Zanzibar Heroes out to conquer home team Harambee Stars


Kenya’s Harambee Stars players line-up against Libya during their Cecafa Senior challenge cup 2017 at ...
(FILE)Kenya’s Harambee Stars players line-up against Libya during their Cecafa Senior challenge cup 2017 at Kenyatta stadium in Machakos on December 05, 2017.Photo/Kelly Ayodi/Sportpicha

Zanzibar Heroes captain Mudathir Yahya has warned Harambee Stars to brace for a tough test in their Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup Group A clash on Saturday, noting they fear no one in the ongoing tournament.

The Tanzania’s Yanga SC attacker, now on loan to Singinda FC, acknowledges the match which will be staged at the Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos could be their toughest in the group  but asserted they are under no pressure.

Already topping the group with six points after two matches, Zanzibar needs just a point to assure themselves a semi finals spot, which Yayha says is inevitable.

“We came here to win all matches. If another result happens, that is God’s plan but our determination is to keep winning until the final.

“Kenya has the home ground advantage and will definitely come with a vengeance mind because we beat them in the last Cecafa meeting, but we are not worried at all,” the soft spoken skipper confidently told Citizen Digital

Coming from a 3-1 win over Rwanda’s Amavubi Wasps and a 2-1 victory over Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro Stars, Yahya sees the good start has given them confidence needed for the remaining matches.

This is despite the minnow tag they carried into the competition, being the only team among the nine that is not a member of Confederation of African Football (CAF) and FIFA.

“I have not been so keen on how Kenya is playing. All I know it is a strong side. Sometimes it works for you, when you face an opponent without concentrating much on how they approach you, but how you approach them.

“That was the case with Rwanda, and you could see for Tanzania, whom we knew a lot about, but it was even harder because of the caution we had,” the captain warned.

Convincing message

Yayha admitted his teammates have something extra to fight for in the tournament compared to the rest, being the biggest competition they participate in as a ‘national’ team.

Thus,  winning the tournament will send a more convincing message that Zanzibar deserves a place in CAF and FIFA.

Zanzibar striker Mudathir Yahya Abass celebrates scoring against Rwanda during their Cecafa Senior challenge cup 2017 at Kenyatta stadium in Machakos on December 05, 2017. Zanzibar won 3-1. Photo/Kelly Ayodi/www.sportpicha.com
(FILE)Zanzibar striker Mudathir Yahya Abass celebrates scoring against Rwanda during their Cecafa Senior challenge cup 2017 at Kenyatta stadium in Machakos on December 05, 2017. Zanzibar won 3-1. Photo/Kelly Ayodi/sportpicha.

“We surely have massive football talent in Zanzibar, but the fact that we are not recognised by CAF and FIFA, means that our grounds  for exposure is limited.

“You can imagine, the last time we played together as a team was two years ago, and after just two weeks of training together for this competition, we are able to do what we are doing,” Yahya said after Friday’s training at the Machakos Teacher’s College.

Their admission to CAF in March was revoked three months later in Rabat, Morocco, during the phenomenal symposium that had seeN revolutionary resolutions passed by the Caf  Executive Committee.

Notably, the Rwanda team they beat has qualified for the 2018 African Nations Championship (Chan), and has been busy in the qualifiers of the continental championship and African Cup of Nations (Afcon) too throughout the year.

Ali Mbogo (L) of Rwanda challenge Ibrahim Hamad of Zanzibar during their Cecafa Senior challenge cup 2017 at Kenyatta stadium in Machakos on December 05, 2017. Zanzibar won 3-1. Photo/Kelly Ayodi/www.sportpicha.com
(FILE)Ali Mbogo (L) of Rwanda challenge Ibrahim Hamad of Zanzibar during their Cecafa Senior challenge cup 2017 at Kenyatta stadium in Machakos on December 05, 2017. Zanzibar won 3-1. Photo/Kelly Ayodi/sportpicha.

Out-and-out striker

Stars on their side know their dream of progressing to the semis will be more realistic with a win over Zanzibar, and coach Paul Put has candidly asserted that his charges will be going for maximum points.

“I watched them (Zanzibar) play and they are quite efficient on the flanks and passing flowing football. We will fight to tame them but honestly its a good side,” the Belgian said.

Having won one and drawn one (2-0 against Rwanda and 0-0 in Libya’s match), Harambee Stars have four points and will regain group leadership with a win.

Put will however miss his lead striker Masoud Juma who was injured during the Libya draw, leaving him with Nakumatt FC’s Kepha Aswani as the only option as an out-and-out striker.

AFC Leopards winger Vincent Oburu could be deployed behind Aswani to assist in the goal-hunt mission, with George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo and Ulinzi Stars’ Samuel Onyango operating on the flanks.

The national football team Harambee Stars Belgian coach Paul Put (C), and assistant coaches John Kamau (L) and Stanley Okumbi during team's open media session at Utalii Grounds on November 30, 2017. Photo/Stafford Ondego/www.sportpicha.com
(FILE)The national football team Harambee Stars Belgian coach Paul Put (C), and assistant coaches John Kamau (L) and Stanley Okumbi during team’s open media session at Utalii Grounds on November 30, 2017. Photo/Stafford Ondego/Sportpicha.

Despite maintaining he wants to see what every player can offer as he seeks to establish his team, Put will be careful to maintain most of the members who featured in the first two matches.

He rung only one change in the first team that lined up against Rwanda for the Libya’s duty, dropping Onyango for Mathare United’s Chrispin Oduor.

Stars are training at the Utalii College grounds in Nairobi, commuting to the match venue on the material day while other Group A teams are all training within Machakos.

The match kicks off at 4:00Pm EAT (+3GMT), after the 2:00pm do or die tie pitting Tanzania and Rwanda.

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Story By Jacob Icia
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