to Brazzaville via Addis Ababa.
With first choice keeper, Arnold Origi who features for Norway based side Lillestrome unavailable, Williamson will likely prefer to start with Gor Mahia shot-stopper Boniface Oluoch in between the sticks while Otieno will be on the reserve bench in the senior team for the first time.
Oluoch will be returning the national team for the first time in three years when he inspired Stars to a goalless draw against Malawi during the 2014 World Cup qualifier at Nairobi’s Kasarani Stadium.
Skipper Victor Wanyama who turns out for EPL side Southampton will command the midfield that has Gor’s Collins Okoth, Ayub Timbe, Anthony Akumu, Francis Kahata, Kevin Kimani, Humphrey Mieno and Wakanya who will battle for the starting XI in the absence of Omolo, Abondo and Mark Makwata of Ulinzi Stars.
Williamson who will be put to test in his first major competition since succeeding Belgian Adel Amrouche, said some of the players who missed the trip will be considered in the Africa Nations Championships (CHAN) qualifier against Ethiopia.
With CHAN only open to locally based players, the seven foreign based players will create vacancy for those who did not make the cut.
“We have the CHAN qualifiers immediately after we get back from Congo. We will only have a week to prepare and that’s why I had the big squad in camp. Our intention is to give everybody a chance so it’s not a casting stone,” Williamson underscored after conducting the final session on closed door.
Wanyama was content with the squad, saying they are ready for the Claude Le Roy charges who are one of the favorites alongside 2012 champions Zambia in Group B that also has minnows Guinea Bissau.
“Preparation has been okay and we are happy we have a lot of players back. We have a good group and we are looking forward for the game,” Wanyama told Capital Sport.
Kenya will be seeking to return to the Gabon finals showdown for the first time in 11 years after featuring in Tunisia’s final in 2004.
Goalkeepers: Ian Otieno (Posta Rangers), Boniface Oluoch (Gor Mahia)
Defenders: Aboud Omar (Un-attached) David Ochieng (Al-Tawoun, Saudi Arabia), David Owino (Zesco United), Edwin Wafula (AFC Leopards), Jackson Saleh (AFC Leopards).
Midfielders: Francis Kahata (FK Tiranna, ALB), Stephen Wakanya (Chemelil Sugar), Victor Wanyama (Southampton), Ayub Timbe (FK Genk, Belgium), Paul Were (Unattached) Collins ‘Gattuso’ Okoth (Gor Mahia), Anthony Akumu (Al Khartoum, Sudan), Humphrey Mieno (Tusker), Kevin Kimani (Tusker).
Forwards: Michael Olunga (Gor Mahia), Noah Wafula (AFC Leopards), Jesse Were (Tusker) and Allan Wanga (Unattached).