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The scourge of Stars returns to bite

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STARS-BOTSWANANAIROBI, June 5 – Once again, the nauseating tale of ill preparations is threatening to be the biggest stumbling block to Harambee Stars qualifying for the 2017 AFCON with Football Kenya Federation (FKF) reluctant to learn from past mistakes.

With only a week before Stars open their campaign away to Congo Brazzaville, the team is yet to hit the ground running with head coach, Bobby Williamson and captain, the Southampton FC star, Victor Wanyama, condemning the chaotic build-up.

Kenya who will also face 2012 champions Zambia and Guinea Bissau in Group B qualifiers, reported to camp this week only to find nowhere to train after Safaricom Kasarani Stadium was booked for the Kenya Police Athletics Championships.

The players among them seven foreign based players who are used to pristine facilities found themselves doing their kick-about at a muddy Kawangware World Hope Centre pitch before they shifted to Nairobi City Stadium on Thursday.

Williamson lamented he is yet to have the entire squad at his disposal after Kenyan Premier League (KPL) clubs declined to release their players. Only four from AFC Leopards trained on Thursday before leaving the camp with those from champions Gor Mahia, Tusker FC and Ulinzi Stars failing to show up altogether.

His team also lacks the services of a Team Manager after Simeone Mulama resigned leaving the side with no official in charge of logistical planning with no replacement in sight.

“It’s always a challenge working in Kenya just like in Uganda. My concern is we have a depleted squad in camp and that is derailing our preparations. The federation is not helping the national team, there is a lot of politics involved,” the worried Scot who named a provisional squad of 32 last weekend, said.

Wanyama who returned home two days after the EPL season concluded a fortnight ago said it will be difficult for Stars to sail through their group.

“It’s very difficult for me to say we will make it because Kenya has a chance to do well but only if we get support and unity from everyone. At the moment we are not united. If that is sorted earlier, then we have a chance.

“Preparation has not been good. It’s very difficult for the coach and it’s embarrassing to see the national team doesn’t have some where to train. It’s just bad,” Wanyama who is still waiting to play in his first AFCON final declared.

The skipper was alluding to the cold war between FKF and KPL that has once again come to the fore with Stars due to feature in the invitational Kwibuka Tournament in Kigali, Rwanda on the same weekend the top flight final first leg fixtures are ending.

Belgium’s Lommel United midfielder, Johanna Omolo echoed Wanyama’s sentiments.

“We still have a long way to go, we are just starting. We are not serious in terms of preparation compared to other teams. We are behind and we need to be more professional and committed.

“We will try our best to go far this time because we have good players and coach. Despite Zambia and Congo having played in the tournament, it doesn’t mean they are extraordinary; we just need to get things right,” Omolo who scored the winner in Stars 1-0 victory over Comoros in the first-leg pre-qualifiers told Capital Sport.

Norway’s Lillestrome keeper Arnold Origi , Belgian based winger Ayub Timbe, defenders David ‘Calabar’ Owino (Zesco United) and David ‘Cheche’ Ochieng’ (Al Taawoun) are the foreign based players yet to report camp.

-Fumbling Stars-

As Kenya fumble with their preparations, their first opponents Congo and Chipolopolo of Zambia began their build-up much earlier in a bid to swiftly return to the competition after featuring at this year’s finals in Equatorial Guinea.

Congo head coach Claude LeRoy has not rested his squad since reaching the quarter-finals of the 2015 AFCON earlier in February after drafting in six players from the Rio Olympics qualifiers team that has reached the final stage.

Zambia on the other hand have not had a good outing since lifting the title in 2012, resulting in Group stage elimination in EQ and COSAFA Cup but both the federation and State are committed to see them redeem their glory.

All local players have been released to join their camp ahead of their international friendly against Ethiopia this weekend before heading to Guinea Bissau for their 2017 AFCON opener.

Zambia Government through the minister of Sports, Ronald Chitotela has directed head coach Honour Janza to ensure that Chipolopolo qualify for the showpiece and will not accept any more excuses.

“The government has always spent huge sums of money on the team despite poor results of late that saw the national team fail to defend the COSAFA Cup,” the minister who paid a surprise visit to the team training session, said.

Back home, with memories of an embarrassing elimination at the 2015 AFCON pre-qualifiers by minnows Lesotho still fresh, Stars seems not to have learnt from the experience.

FKF boss, Sam Nyamweya announced preparations for 2017 should begin immediately after sacking the entire technical bench headed by Belgian, Adel Amouche last August only that in his true management style, it was only lip service.

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