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97 legends urge Stars to play without fear

STARS-EAGLES-2NAIROBI, Kenya, July 4- Former goal keeper, Francis Onyiso and retired defender Tillen Oguta who starred against Nigeria in 1997 on Monday urged the class of 2013 to play without fear when they host the Super Eagles in a 2014 World Cup qualifier on Wednesday.

The Nigerians are expected in Kenya on Tuesday just over 24 hours before they take on to the pitch after a stop over Addis Ababa en route from Mexico where they played out a 2-2 draw on Saturday.

Retired first choice keeper, Francis Onyiso and defender Tillen Oguta who starred when Kenya held Nigeria 1-1 in Nairobi on January 12, 1997 are optimistic with belief; the current side can overcome the might of the African Champions for the first time.

Onyiso who was fondly known as “Kenya One” is now goal-keeping trainer at local side Ulinzi Stars and Sergeant at Kenya Defence Forces and as a young custodian he made his name by being the last frontier for Stars on that occasion.

“Morale was the first thing we had. Without it and motivation, we could not perform. We were a new team and we knew they expected us to be defeated and it was up to us to prove a point,” Onyiso said in Nairobi.

“We had self belief, nothing is impossible and they have to be positive and the good thing now is that most of the players are exposed having played in Europe as compared to our time,” he stressed.

On the impact of missing the man hailed as his successor, Arnold Origi, in goal owing to suspension, the former custodian believes it is time for someone to step up in his shoes.

“It will be a big blow since goal keeping needs consistency but I believe the one who will take his place needs to use the opportunity to make a name. This is a normal game and he should give his best and play under no pressure,” he added.

“If we play well and wake up on the right side of the bed, then we shall win 1-0,” Onyiso said as his prediction.

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Oguta, the former defender towered over the backline alongside Musa Otieno to restrict one of the most feared forwards in Africa at the time.

“What helped us at the time is we were a young team and we had played together in the U-20 and U-23 sides which I was the captain. When we came to the team, Musa Otieno helped us settle as the most senior player,” Oguta who featured for the national side until 2004 recalled.

“However, they should put the country first and know you are playing, you are your father, mother and everyone. We are celebrating our jubilee year and they should win it for the country,” he added.

Although the current Super Eagles side under Stephen Keshi are the reigning African champions, the Nigerian squad of 1997 was billed as the continent’s “Dream Team” having won the Olympic gold medal a year before in Atlanta.

It contained star names such as Daniel Amokachi, Victor Ikpeba, Finidi George, Taribo West, Celestine Babayaro, Akpoborie and Uche Okechukwu among others and were installed as outside bets to win the 1998 World Cup in France with good reason.

The late Ken Simiyu etched his name in the country’s football folklore when his header midway through the first half beat Joseph Dosu in the Nigeria goal before Jonathan Akpoborie equalised in the 50th minute.

To date, the Moi International Sports Center, Kasarani that is the match venue has never been full to such capacity for a football match, with an estimated 90,000 filling every nook and cranny available in Kenya’s sporting cathedral during that match.

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