NAIROBI, June 4 – Harambee Stars head coach, Bobby Williamson is afraid he will feature the full complement of 18 players permitted for an international match when the team heads out to Rwanda for Saturday’s Kwibuka Tournament.
On the eve of the scheduled departure, the Scot lampooned Football Kenya Federation (FKF) lamenting they should have cancelled this weekend’s Kenyan Premier League fixtures to give the national side a full house to take to Kigali.
Williamson is disillusioned he will not have his entire squad on show in a tournament he intended to use to gauge his players against next weekend’s opening 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier away to Congo Brazzaville as the cold war between the federation and KPL whose sides declined to release their players resurfacing.
Should the standoff persist, the head coach will potentially have 11 players at his disposal for the trip, meaning he will have no one on the bench to call upon if the first XI fail to hold up for the entire duration of the match- that is, should FIFA rules be bent to permit the side to take to the field.
Champions Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards who have a huge chunk of the local based players in the squad and fellow KPL titans Tusker FC and Ulinzi Stars will be in action on Saturday for the final fixtures of the first-leg, a reason why the clubs declined to release their players.
“I’m concerned with the numbers in the team. The federation should have postponed this weekend’s games because it’s not helping the national team. But I understand because there is a lot of politics. We have 15 in camp but four Leopards players will be going back to their club because they have an important match on Saturday.
“That leaves us with 11 but I’m hoping we can get some from Ulinzi to make the numbers. We have a depleted squad for the first game on Saturday. The biggest challenge will be on Sunday, hopefully we will get some players come in the morning to give these guys a rest,” Williamson decried.
It is the latest example of shambolic preparations for the senior national team from a blundering federation that is increasingly out of touch with ethos of proper management.
The team is yet to get a permanent training venue due to unavailability of their preferred Moi International Sports Complex, Kasarani (Safaricom Stadium) with 19 players led by skipper Victor Wanyama who plies his trade at EPL side Southampton turning up for Thursday’s session conducted at City Stadium.
El Mereikh striker Allan Wanga, Belgium based Johanna Omolo, Khartoum National FC midfielder Teddy Akumu, Francis Kahata as well as South Africa based duo of Paul Were and Brian Mandela are available for the tournament.
Wanyama however, cast doubt of making the trip after revealing his travelling documents were still lodged at the British High Commission.
Latest call up, Under-23 and Posta Rangers reserve keeper, Boniface Baraza, his team-mate Ian Otieno and Nakumatt FC’s Peter Nzuki are among FKF-PL players in the team who are not tied up with club commitments and therefore, expected to travel to Rwanda.
Leopards keeper, Wycliffe Kasaya, defenders Jackson Saleh and Edwin Wafula, midfielder Bernard Mang’oli and forward Jacob Keli trained with the squad on Thursday but were due to depart.
Gor’s Boniface Oluoch (keeper), Musa Mohammed, Harun Shakava, Collins Okoth and Ali Abondo are yet to report camp with their team facing a crunch tie with Tusker in Kisumu over the weekend.
The Southampton star echoed his coach in condemning poor preparations that saw Stars conduct Wednesday training at a rained- soaked World Hope in Nairobi’s Kawangware as he called on the federation to provide proper facilities right away for final tune-up for the qualifier next week.
“Preparation has not been good and that makes it very difficult for the coach. It’s embarrassing to see the national team doesn’t have somewhere to train. It’s just bad. I hope things will change as quickly as possible,” Wanyama told Capital Sport.
With Stars dropping six places to 123 in the latest FIFA rankings, Williamson hopes the team will be ready to face Congo despite having less than a week to assemble a full squad.
“The tournament is not that important but it will only give me opportunity to access players I have not seen recently and evaluate their fitness level so that by the time we play Congo we are in good shape.
“We are trying to build the Under 23 that’s why some are here and others are training with their clubs. They will play on Saturday and see how they will perform because the squad is not a casting stone, things might change since a player might get injured or be ruled unfit,” The Scotsman who will be guiding the team in his first international competitive assignment declared.
Stars are expected to depart Friday ahead of the round robin tournament that also has host Rwanda, Tanzania and South Sudan.
Kenya will also face 2012 champions Zambia and Guinea Bissau in Group B of the Gabon 2017 AFCON qualifiers, as they seek to return to the continental showpieces for the first time in over a decade.