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Stars move up a step

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 18- Kenya has moved up a place to 123rd in the latest Coca-Cola Fifa rankings released Wednesday.

At the same time, the country’s preparations for their crucial June 4 Africa Nations Cup qualifier are set to be hit by Kenyan Premier League (KPL) refusal to suspend their mid-week match programme.

On Tuesday, Harambee Stars head coach, Zedekiah Otieno, called on KPL to suspend league and Top 8 matches starting next Monday or he would quit his position.

At a media conference, KPL CEO, Jack Oguda said, “We put Harambee Stars matches into consideration when the fixtures list was drawn and this was known from the start.”

He added: “KPL clubs have continued to support Stars even when players are needed beyond the time stipulated by Fifa. Fifa rules should be followed in this matter and our programme will go on as planned.”

Live screening of domestic matches by broadcast sponsors, SuperSport has seen the advent and popularity of mid-week matches and the log has been increased this season with the addition of the Top 8 knock-out tournament featuring last year’s first-eight finishers.

Tonight, Gor Mahia take on champions Ulinzi Stars in their second leg semi final tied at 0-0 from the first encounter played a fortnight ago.

Otieno re-convened the Stars camp on Monday with only 15 of the 29 players he called up turning up with the coach claiming the proposed one-week tour to Namibia ahead of their Angola match would not be possible if the situation persists.

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“Every time coaches have lost their matches with this team; they have always said it is because of poor preparations. I don not want to give any excuses if we do not perform well so if KPL do not suspend matches, I will go,” Otieno said on Tuesday.

Kenya needs to beat the side they topped 2-1 in Nairobi last month to habour hopes of catching up with Group J leaders Uganda who have opened a three point gap.

Meanwhile, suspended Sofapaka assistant coach, Ezekiel Akwana, has been linked with the Nairobi City Stars top job.

Akwana who was suspended alongside two other officials by Sofapaka president, Elly Kalekwa a fortnight ago over sabotage allegations is tipped to replace Ken Odhiambo at City Stars, reported Wednesday.

Akwana, who is also the head coach of the national Under-23 side is said to be offered an initial six-month contract at the KPL basement side.

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