NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 13 – National football team Harambee Stars jetted back to the country from Freetown, Sierra Leone early Tuesday morning, with the scars from the dampening 2-1 loss in their opening 2019 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier against the hosts still visible on their faces.
The players walked off the arrivals lounge shortly after 6:30am, all with their faces damp, most rushing straight to their cars for a quick ride home to try and wipe away the disappointment from the West African sojourn.
Skipper Victor Wanyama who will now embark on a three-week holiday before returning to North London with his club Tottenham Hotspur was the first player to walk out of the airport, swiftly followed by striker Michael Olunga who scored the lone goal in Freetown.
Wanyama had all the figures of disappointment crammed on his face but speaking to Capital Sport briefly before he whisked away, the captain remained confident they will bounce back in their second group match against Ghana at home next year.
“We just didn’t take our chances,” the disappointed skipper said.
He added; “We need to be positive. Hopefully we can bounce back because the next game for us is do or die and hopefully we can get something. I believe we will win. We are playing at home and we need to fight for the victory. The weekend loss is now behind us. We need to look ahead.”
The captain has urged fans to rally behind the team despite the disappointment.
“It is what it is now. We need to look ahead and the fans should rally behind us and I still believe we can do something,” the midfielder added.
First Coach Stanley Okumbi who managed a smile in between the disappointment also decried the loss of chances, saying that was the sole reason the team could not pick maximum points or at worst a draw in West Africa.
“We didn’t play badly. We played good football but we could not score some few chances we created while the opponents used theirs. Had we converted even half of those chances, we would be talking something different now,” the tactician offered.
He added; “It is something that I have been telling the players. We need to convert the chances we get and this is one of the biggest things we will be working on before the next qualifier.”
He has also urged fans to accept the results, saying losing is part of the game and other giants were on the losing end as well over the weekend.
“We should accept the results as they came but I think for me we played well. I encourage my players despite the loss, we still have a chance of qualification,” the coach said.
He was also defensive of his squad selection especially having handed Kariobangi Sharks striker Massoud Juma a starting slot in the match, despite lacking prior national team experience.
He maintained he took the best fielding decisions in the match and remains optimistic results will pour in despite the loss putting to rest his 10-match unbeaten streak.
The loss leaves Kenya third on the group, only separated on goal difference from bottom side Ethiopia who were handed a 5-0 humiliation by log leaders Ghana in Kumasi. Stars’ next qualifier is in April 2018 against the Black Stars.
Most of the players will now embark on club duty while a few will be on short holiday before the new season begins.
Georgia based Erick ‘Marcelo’ Ouma and USA based David ‘Cheche’ Ochieng quickly hobbled into their cars for quick tete a tete with their families and are expected to travel back this evening.
China based Ayub Timbe returned to the country on Monday and is also scheduled to depart on Tuesday evening as his club have a league match on Friday.