Stars Wanyama, Timbe out of Congo friendly tie
Harambee Stars captain, Victor Mugubi Wanyama, will not feature in Tuesday’s friendly against Congo in Kinshasa, Football Kenya Federation (FKF) has confirmed.
FKF explained that the move to withdraw the Tottenham Hotspurs ace from the squad was arrived at following consultations between Stars’ coach, Stanley Okumbi, and the London club’s management.
The midfielder, who made a summer switch from Southampton FC during the transfer window, starred for his new club with a man-of-the-match performance as they downed Manchester City 2-0 at the White Hart Lane and consequentially handing Pep Guardiola his first defeat as City manager.
“The technical bench felt that it would not be in Victor’s best interest to play two matches in two continents in less than 48 hours,” read part of a statement sent to newsrooms by FKF.
Out of the 19 players that made the final travelling party, only eight ply their trade in the Kenya Premier League (KPL), with Ulinzi Stars’ goalkeeper and captain, James Saruni, making the final cut for the first time.
Coach Okumbi believes his charges can use the match to better their FIFA ranking, bearing in mind the central African nation is 40 places above Kenya at 51 globally.
“I don’t play to lose; every coach goes to any match eying a win. It will be a good challenge considering our record in away matches has not been good.
“We played against AFCON bound Uganda and Zambia managing two draws away, and we hope we can continue the trend,” Okumbi told Citizen Digital after Friday’s evening training session at the Safaricom Stadium Kasarani where the team has been camping for the last one week.
Commenting on long-spell absentee Salim Rama who has returned to the team, Okumbi expressed his satisfaction with his sharpness in training hinting he could start against Congo.
“He is good and is, in fact, ready to play. He has been responding very well to our plan and I believe he will offer something new in terms of creativity in the midfield.”
FKF president Nick Mwendwa, who attended the team’s final session revealed more high profile friendlies are lined up for Stars after the Congo’s outing.
“DRC is the toughest opponent we shall play since we took the office, they have fantastic players playing in big European leagues and their position in the FIFA ranking tells it all.
“Plans to play Benin in November are underway because we want to test ourselves against teams that are ahead of us. We have a good team now that we have been building for some time although we have a long way to go, but I expect good results,” offered Mwendwa.
Foreign-based players including Michael Olunga (IF Djugardens), Abud Omar (Slavia Sofia), Ismael Gonzalez (Las Palmas Atletico) and Amos Ekhalie (IFK Mariehamn) will link up with the rest of the squad although influential winger, Ayub Timbe who has now scored two in three for the Stars is out injured.
Stars jetted out for Kinshasa on Monday afternoon and will return on Thursday morning.
Full Squad to Congo:
Goalkeepers: Boniface Oluoch (Gor Mahia) and James Saruni (Ulinzi Stars).
Defenders: Haron Shakava (Gor Mahia), Joakins Atudo (Posta Rangers), Eric Ouma (Gor Mahia), David Owino (Zesco), David Ochieng (New York Cosmos), Brian Mandela (Maritzburg United) and Aboud Omar (Slavia Sofia).
Midfielders: Ismail Gonzalez (Las Palmas), Victor Majid (Chemelil Sugar), Anthony Akumu (Zesco United), Johanna Omolo (Mathare United), Salim Rama (MFK Topvar Topokany) and Amos Ekhalie ((IFK Mariehamn).
Strikers: Michael Olunga (IF Djugardens), Jesse Were (Zesco United) Paul Were (Achamaikos) and John Mark Makwatta (Ulinzi Stars).
Technical Bench: Stanley Okumbi (First Coach), Musa Otieno (Assistant Coach) and Frank Ouna (Assistant Coach).
-Additional reporting by Sofia Jusa
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