NAIROBI, Kenya, June 13 – A squad of 18 local based players who won the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup will travel to Brazil next Saturday to watch the Nigeria versus Argentina after they received sponsorship from President Uhuru Kenyatta and Kenya Breweries Limited.
The gesture by the Head of State and the brewing firm to provide tickets and accommodation for the players has sparked criticism as an excessive exercise but that did not dampen the spirits of the team and three officials who will make the trip when they received their tickets on Friday.
They will be in Porto Allegre to watch the Super Eagles take on the Albiceleste in a game that could shape the destiny of Group F on June 25.
President Uhuru was honouring his pledge to team after they lifted the regional tournament on home soil after three years last December.
“When the team won the Cecafa Challenge Cup last year, I and my wife Margaret, made a personal pledge that we would sponsor our team to go to Brazil as a way of giving them an opportunity not necessarily to participate but to mingle with the rest of the world in viewing the greatest sporting event in the world,” he stated when hosting the team Friday at State House, Nairobi.
The President added, “This is as a way of encouraging and inspiring them to know that they too can one day be part of the great teams of the world.
The World Cup deal comes six months after Kenyatta agreed to pay the head coach, Adel Amrouche’s salary for the next five years.
“We have a great team and I urge them to make us proud in international competitions.
“As a Government, we will continue supporting them to the best of our ability and we are in the process of looking at different modalities to see how we can promote soccer as well as other sports,” the Head of State continued.
“In the near future we will announce our initiative to the team but in the mean time we want our boys to go out there in Brazil and we hope they will emulate and put to practice what they will see,” he pledged.
Stand-in-captain and keeper Jerim Onyango said the trip will give them exposure before they travel to Maseru to face Lesotho in the first leg of 2015 Afcon second round qualifiers on the weekend of July 18 and 20.
“This is a dream come true to this team and we are very grateful for the support the Government has offered and thanks to that we were able to win Cecafa and also proceed to the second round of Afcon qualifiers,” Onyango, the Gor Mahia skipper expressed.
Kenya has never qualified for the World Cup and the trip will give Stars exposure as they seek to qualify for next year’s Nations Cup after a decade.
If they emerge victors over Lesotho in the two legs, Amrouche charges will join 2013 Afcon finalist Burkina Faso, Angola and Gabon in Group C for the final qualifiers.
The month long World Cup tournament kicked-off Thursday in Sao Paulo, with hosts Brazil starting on a good note after coming one goal down to beat Croatia 3-1 in Group A.
Other teams representing Africa are Ghana, Ivory Coast and Algeria.
Wilson Obungu, Duncan Ochieng, Jerim Onyango (keepers) David ‘Calabar’ Owino, Jockins Atudo, Abud Omar, James Situma, Vincent Omumbo, Musa Mohammed (defenders) Francis Kahata, Clifton Miheso, Joe Muiruri Gachoka, Harrison Mwedwa, Jacob Keli, Allan Wanga, Edwin Lavatsa and Paul Kiongera.
Adel Amrouche: coach
James Nandwa assistant: coach
Bruce Juma: Physiotherapist.