Be ready to compete at the “stage of men”, Kimanzi tells charges
- Of Kimanzi’s Cecafa squad, only Samuel Olwande, Gor Mahia duo Joash Onyango and Lawrence Juma have played as starters in the first squad since he took over from former coach Sebastien Migne.
Jacob Icia in Kampala
After watching a largely second-string Harambee Stars squad cruise to the semifinals of the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup with a clean record, head coach Francis Kimanzi says his plan to gauge the players for major upcoming assignments is well on course.
Kimanzi and his deputy Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno have largely used players domiciled in the local league in the regional tourney but the plan has worked to near perfection with the team keeping a clean sheet in their matches, and the Dutch trained tactician believes that this offers him the opportunity to pick players who could be useful in future international assignments.
Of Kimanzi’s Cecafa squad, only Samuel Olwande, Gor Mahia duo Joash Onyango and Lawrence Juma have played as starters in the first squad since he took over from former coach Sebastien Migne.
And during their Tuesday morning training session at St. Kizito Secondary School in Namugongo, Kampala, Kimanzi underscored his happiness with the hunger the players have exhibited to the first team.
“It’s important when you have a local tournament and you have players you have been thinking about knowing you have a bigger mission and trying to create some competitiveness when it comes to the AFCON qualifiers in some positions.
I’m happy that these players are showing something,” a relaxed Kimanzi said ahead of Wednesday’s semifinal tie against fast rising Eritrea.
Kimanzi was however quick to remind the players they have a big room for improvement, if they have to secure slots for what he calls ‘men’s stage.’
“So far so good. I would like to see what happens to the players if they make it to the final . I think they are impressive so far, out of 10 you can give them a ‘six’, which means there is a room for development.”
Kimzanzi continued: “The mentality is good. You know they are looking at the technical-tactical aspect that we are testing with them and it’s working. It’s only that the other one is a really men’s stage, a stage where it’s about how you portray yourself on that stage,” explained the veteran Kenyan coach.
Among the players reveling in the CECAFA experience is Wazito FC teenager Musa Masika, whose first stint with the national team was the African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifiers under former coach Migne.
Despite starting only against Zanzibar in the ongoing fiesta in Kampala, Msika is upbeat his march to the senior team is well on course.
“It has been a wonderful experience, though it is not easy. It is however a big motivation for me, it all depends with how you push yourself to get better. For the AFCON qualifiers next year, it rests with coach. If he gives me a nod, it will be a huge opportunity and a challenge to me. I’m thankful already there is progress,” averred Masika.
His teammate Kenneth Muguna is also aware of the competition ahead of next year’s qualifiers, having played a part in the first match of the Cameroon 2021 campaign albeit as a substitute.
“It is never easy in the national team. If you look at the players who are here, everyone is in the team by merit having been picked from among the best in our local league. Thus, no one can be guaranteed a place and so we have to keep competing within ourselves,” said the Gor captain.
In the CECAFA team, only Anthony Wambani plays in a foreign league, but is also contesting to gain status in Kimanzi’s team this being his first call up.
However, as assistant coach Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno says, defending the CECAFA title won in 2017 remains prime target even as team development process continues.
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