NAIROBI, Kenya, May 24- The decision by Harambee Stars head coach, Francis Kimanzi to keep mum about his team’s complexion ahead of the June 2 World Cup qualifier against Malawi has elicited mixed reactions.
The tactician was expected to roll out his squad for the opening Group F CAF 2014 Mundial qualification on Tuesday but he elected to sidestep the media by stating he would only do so 48 hours to the match.
Of interest is the identity of foreign based players he will include in his team with uncertainty surrounding key members led by Stars captain and record scorer, Dennis Oliech, who retired from international football last month dominating the debate.
Being unaccustomed to groping in the dark as far as the national team is concerned, Kimanzi’s stance has incurred the wrath of a section of the country’s media that has come out with sharpened knives to lampoon his Modus Operadi.
Justifiably, they turn to the tenet of the inalienable right to information enshrined in the Bill of Rights to label the coach’s position as an archaic practise of a bygone era.
The disgruntled voices further argue majority of the squad that will feature local players is already out in the public domain with Football Kenya Federation officials only too willing to divulge details on foreign based players in Kimanzi’s radar such as those who have been sent tickets to travel for the game.
“I have a job to do and my own way of doing it and the result after 90 minutes will be the basis of how I will be judged. Everyone can say what they want about the team, it is their right but the responsibility of selecting players and fielding them is my duty,” Kimanzi explained.
Inevitably, speculation of the set up of his team is rife with reports attributed to the federation identifying the likes of Titus Mulama (midfield), Victor Wanyama (midfield), Patrick Oboya (wing), Arnold Origi (keeper) and Patrick Osiako (midfield) among the foreign based players who have been sent tickets.
While media houses are in unison with the assertion that Origi, who announced his retirement from international football in January, has been roped back into the squad, doubt exists on whether similar efforts have succeeded in coaxing Oliech to make the U-Turn.
Some deadpan that the AJ Auxerre forward who quit the side over an image usage row with team’s sponsors, East Africa Breweries Limited is steadfast in his resolution and Kimanzi should get used to the idea of facing The Flames without the skipper.
Others are holding out for the conclusion of intense backroom negotiations among the parties concerned namely the Government, federation, sponsors and Oliech’s representatives before composing their headlines.
The Oliech factor has been peddled as the compelling reason of Kimanzi, who will take charge of his first World Cup qualifier since October 12, 2008 when Kenya lost 3-2 away to Guinea in Conakry as they booked passage from Group 2 of the 2010 South Africa CAF Second Round qualifiers.
“My focus is how to make the team play and individual players and their cases I leave them to the federation to deal with. I have a match to get my team ready and the players who will be selected in the end are the ones we feel they can achieve our goal,” the coach stated on the thorny subject of the want away captain.
To his credit, Kimanzi has stuck to his guns under the spirited onslaught in the knowledge that extended debate on the will he-won’t he question over his captain that found its way to the country’s parliament will only serve to distract the team from the task at hand.
His actions echo those of one of his predecessors, former French World Cup winning goalkeeper, Bernard Lama, who made few friends in local media circles owing to his strict standing over release of team information to the press.
Inevitably, he was hounded out of his role in 2006 when defeat to Eritrea in an Africa Nations Cup qualifier, lack of support from the then Kenya Football Federation and barrage of headline criticism saw him abdicate his role after two months but he is credited with injecting a degree of professionalism in the handling of Stars affairs in the media.
Gone are the days when journalists would walk in and out of the team in camp, sometimes disrupting training, unrestricted news, some factual and others unfounded on the players as well as relentless media pressure to include select players in the side.
Kimanzi and his squad are closeted at Nairobi’s Kenya School of Monetary Studies where access is limited owing to the firm requirements of entry that in essence, has also restricted the flow of information on the squad.
Just as the media is agitating to unrestricted access to the happenings in the Stars camp, Kimanzi also has an equal right to keep silent, focus on his task and he charges, be judged after 90 minutes on June 2.