NAIROBI, Kenya, June 1- Spanish based defensive midfielder Ismail Athuman Gonzalez finally realized his childhood dream after being handed his first cap with the national football team on Tuesday in an international friendly against Sudan.
Gonzalez, who plies his trade in Spain with top tier side Las Palmas, was introduced in the second half coming on for Joseph Mbugi with his performance impressing head coach Stanley Okumbi.
“It was a perfect debut for him. I didn’t think he could play that way because in training he had not shown as much. But he was composed, very sharp in controlling the midfield and defensively he was also superb,” Okumbi said.
“I think he has a future in the national team and he is one of the players we will be looking at going forward in our matches. The good thing with him is that he can play in both defense and in midfield and that gives us a lot of options.”
Speaking to Capital Sport, Gonzalez was happy with his performance saying, “It was very good, I enjoyed. Hard game but maybe I can catch up as I progress.”
The midfielder is expected to be part of Sunday’s squad for the 2017African Cup of Nations qualifier, but Okumbi says only four players from Tuesday’s team will make it to the squad.
Among the players who impressed in the Sudan friendly include Gor Mahia youngster Erick ‘Marcelo’ Ouma while skipper Brian Mandela with his wealth of experience is expected to be part of the 18-man squad.
Ouma put up a sterling performance, one that will definitely give Okumbi a tough time picking between him and Bulgaria based Aboud Omar for the starting slot.
“I don’t think it will be a hard time for me. We have three days of training and after that we will see who is the best to pick. We will definitely put in the strongest team. From this team that played against Sudan, there are three or four players who will definitely get a chance,” Okumbi added.
The Congo clash will be non-consequential for Stars but will have all meaning to Congo who need to win to keep their hopes alive on qualification.
Okumbi, who is yet to win since taking over as Harambee Stars coach says he is hungry to win and disclosed he will field an all-out attack team for the match.
“Kenyans are on my neck at this time and I need to win, against Congo we have no choice. The team has to go all out in attack and ensure we win,” the tactician said.
“As a coach, I cannot go in and score. Look at Jesse Were, a top striker with only the goal with no pressure on him but he shoot over. I will have to talk to him and tell him he has to score. That has been our biggest problem and that’s why Kenyans are saying we are playing badly,” Okumbi added.