Sharks duo ‘ripe’ for Stars duty, Okumbi declares
Harambee Stars head coach Stanley Okumbi believes Kariobangi Sharks duo, Patillah Omotto and Ovella Ochieng are ripe for national duty after drafting them in the final 20-man squad that left for Guinea Bissau on Monday morning ahead of Wednesday’s 2017 AFCON qualifier.
The 36 year-old soft-spoken former boss of the Sharks, who play in the second-tier National Super League, added the pair are the embodiment of the ‘Stars future’ while acknowledging their hard work during training paid off.
Okumbi further noted their eye catching display against newly promoted SportPesa Premier League (SPL) side, Posta Rangers during last Friday’s friendly where they lost by 1-0 as another factor that convinced the technical bench to include them in the travelling party.
“The result did not go our way against Rangers but I am not concerned about that because there were a lot of positives to we took away from the match.
“It is a day everybody got a chance to play and am happy we got the two new players who never got a chance to play before,” Okumbi remarked at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) ahead of their chartered flight to Bissau.
Social media was abuzz on Monday morning when it emerged Omotto and Ovella were in the travelling party with critics accusing Okumbi of ‘rewarding’ Football Kenya Federation (FKF) boss, Nick Mwendwa by including two players from the team he vacated the chairman’s role soon after his election last month.
The pair got the nod ahead of experienced campaigners such as Francis Kahata and Collins Okoth who play for SPL champions, Gor Mahia.
The Kariobangi duo joined another little known Posta Rangers striker Timothy Otieno in the travelling squad and they were upbeat if given a chance in the Wednesday’s duel at Estadio 24 de Stembro in Bissau.
“Football is about chance, when it comes give your best,” a confident Omotto said.
Stars left JKIA at 8am aboard a government hired chattered Freedom Airline Express jet for the seven-hour trip with a planned stop over at Yaoundé, Cameroon for refuelling before proceeding to Bissau.
A contingent of 12 local based players, technical bench and Federation bosses led by president Mwendwa also made the trip with further heat being brought on the new ‘Team Change’ administration when it was established 18 officials are among the travelling party.
They will link up with eight foreign based players in Bissau including skipper Victor Wanyama who featured in Southampton’s 3-2 stirring-comeback against Liverpool in Sunday’s English Premier Leagu clash at Saint Mary’s.
Tusker FC’s James Situma made a comeback to the team after a long spell outside, while Gor Mahia’s shot stopper Boniface Oluoch who is yet to get a starting berth for his side this season will contest for a place between the posts against Lillestrom’s Arnold Origi.
Zesco’s trio Anthony Akumu, David Owino ‘Calabar’ and last season’s KPL top scorer Jesse Jackson Were are all in.
Were is likely to start upfront alongside Djurgarden’s Michael Olunga who has already arrived in Bissau with the pair being the only strikers in the squad who have played for stars before.
Kenya will however miss the services of injured Ayub Time Masika and Paul Were who are based in Belgium and Greece.
Mwendwa confirmed FKF earlier sent an advance party of two officials, Daniel Muli and Ronnie Oyando to put in place logistics with the host federation to welcome the team in Bissau in an effort to end the established ugly history of poor reception on away trips.
The home boys are in Group E sitting third tied on one point with their midweek hosts although they have a stronger goal difference.
Zambia and Congo Brazzaville top the pool with four points each with Stars drawing away in Congo 1-1 before they went down 1-2 at home to the Chipolopolo last September.
It will be a baptism of fire for the new FKF office and the new Stars technical bench too as Stars seek to revive their quest to feature in the biggest football fiesta in Africa in 2017 for the first time since their last appearance in 2004 in Tunisia under Jacob ‘ghost’ Mulee.
Stars squad to Bissau:
Goalkeepers: Arnold Origi (Lillestrom-Norway), Bonface Oluoch (Gor Mahia )
Defense: Dennis Odhiambo (Thika United) Omar Bongi (Ulinzi Stars) Musa Mohammed (Gor Mahia) James Situma (Tusker) David Owino (Zesco -Zambia) Brian Mandela (Maritzburg – SA)
Midfielders: Victor Wanyama (Southampton -England) Johanna Omollo (Antwerp -Belgium) Patillah Omotto (Kariobangi Sharks), Erick Johanna (Mathare United) Anthony Kimani, David King’atua (Bandari) Clifton Miheso (AFC Leopards), Teddy Akumu (Zesco -Zambia )
Strikers: Michael Olunga (Djurgarden -Sweden) Jesse Were (Zesco – Zambia), Timothy Otieno (Posta Rangers) Ovella Ochieng (Kariobangi Sharks).
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