NAIROBI, Kenya, March 25- Once again, the Harambee Stars ‘hype-onometer’ readings in Kenyan media have reached deafening decibel levels as the national football team prepares to face Angola in their 2012 Africa Nations Cup qualifier.
Judging by the content being churned out by local press, Angola who were due to arrive later Friday are in for a pasting with acres of space in dailies and ample airtime in electronic media serving a healthy helping of optimism that Stars will soar.
However, the seismic level of excitement drummed up in the media has failed to inspire the public that has grown accustomed to seeing their beloved football side fail to match hype with performance.
After two matches in Group J, Kenya are propping the group after a listless 1-0 defeat to the ‘mighty’ Guinea Bissau and a distressing 0-0 home draw against neighbours Uganda.
Ahead of those matches, the Kenyan press ‘hype-onometer’ registered similar deafening pre-match readings only for the volumes to be toned down to basement levels post-match.
Now it is the turn of Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno to craft what was last achieved by Francis Kimanzi in the back end of 2009- mastermind victory at a qualifier- for Kenya to harbour chances of featuring at the continental showpiece to be co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
Zico, who also handles Kenyan Premier League (KPL) runner-ups, Gor Mahia has stated he will not give preference to foreign based professionals and every player called-up to the squad has a chance of making the starting 11 should they prove themselves worthy of the shirt.
The head coach who took over from Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee who was at the helm when Stars drew a blank against The Cranes, has eight players plying their trade overseas with the rest featuring in the KPL.
French Ligue 1 club AJ Auxerre striker, Denis Oliech and Inter Milan midfielder, MacDonald Mariga once more shoulder the biggest responsibility of leading their side past the team who featured at the 2006 World Cup in Germany and hosted the last Nations Cup.
While Oliech has been in sparkling form for the French side this season, new Inter coach, Leonardo has frozen Mariga out of the Serie A champions despite the player being in full fitness and is out to prove himself with a storming performance against Angola.
However, it is the KPL players who need to justify the earsplitting buzz surrounding the domestic top tier club competition courtesy of continental exposure by satellite television channel SuperSport that has been seized upon in local media.
KPL stars such as Sofapaka trio, Edgar Ochieng, Bob Mugalia and James Situma, Gor Mahia’s Kevin Omondi as well as Mathare United’s Lloyd Wahome amongst others are on the throes of acquiring Kenyan celebrity status and must step up to the plate for the national side on Saturday if selected to justify the noise.
The worrying thing is these players have flunked the test when given a continental platform to exhibit their prowess. Domestic league champions, Ulinzi Stars suffered an ignominious 5-0 aggregate stuffing at the hands of their Egyptian equivalents Zamalek in the first round CAF Champions League.
Cup winners Sofapaka fortuitously eliminated Angola’s AS Aviacao on penalties after failing to breach their defense in more than 180 minutes of football in the preliminaries despite boasting vastly superior resources and must now reverse a 2-0 deficit against Egypt’s Ismaily from the second round first leg next weekend.
It is with this mind that Oliech, who is the team captain, called for the cautious integration of upcoming local stars into the national team to give the side balance in the aftermath of the team’s 2-0 friendly defeat to South Africa.
His remarks were viewed in some quarters as a slap to KPL but having led the Stars attacking line for almost a decade, he knows the international stage leaves no room to take chances and these players lack the experience needed to compete at this level.
On the other hand, Angola’s domestic lot qualified for the second tier CHAN finals, a competition open to home based players in Sudan.
With foreign based professionals such as striker Manucho and midfielder Miguel in the ranks, the Palancas Negras who are also going through lean times after the World Cup high in 2006 present a frightening test to Zico’s men.
A whole nation is in much need of a football pick-up and victory against Angola is exactly what the doctor ordered…… Oh, we have also been infected with the hype!
HARAMBEE STARS SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Arnold Origi (FK Moss-Norway), Francis Ochieng (Ulinzi), Jerim Onyango (Gor), Martin Musalia (Mathare United).
Defenders: Edgar Ochieng, James Situma, Abdulatif Omar (Sofapaka), Noah Abich, Joackins Atudo (Tusker), Dennis Odhiambo (South Africa), Musa Mohammed (Gor), Lloyd Wahome (Mathare United).
Mid-fielders: Macdonald Mariga (Inter-Milan), Johanna Omollo (FC Fola -Luxembourg), Collins Okoth, Anthony Akumu (Gor), Jamal Mohammed (Kuwait), Fredrick Onyango (Sony), Paul Were (Tusker), Stephen Waruru (Ulinzi), Kevin Omondi (Gor Mahia), Joseph Nyaga (Rangers), Patrick Oboya (FC Trinec -Czech), Simon Mburu (Mathare United).
Strikers: Dennis Oliech (Auxerre), Victor Mugabe (Germinal Beesrchot -Belgium), George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo (Randers FC-Denmark), Joseph Akumu (AFC Leopards), Bob Mugalia (Sofapaka) Alloys Maingi (Western Stima).