NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 8- Harambee Stars captain Victor Wanyama has called on football stakeholders to rally behind coach Stanley Okumbi with the team now shifting attention to qualifying for the 2019 African Cup of Nations.
Okumbi’s appointment as the new national team coach on February 23 replacing former Uganda Cranes tactician Bobby Williamson was met with a lot of criticism especially with the former Mathare United head coach having had no other prior national team experience.
Wanyama, who has termed the criticism as ‘harsh’ on the youthful coach believes the recent positive results posted by the team have vindicated the Okumbi’s appointment.
“I think the criticism levelled on the coach when he took over was a bit harsh and most people never trusted him. But with the results the team has had in the recent past, he has shown he is the right man for the job and it is about time we give him the support,” Wanyama told Capital Sport.
Okumbi started his tenure with twin losses against Guinea Bissau, ending Stars’ hopes of making it to the 2017 African Cup of Nations and building further doubt on his abilities to handle the national team pressure.
But he managed to win support his way when he steered the team to a 2-1 victory over Congo Brazzaville in the penultimate AFCON qualification match, coming on the backdrop of two draws against Tanzania and Sudan in international friendlies.
Last Tuesday’s 1-0 win away to African giants DR Congo was further testament of Stars’ rise, coming after two draws against Uganda and Zambia.
“These friendly matches are very important in building any team and over time, we have seen the progress we have made. The Congo win was massive for the players and the team and it is what we have been missing for a long time,” said Wanyama.
The team’s target will now be inclined into qualification for the 2019 AFCON with Wanyama firmly believing the boys will fly the Kenyan flag in Africa’s top competition after last doing so in 2004.
“That is our target now and it is achievable if the momentum we have picked is anything to go by. It is the ambition of everyone in the team to make it there and the good blend of youth and experience we have is the right ingredient to steer us there. It is possible,” the combative midfielder added.
The Football Kenya Federation said it will be planning two other friendly matches for the team before the year ends.
More local based players are expected to be given playing time with Okumbi having one eye set on the end of year CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup and another on the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) to be hosted in Kenya.