NAIROBI, April 1 – Kenya’s dream of playing in a junior continental tournament for the first time begins on Sunday when the national football Under-20 team faces Sudan in the first-leg of the African Under-20 Championship qualifiers.
Head coach John Kamau is positive his charges have prepared well to pick maximum points away to have the advantage in the return leg.
“We have prepared well and the drive of the players is motivating enough. I had a huge field of players to choose from and that has given me enough room to pick the best team,” Kamau said.
The coach named his travelling party after the final training session on Friday afternoon with Gor Mahia midfielder Amos Nondi handed the arm band.
Three players still in high school, the Laiser Hill trio of Musa Masika, Kevin Owino and John Macharia have found space in the final list of 20.
Nondi admitted the team is eager to make an impression, exuding confidence they can make it to the final tournament that will be hosted in Zambia in 2017.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to show the country what we are capable of and I am positive we will emerge winners looking at how we have trained and the confidence the coaches have instilled in us,” a confident Nondi stated.
However, the Gor midfielder is worried of the sweltering heat conditions in Khartoum and he hopes the boys will adapt quick in the game which will be played under floodlights.
If Stars beat Sudan over the two legs, they will book a ticket in the second round where they meet Malawi with the match set for between May 22 and 24.
A win over the Malawians will take the team closer, a third round ticket against either Nigeria or Burundi.
“We don’t want to put pressure on the boys by saying we have to qualify. The biggest aim is to give the players as much exposure as possible. We will compete for every opportunity we get and take a match at a time. There is a lot of pressure and expectation but we have told the boys not to put their minds in that,” Kamau added.
The tactician’s last attempt with the same team ended in the first round two years ago, losing out on post match penalties to Tanzania after barren draws in both home and away legs.
Comparing then and now, Kamau has had a better preparatory platform and he expects to do better.
“During that time, I was forced to prepare a team for three days because some of the players we had earlier called were overage and we realized late. We learnt our lessons and this time we have done things earlier and better,” Kamau noted.
The former Thika United and Posta Rangers head coach had success with a similar age cadre in 2013 when they reached the final of the COSAFA championships, losing 2-0 to South Africa in Lesotho.
Goalkeepers: Timothy Odhiambo (SoNy Sugar), Edwin Mukolwe (AFC Leopards)
Defenders: Collins Okumu (Thika United), Joseph Okumu (Chemelil Sugar), Kevin Owino (Laiser Hill), David Owino, Erick Ouma (Gor Mahia), Dennis Gicheru (Posta Rangers)
Midfielders: Vincent Wasambo (Kariobangi Sharks), Michael Mutinda (Thika United), John Macharia, Musa Masika (Laiser Hill), Moses Mukangula (Thika United), Amos Nondi (Gor Mahia), Boniface Muchiri (Sony Sugar), Kennedy Ochino (Nakuru AllStars)
Forwards: Jeffery Owiti (Chemelil Sugar), Ovella Ochieng’ (Kariobangi Sharks), Kibet Kilele (Ligi Ndogo SC), Nicholas Kipkirui (Zoo Kericho)