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Put looks to endear himself to Kenyan fans

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Harambee Stars head coach Paul Put ponders on the touchline during the 2017 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 17- Paul Put hopes to follow in the footsteps of his fellow Belgian Adel Amrouche and guide Kenya to the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup title on his first attempt when he lines up his boys for the final at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on Sunday evening.

Put expects a tough duel from the unpredictable Zanzibar, but he reckons he has put his boys through enough to take them over the line and he looks forward to wrap up the game after 90 minutes.

“We have been improving in each match and though we are not yet arrived at where I want us to be, I think we have become a better team. It will be very tough in the final but we are prepared to fight and we will give our best,” the tactician noted ahead of the final.

He added; “The players know what is required of them and they know this is their opportunity to show to the whole world and the fans at home what they can do.”

Put took charge of the team at a time when there was hue and cry over his predecessor Stanley Okumbi who is now his assistant and in the wake of waning public support, he hopes to bring the love back and ensure the team is back at the top.

Winning the Senior Challenge Cup would be a brilliant start for Put especially ahead of next year’s African Cup of Nations qualifiers where Kenya is scheduled to play Ghana in September.

Harambee Stars winger Ovella Ochieng and defender Jockins Atudo fly in for a header during a CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup match against Zanzibar at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on December 9, 2017. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

The tactician insists that for him, CECAFA is just an opportunity for him to learn his players and put a foundation for the 2019 AFCON campaign.

Heading into the tie against Zanzibar, a side they drew 0-0 with in the group stages, Put hopes the elements of fatigue will not down his team especially after a grueling semi-final against a strong Burundi side which went all the way to extra time.

“It is tough because this is a marathon and we have to play many matches within a short period of time. I was surprised that we could get over the situation with Burundi in the semis and hopefully we can do that again,” the coach said.

Midfielder Whyvonne Isuza, scorer of the lone goal against Burundi has called on his teammates to ensure they get the job done by bringing the title home.

Harambee Stars midfielder Whyvonne Isuza during the 2017 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

“We have worked so hard in the past two weeks and this is the chance to make it count. It will be tough but hopefully we can be able to get the job done. We are at home and that should be an advantage to us. We have to give the fans something to smile about,” the AFC Leopards midfielder noted.

Ahead of the tie, Put will be without striker Massoud Juma who has failed to recover from an ankle injury while Musa Mohammed and Vincent Oburu, both who limped off the semi-final against Burundi have to wait for late fitness tests.

But Put sees this as an advantage to see other players especially with Duncan Otieno having impressed when he came on for Mohammed, despite being a midfielder.

“This tournament gives me a chance to look at all the players and I see this as an opportunity for me and other players to show what they can do. I hope they take the chance,” the coach said.

Kenya will be playing its 13th CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup final. Of the 13 they have played, they have won six, the last being in 2013 when the tournament was hosted in Nairobi. Prior to that, the last time they won was in 2002.

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