Football Football

Stars face West African side in March friendly

Harambee Stars squad training at Utali Ground on Thursday ahead of their AFCON qualifier against Congo.PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu.

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 18- Harambee Stars will play a build-up match against a West African opponent during the FIFA friendly window in March as part of the preparations for the 2019 African Cup of Nations qualifiers which begin in June.

Kenya open its campaign against Sierra Leone away in Freetown and according to Football Kenya Federation (FKF)  president Nick Mwendwa, playing a West African opponent will be ideal as part of the build-up.

“We are still talking to a few countries and by then we will have settled on one,” Mwendwa told Capital Sport.

Kenya has been pooled in Group F of the qualifiers alongside Sierra Leone, neighbors Ethiopia and four-time African champions Ghana. Mwendwa is confident Kenya has the ability to top the group and book an automatic ticket to the tournament in Cameroon.

“It is possible to win the group. It is not a guarantee but we can give it a shot and it can be done. We should prepare well and Kenyans should look forward to us giving it the best shot we can,” Mwendwa added.

The FKF boss reiterated the importance of preparing the team well, adding they will put 100% effort in all the matches regardless of the opponent they will face as the country seeks to return to Africa’s biggest football stage since 2004.

“There are no easy draws; every team is a strong team now. We want to prepare well and make sure we can compete against any side in Africa. By June we should be ready and we will not take it easy. We have to get serious to get there,” federation chief added.

-Hosting CHAN-

FKF President Nick Mwendwa addressing player Osborne Monday (Right).PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

Meanwhile, uncertainty continues to rise as far as Kenya’s preparedness to host the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) is concerned with the government yet to gazette budgets for the tournament.

Mwendwa has admitted there is worry over the speed at which things are moving with only a year left before the tournament.

He however said they will keep pushing, even as he disclosed a delegation from FKF has been sent to Gabon for the African Cup of Nations to pick notes on staging a continental tournament.

“We are waiting for the government to gazette and produce the budget. There is an issue about infrastructure which is a sticky point but we are at it and we will keep pushing. Hopefully things will be done as soon as possible so that we be ready in time,” Mwendwa said.

A CAF delegation which visited the country mid-last year only gave the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani a clean bill of health. According to regulations, the continental football body requires at least four fully equipped stadia for the tournament.

Among the venues which have been floated as possible hosts for the biennial tournament include Nyayo and Kasarani in Nairobi, Mombasa County and the Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret.

CAF president Issa Hayatou was in the country last August and had a meeting with the Deputy President William Ruto who gave government assurances the country will be ready for the tournament.