Kenyans eyes on Put as Challenge Cup kicks off

Mr. Paul Put addresses the media during his introduction as the incoming Harambee Stars head ...
Mr. Paul Put addresses the media during his introduction as the incoming Harambee Stars head coach at the Kencom house on November 21, 2017. Photo/Stafford Ondego/ sportpicha

Kenya’s Harambee Stars and Rwanda’s Amavubi Bees open the 2017 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup at the Bukhungu Stadium, Kakamega County on Sunday.

While fans across the region are celebrating the return of the tournament after almost two years absence, Kenya’s focus is on newly appointed head coach Paul Put.

Barely a week after his introduction to the CECAFA team, the Belgian will be under pressure to lead Stars to a major trophy since 2013 when then led by Adel Amrouche, won the tournament on at home.

Despite Stars having the home ground advantage, it will be not a walk in the park for them as Rwanda’s Antoine Hey side has been together for long under his tutelage, thus as opposed to Put’s case.

With all the 23 players in Stars camp based locally, Kariobangi Sharks Masoud Juma will be the star attraction in Put’s attack line after topping the Kenya Premier League (KPL) scoring charts with 17 goals in the concluded
2017 season.

It will however be interesting to see who Put pairs with the Shark’s hitman, with FC Nakumatt’s Kepha Aswani and Gor Mahia’s George ‘BlackBerry’ Odhiambo in line to partner him.

Another interesting pick is the captain, with Gor’s skipper Musa Mohammed expected to be the first to wear Stars armband in Put’s tenure.
It will also be intriguing to see how Stanley Okumbi, the former first coach now assisting Put, juggle roles on the bench as the former Kariobangi Sharks and Mathare United man knows the team better.
Put wants his charges to impress in the tournament’s opener, in his quest to lay a strong foundation for the title hunt.
“The first match is very important, it sets the mood for the tournament both within the team and to the fans.
“We are playing at home, and the advantage should be seen when we take on Rwanda,” Put said.

The Amavumbi jetted in the country on Friday and headed to Kakamega on Saturday with the team majorly made of country’s record champions’ players APR, who contribute nine in the squad.

The match match kicks off at 2pm EAT (+3MT) preceding the opening ceremony while another group A match pitting Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro Stars and Libya who are guests in this competition, commencing later at 4pm at the Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos County.

This year’s edition will see nine teams square off for the top prize with group A having five teams, with group B comprising of four teams thanks to Zimbabwe’s late withdrawal from the tournament.

Uganda Cranes remains the team to beat given their outstanding record of winning the trophy 14 times, a fete no other team has achieved. Cranes are the defending champions, after beating Rwanda 2-1 in the 2015 final in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

In terms of the latest FIFA rankings, the Moses Basena coached team leads the nine nations, ranked 74th globally with Libya ranked 77.
Harambee Stars comes third 111, a whopping 37 places below Uganda

Group A: Kenya, Libya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Zanzibar.

Group B: Uganda, Ethiopia, Burundi, South Sudan.

Sunday fixtures:
Kenya vs Rwanda Bukhungu stadium 2pm
Libya vs Tanzania Kenyatta stadium 4PM

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