Okumbi urges upcoming stars to exploit Copa tourney

Harambee Stars head coach Stanley Okumbi gives instructions to his captain Victor Wanyama during evening ...
Harambee Stars head coach Stanley Okumbi gives instructions to his captain Victor Wanyama during evening training session at the Safaricom Stadium Kasarani on November 9, 2016. Stars are preparing for International friendly match against Mozambique on November 12, 2016. Photo/Oliver Ananda/www.sportpicha.com

Harambee Stars First Coach Stanley Okumbi lauded the Copa Coca-Cola tournament as a platform on which upcoming players can exploit to raise their profiles and go on to elevate their careers.

Okumbi who was appointed to lead the national team last year in February also backed the annual showpiece to produce the country’s next generation of football stars  that can be fed to the local leagues.

The former Mathare United coach is also a product of the Copa albeit as a tactician, where he earned plaudits and recognition for leading the Nairobi team to clinching the nationals championship back in 2009.

“Am very thankful because personally this was my starting point. My feats back then when coaching at this tournament enabled me to earn recognition from many teams in the country. It was magical as they all came calling.

“The players that am using today in the national team started in the Copa coca-cola and were of course selected in 2009.I can say that in this initiative we have a great future in this nation,” Okumbi said.

This year’s program will feature 4000 girls and boys drawn from multiple schools across the country. That number is twice the turnout witnessed during the previous edition with only players aged 13-16 allowed to participate.

Okumbi revealed he had already identified three players – a goalkeeper and two outfield players – during the boys’ Sub-zonal semis and will recommend them to the youth coaches for further assessment.

“They were brilliant for their teams and I feel they can be very good players. If they convince my colleagues at the youth level that they have what it takes, then they’ll be drawn straight to the youth set up,” he stated.

A team of experienced coaches drawn from all over the world will select exemplary players in each stage of the tournament that will complete at the National championships slated for June 3 this year at the Shimo la Tewa grounds in Mombasa.

Previous editions of the Copa Coca Cola tournament have produced several high profile players who have gone on to soar into the international scene including Dennis Oliech, Gor Mahia skipper Musa Muhhamed, Michael Olunga who plays in the Chinese Super League and Harambee Stars Captain who is a central defender at English Premier League (EPL) side Tottenham Hotspur.

-Report by Mwangi Githinji.

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