NAIROBI, Kenya, February 28- AC Parma midfielder, MacDonald Mariga has withdrawn from the Harambee Stars squad to face Togo after a dispute with Football Kenya Federation (FKF) over the refund of his air fare.
Mariga is reported to be flying back to Italy on Tuesday evening after a stormy meeting with FKF officials failed to resolve his complaints as Stars captain, Dennis Oliech, came out in strong support of his fellow European based team mate.
“For me, I’m honest, I’m fully behind Mariga. He is a key strong player in the midfield and the federation are not taking this thing seriously.
“As a captain, it is not good for the federation, they have to handle this thing, the team has a sponsor, Sh110m, they can take money and pay Mariga so that he can play,” the French side AJ Auxerre forward said on Tuesday.
He added: “We have an issue pending with advertisement with Tusker (team sponsors) together with Mariga and they also need to handle this matter as well. We have this issue in court so I’m focused on the game.
“We have to forgive Mariga and if it was me, I would do the same. They have been lying to Mariga for too long asking him to come and they will refund his ticket. My problem is different from this case that is why I’m in the team.”
The visibly upset captain urged FKF to resolve the matter urgently for the dependable midfield man who rejoined Parma after a loan spell with Spanish La Liga side Real Sociedad in the January transfer window.
“We still have time for Mariga, he can come and train this (Tuesday) evening since we know he is fully fit to play. We want him to play, the coach wants him to play and we cannot afford to lose such players in the team.”
Head coach Francis Kimanzi declined to be drawn to the saga after conducting his final training this morning.
“I prefer to concentrate on what I have been working with this morning and it is the players who are in and want to play for their country. Those other administrative wrangles with the players are something we do need to talk about now.
“It is important for the team mental and psychological preparations that we are set to play whether he is around or not,” Kimanzi said.
Mariga pulled out of the team after he failed to come into an agreement with the reimbursement for his air tickets pertaining to at least four international matches he has featured for the Stars.
Sources within the FKF accuse the player of inflating the costs of his tickets disputing his preference for Business Class travel as opposed to Economy Class.
Stars play the Sparrow Hawks of Togo on Wednesday evening in their first leg of the 2013 Africa Nations Cup qualifier at Nyayo National Stadium.