NAIROBI, Kenya, June 2 – Three Gor Mahia players, Harun Shakava, Kenneth Muguna and Timothy Otieno will not be part of the Harambee Stars team that will contest for selection ahead of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifier against Sierra Leone on June 10.
According to First Coach Stanley Okumbi, only Shakava asked for permission to be excused from the squad to join his club for the Super Cup in Tanzania while Otieno and Muguna did not show up nor explain their absence.
Only defender Musa Mohammed, goalkeeper Boniface Oluoch and midfielder Ernest Wendo heeded the national team call up from the Gor camp.
“They were supposed to report to camp but they didn’t come, we called them but they said they want to join their team for the SportPesa Super Cup tournament in Tanzania. Only Shakava requested even his Team Manager requested if he can join them but the other players they didn’t request,” Okumbi said after the team’s morning training session at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos.
The tactician though is undeterred despite the absence of the three players who he intends to form a core part of his team for the African Nations Championship (CHAN) in January next year.
He says he has worked on building more cohesiveness with the remaining 23 players and he is impressed by the hard work they have put in.
“We are looking at our preparations on two fronts; the AFCON qualifiers and CHAN, that is why we called in the locals one week before the others. We have worked so well and I can say this is the best squad we have had in a while because their tactical and technical awareness is superb,” the tactician offered.
The only foreign based player who has reported to camp so far is South African based defender Joseph ‘Crouch’ Okumu. The others, including skipper Victor Wanyama who is already in the country are expected to start trickling in on Saturday.
There are concerns however over the fitness of Aboud Omar and Johannah Omollo who picked up injuries in club duties last weekend, but Okumbi says they will be assessed on arrival.
Meanwhile, the tactician who has led Harambee Stars to a run of 10 unbeaten matches believes the team can rise higher than their 74th spot placing in the FIFA rankings.
The tactician says the boys are motivated after climbing four places up in the latest rankings released yesterday especially as they prepare to face Sierra Leone in Freetown.
“It is a good motivation for us but also a challenge to work harder from the players and the technical bench. We know we can do better than this and that is what is pushing us. Even as we focus on Sierra Leone, we are motivated by the fact that we can improve and play better,” he added.
Okumbi meanwhile says they have done their homework on their West African opponents. Despite the fact the country has not had a domestic league for four years, Okumbi says he will not take the game lightly as they have a sizeable number playing abroad.
“We have watched three of their clips and all of them have different variations of playing style. We are analyzing every detail and we don’t think we will have an advantage over them because we have had a league. They are a good side because of the foreign based players. It will not be easy,” he said.
The national team boss hopes his boys can start the 2019 campaign positively, targeting in the least a point from the Free Town duel.