NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 29- China based forward Michael Olunga and winger Ayub Timbe have joined the absentee list for Harambee Stars’ friendly match against Mozambique slated for September 2, citing personal reasons.
Olunga is reported to be in Spain in search of a new club after his doomed spell at Chinese Super League side Guizhou Zhicheng with top tier side FC Girona rumored to be his next destination.
Despite the absence of the key players, First Coach Stanley Okumbi is confident the team can cope.
“It has affected our plans but still we need to believe in the players we have and instill confidence in them because the others can miss a big match because of either suspension or injury. If we show faith in the others early, it will make it easy for them to slot in next time,” Okumbi said.
Timbe cited personal reasons for his absence though he has been performing well for his Chinese second tier club Beijing Renhe where he scored a brace over the weekend.
The duo join captain Victor Wanyama and midfielder Johanna Omolo out of the game while goalkeeper Arnold Origi who had also been considered is on the verge of acquiring Norwegian citizenship hence unavailable.
Wanyama, who is just recovering from injury, opted out because he believed he would not have been fit for the game having missed Tottenham Hotspur’s weekend 1-1 draw with Burnley.
Omolo has just joined a new club in Belgium, second tier side Cercle Brugge and asked for time out to settle with his new employers.
Meanwhile, Okumbi said left-back Erick ‘Marcelo’ Ouma still remains in his plans despite failing to call him up for the Mozambique friendly, but has questioned the quality of the Georgian League where the firmer Gor Mahia defender plies his trade.
Okumbi has defended the decision not to include Ouma, saying he was not impressed by his performance against Sierra Leone.
“I analyzed the way he played against Sierra and he was not sharp. He was not the Marcelo we knew from when he was playing at Gor. We can also say maybe their league is not up to standard. But I believe when he comes back he will be fit because he knows he has to work hard,” Okumbi noted.
New York Cosmos defender David ‘Cheche’ Ochieng was the only foreign based player to report camp on Tuesday morning with the rest expected to link up by Wednesday.
Among those who are set to join include Bulgarian based left-back Aboud Omar, Maritzburg United center-back Brian Mandela and the Zambian based quadruple of midfielder Anthony Teddy Akumu, defender David ‘Calaba’ Owino, forward John Makwatta and winger Clifton Miheso.
Okumbi hopes the team can use the match to wipe off the blues from their last loss against Sierra Leone in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Qualifiers opener and bounce back to confidence.
“Of course this game coming during the FIFA window is a good opportunity for us to get a good result and climb up the rankings. We also need to get the confidence back as a team after the loss against Sierra Leone,” the tactician noted.
His sentiments were echoed by defender Ochieng who noted it will also be a good opportunity to build cohesion and synergy in the team.
“It is always good to have these friendly matches because we need them especially because of our chances for AFCON. We need to build up our confidence because we still have Ghana coming and that is a tough match,” Ochieng added.
The ‘first team’ under Okumbi’s tutelage will be travelling to Maputo on Thursday while the ‘B’ team, solely comprised of local based players has already left for Morocco for a week-long training camp.
The Morocco squad which will be handled by assistant coaches Musa Otieno and Frank Ouna will be using the camp to prepare for next year’s African Nations Championship (CHAN) and they will play friendly matches against the hosts and Mauritania.
“It is something that has never happened before for the national team but I believe it is a good opportunity to do two things at the same time. We started preparing for CHAN a while ago and this is another opportunity to give the players good exposure,” Okumbi noted.
The squad heading to Morocco is hugely comprised of uncapped players, among them Wazito FC forward Piston Mutamba, Vihiga United’s Bernard Ochieng and Kakamega High School’s James Mazembe.
Despite currently serving a six match ban for indiscipline in the Kenyan premier League, Kariobangi Sharks defender Pascal Ogweno has been included for the trip.
Harambee Stars CHAN squad to Morocco
Goalkeepers: Boniface Oluoch (Gor Mahia), Faruk Shikhalo (Posta Rangers).
Defenders: Benard Ochieng (Vihiga United), Wesley Onguso (Sofapaka), Dennis Sikhayi (AFC Leopards), Pascal Ogweno (Kariobangi Sharks) Joseph Okumu (un-attached), Harun Shakava (Gor Mahia), Titus Achesa, Simon Mbugua (Posta Rangers), Collins Shivachi (Tusker).
Midfielders: Ernest Wendo (Gor Mahia), Patillah Omoto (Kariobangi Sharks) Clinton Kisiavuki (Nakumatt FC), Jackson Macharia (Tusker)
Strikers: Kepha Aswani (Nakumatt), Masud Juma (Kariobangi Sharks), Boniface Omondi (Gor Mahia), James Mazembe (Kakamega High), Nicholas Kipkirui (Zoo Kericho), Joe Waithira, Pistone Mutamba (Wazito FC).