NAIROBI, Kenya, February 6- With the rest of Africa glued to South Africa for the Nations Cup semis on Wednesday, Kenya national team Harambee Stars will play Libya hoping to cut a slice of attention back home.
Having been knocked out of the second tier showpiece, the Africa Home Nations Championships (CHAN) by neighbours Burundi last month, James Nandwa and his charges need a fillip against Libya in Tunis.
The match kick-off at 5pm local time and for the umpteenth time, Stars find themselves seeking to trace a way back to the international football podium following recent crushing attempts.
It will be the third FIFA International friendly week for Stars since last October with a 2-1 home loss to South Africa and a 1-0 reverse to Tanzania under French coach Henri Michel hastening his exit.
Belgium Adel Amrouche is tipped to take over the team that faces Nigeria in a 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier next month with Nandwa who has been penned as his deputy having a last chance to underpin his credentials.
“We wish to inform all fans that arising from the results of the match (Burundi), the Federation is studying the situation and will issue a comprehensive report on the way forward for the national team,” Football Kenya Federation chair, Sam Nyamweya stated when the team lost 1-0 on aggregate to exit CHAN.
According to Nyamweya, having an experienced coach, tapping for striking talent in the domestic top flight and first division leagues and investing in youth were fronted as the means to raise Kenya from the football doldrums.
The same pledges were made when Michel was hired amid much fanfare last September but it took only three months for the Achilles heel of the national team’s football to derail that effort.
Michel left under a cloud of controversy, his quit decision announced via the French Embassy after the federation failed to meet his rumoured Sh4m monthly salary, a jaw-dropping figure considering his package alone would have exhausted the meagre monies the team makes.
On Wednesday however, the biggest fall back for Kenya – hope – will once again be called upon as Nandwa’s side face a team that featured at the Nations Cup last year.
Despite the political turmoil in Libya occasioning the shift of the game to Tunisia, the team has continued operating in a model that Kenya could ape.
Nandwa will have the services of AJ Auxerre striker and captain, Dennis Oliech and Celtic FC’s midfield Dynamo, Victor Wanyama, leading his professional line-up for the first time since he took over the senior side at last year’s CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup.
Norway based keeper, Arnold Origi and David Gateri also linked up with the squad shorn of Ayub Timbe who cited lack of reimbursement for his air ticket, another bane for Kenyan overseas based players, for declining his call-up.
Wanyama’s elder brother, Inter Milan midfielder, McDonald Mariga will also sit this one out with injury but Nandwa has a squad that can force a result against Libya.
The Magreb nation is coming to the match having seen their attempts to lure former France international Alain Giresse, to coach the side rebuffed by the man who has now taken over Senegal to lead them to a 1-1 draw against Guinea on Tuesday.
Acting coach Abdulhafeed Arbich subsequently called up 16 players to a training camp to be held in Tunisia from January 25 in readiness for the match.
So, with all eyes on the Nations Cup semis, will Kenya lift their suffering fans by putting down Libya?