PARIS, France, June 10 – Harambee Stars defender Brian Mandela has warned that Kenya will be no easy opponent at the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) when the tournament kicks-off June 21 in Cairo, Egypt.
Harambee Stars will kick off their campaign two days later against Algeria’s Desert Foxes and being in a group that also has Senegal and Tanzania, Mandela has warned anyone underrating Stars that they are in for a rude shock.
“Everyone in the team is looking forward to having a good tournament in Egypt and we are going there to do our best. We will be no pushovers and we will pull to the best of our abilities to represent Kenya in the best way we can,” Mandela stated.
“We ask our fans to continue supporting us like they did during the qualifiers and our promise to them is that we are going to give them something good back at home,” further added the South Africa based centre half.
On the tough group that Kenya faces; “Yes it is a very tough group with two very good teams and a derby awaiting us against Tanzania, but we are ready for it. We are ready to face them and fight for victory.”
Stars have been camping in Paris, France at the National Rugby Centre in Marcoussis and Mandela says bringing the team here has been a masterstroke as it has helped boost their morale and everyone now has no reason not to go into the pitch and bleed for the country.
The team has been in Marcoussis from May 31 and is expected to depart on June 18 for Cairo.
“As players this is quite a huge motivation because this is something that happens rarely in Kenya. You can see the morale in the players and the happiness that such kind of a thing has brought to us,”
“We have gelled well as a team and we are like brothers here. One thing that helped us qualify was the togetherness and teamwork and being here has only made it stronger. Hopefully we carry this on to Egypt and we go do our best,” he stated.
Mandela is coming off a tough season in South Africa where he just but managed to help his club Maritzburg United survive relegation after topping the three-team round robin play-off to maintain their Premier Soccer League (PSL) status.
But, the former Tusker FC and Posta Rangers defender has chosen to look at it on the opposite way counting it as a successful season.
“The season built the character in me and my teammates because we had to be strong mentally when things were thick. In such situations, you are forced to think outside the box and that is what helped us to survive,”
“We are happy to remain in the league and now for me is to focus on AFCON then think about the new season now,” he added.
The defender who has been in South Africa for five years now has been linked with a move to giants Kaizer Chiefs and champions Mamelodi Sundowns but says he has not put that in his mind at the moment.
-Timothy Olobulu is reporting from Paris, France-