KPL All Stars back from Hull, Okumbi defends selection
The Kenyan Premier League (KPL) All Stars returned to the country on Wednesday morning from the United Kingdom where they played English Premier side Hull City Select XI with coach Stanley Okumbi staunchly defending his decision to opt for experience over youth.
Playing virtually against a youth team from the Premier League club from Yorkshire, KPL All Stars were given a chastening lesson in going 2-0 down before veteran midfielder Humphrey Mieno halved the deficit in the 86th minute.
First half substitute Elliot Holmes and an own goal from Haron Shakava gave Hull a 2-0 lead in a game marred by a dreadful head injury to teenage defender Max Sheaf.
Okumbi, who is also national team Harambee Stars First Coach, came under fire for giving the once in a lifetime opportunity to seasoned players with the trip aimed at sowing the seeds of a potential Kenya qualification bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
The coach hinted the young players in his squad suffered from stage flight at the KCOM Stadium especially during the first half when the Hull team ran rings around the All Stars where only profligate finishing and a couple of blinding saves from keeper Patrick Matasi prevented a cricket score.
“The players that performed are the same players people are criticising. Why are we scouting older players and it is the chance that should be taken by younger players?
“After the game, the Man of the Match was Osborne Monday, the one who scored was Mieno. The others maybe panicked. If it’s possible in Kenya to focus on the positivity in the players before the negativity, then we are able to take our football to the next level,” Okumbi stated in rounding on his critics.
The Stars coach admitted a number of good young players who were scouted by the Hull coaches who came to Kenya in an exercise that started last November were dropped from the travelling All Stars squad.
“Maybe if they were here, they could have performed. I cannot say that the young ones here did not perform. Sometimes it happens they were good in training but because of the situation of the game, they did not play well.
“It also happens to senior players. Not all of them performed well. We need to bring youthful players to the team but they still need to learn from senior players,” Okumbi stressed.
Veteran Tusker FC striker Allan Wanga who flickered on and off the game, wasting a glorious chance in the 75th minute to equalise before Hull broke to the other end to notch their second refused to blame the defeat on the wintry conditions in England.
“Every player gave his best and we cannot blame it on the weather. We made two mistakes which Hull capitalised to score their goals and I can say we have gained a lot from this,” the 31 year-old well travelled forward told reporters at the KCOM Stadium.
He also attempted to explain the sluggish start the All Stars made in the opening stanza where the Tiger ran rampant.
“That was our game plan. The coach had asked us to sit back because we had no information about our opponents and we wanted to know how they play and counter on that.
“That is why we sat back in the first 15 minutes and tried to hit them on the counter,” the former AFC Leopards, FC Baku, Petro Atletico, Hoàng Anh Gia Lai, Al Merreikh and Azam FC striker added.
From their scouting mission, the coaches picked 47 players to attend a camp in January, conducted by Hull City players, of whom the best 18, christened KPL All Stars, were selected for the East Riding of Yorkshire tour.
The two teams will face off again in a repeat game in Nairobi in July.
KENYA ALL STARS SQUAD
Patrick Matasi (Posta Rangers FC), David Okello (Tusker FC), James Situma (Tusker FC), Robinson Kamura (AFC Leopards), Haron Shakava (Gor Mahia), Chris Oruchum (Thika United), Wesley Onguso (Western Stima), Haron Nyakha (AFC Leopards), Osborne Monday (Kariobangi Sharks), Joshua Otieno (Sony Sugar), Humphrey Mieno (Tusker FC), Cliff Kasuti (Ulinzi Stars), Geoffrey Kataka (Posta Rangers), Samuel Ndung’u (AFC Leopards), John Mark Makwata (Ulinzi Stars), Amos Nondi (Gor Mahia), Moses Odihiambo (Sofapaka), Allan Wanga (Tusker FC).
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