NAIROBI, November 16 – Harambee Stars finally departed after a day of hell to honour their 2018 FIFA World Cup second round; return leg qualifier against Cape Verde on Tuesday.
After nine hours of wait at Nairobi’s Wilson Airport, Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Arts and Culture Dr. Hassan Wario came to the team’s rescue to see the team finally take off to embark on the 16 hours journey to Praia.
Wario had to pay cash to charter airline company, Skyward, for the plane to take off before the airport’s closing time 8:30PM (+3GMT) after they had declined to give Stars players boarding passes.
However, Skipper and Southampton midfielder Victor Wanyama, Zambia’s Zesco United defender, David Owino and David Ochieng had declined to board the plane, fearing for security but Wario had to persuade them to convince the rest of the players and finally leave.
Stars who carry a slim 1-0 first-leg win, will arrive hours before the match that is scheduled to kick-off at 10pm local time (+3GMT).
Players held Football Kenya Federation (FKF) hostage after they threatened not to honour the leg pre-qualifier until their pay demands were met.
It was a day of high drama in Kenyan football as the national team that had reported camp at Kasarani Stadium on Saturday refused to board their chartered plane in time and the team had not departed until 8:25pm local time (+3GMT).
The players eventually left for Wilson Airport after they were paid 90 percent of their outstanding four-match allowances in the afternoon for a flight that was due to take off at 10:30am.
However, the day of horror for FKF boss, Sam Nyamweya took a turn for the worse when the charter airline company, declined to take off until they are paid their dues.
A source in the airline revealed to Capital Sport that FKF and the Ministry of Sports had requested them to allow the team travel and invoice the costs to them but the management, perhaps sensing potential trouble in pursuing payment, declined.
“It’s a 16 hours flight because they have to stop at Kano, Nigeria to refuel before heading to Praia, the capital city of Cape Verde,” the source revealed.
That left the travelling contingent led by Wanyama disillusioned and stranded; forcing assistant coach, Musa Otieno to assemble them for lunch.
The team was denied boarding pass until the bill was settled but they were given later on only to be barred to check in until the cash is paid.
“Preparation has not been the best and we have been singing about it, so hopefully it will change in future.We are now focusing on the game and hopefully we will deliver. Everyone wants to travel early so that we can have a feel of the pitch and acclimatize with the weather but it has not been the case.
“There has been dragging with allowances not being paid. We didn’t know when we were travelling but that was confirmed a day before the match. As players, we talked about it and everybody is focused on the game,” Wanyama declared.
Commenting on allowances, Wanyama said, “Everybody has received his share and now we are ready to go there and do the job. They have also refunded air tickets for the foreign based players who produced the tickets but those who didn’t submit theirs, will be refunded later,” the captain declared.
His sentiments were echoed by Olunga who was unhappy with the team’s preparations, outlining that arriving in Cape Verde late will affect their performance.
“This is not good preparation as players we need time to relax because we are going to do things in hasty. We don’t know what time we are going to arrive there so we might even not have a chance to feel the pitch.
“It’s going to be tough but we are promising to give our best to proceed as a nation. We have received atleast 90 percent of our pending allowances. We are going to keep the problems way,” Olunga stated.
Head coach Bobby Williamson was upbeat they will depart and his charges will give their best.
“We are travelling on the eve of the match because that’s the only time we could get the flight any other way we could have taken two days so this is the best option for us.
“They are professional footballers so they will not be affected. They want to represent their country well so let’s see how it goes,” the Scotsman underscored.
FKF vice president, Robert Asembo said they had played their role as the federation and the rest was left to the Government.
“The back to back arrangement of this competition leaves little time for much to do so we have done our best. The route is very challenging since Cape Verde is not a walk in the park.
“I’ve always said there is no need to demarcate the roles of support for the national team. The federation and the Government converged to make it possible. The boys don’t play for money but the limbo they had has been cleared,”