Akwana to retain U-23 squad


NAIROBI, Kenya, May 3- National Under-23 coach Ezekiel Akwana will retain the squad he had selected for the botched All Africa Games qualifier against Eritrea when his team face Uganda next month.

Eritrea, who were leading 4-1 from the first leg played two weeks ago in Asmara, declined to honour their return fixture handing Kenya the walkover to face neighbours Uganda.

“We will now play Uganda. What happened is that Eritrea panicked to come to play us because they heard that the team that played the first leg was disbanded and a new team was formed.

“They were afraid of coming and conceding goals and that is why they handed us the walkover,” Akwana claimed Tuesday.

He added: “I accept Uganda are a tough team and as a coach, I’m in love challenges. This is a new challenge I will face but I’m sure with adequate good preparations we will beat Uganda and proceed to the next round.”

In addition to the squad he had named for the Eritrea match, Akwana will welcome six players from 2009 domestic club champions, Sofapaka to the team.

“The players I had named have proved they are ready and capable of playing Uganda. I will have the Sofapaka players in the team since the league will have taken a three week break,” the coach stated.

Faced with a fixture pile-up in the league, the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) Top 8 tournament and most importantly CAF Confederations Cup, Sofapaka declined to release six of their players to the under-23 team for the Eritrea game.

Eritrea National Football Federation (ENFA) withdrew their team on Friday after they petitioned CAF to move the tie to Sunday, a plea that was accepted.

ENFA general secretary, Mekonen Gidey, who wrote to the continental body, had earlier threatened to withdraw his side from the game citing Kenya’s reluctance to move the match from Saturday.

“The minimum expectations is for us to represent Kenya in the All Africa Games since we have not done so since we hosted the competition in 1987. We are ready to break this jinx,” Akwana asserted.

In their only Pan African Games appearance, Kenya lost to Egypt in the final.

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