Firat to give local players more chances
Harambee Stars coach Engin Firat’s decision to give local players a chance in the national team continued after he recalled fullbacks David “Cheche” Ochieng’ and Musa Mohammed ahead of the 2020 World Cup qualifying matches against Uganda and Rwanda.
The latest decision by Firat was precipitated by the injury sustained by Joseph Okumu who plies his trade with KAA Gent of Belgium as well as the unavailability of Joash “Berlin Wall” Onyango of Tanzania’s Simba and Brian Mandela of Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa.
According to Firat, Onyango and Mandela shall give the two qualifiers a wide berth due to club commitments.
Kenya will face Uganda in Kampala on Thursday before engaging Rwanda on November 24 in formality Matches having exited the qualifiers after losing 6-0 on aggregate to Mali in the Group “E” of the qualifiers.
Yesterday, Firat said since he took over the team’s coaching reins, he has come up with a deliberate policy of giving locally-based players a chance to compete for places in the starting line-up with the foreign legion.
“We need a healthy team and that is exactly why I have gone to great lengths to give a chance to players who impress me in the local league. All I want is for each of them to prove themselves moving forward and I think this is the best way to mould a formidable team,’’ said Firat.
He also dispelled claims that he has not been scouting for talented players based abroad who are national team material.
“That is not true. In fact, there is one who plies his trade in Denmark who I’m monitoring. There’s also a US-based player as well whom I shall assess with a view to drafting him in the squad,” said Firat in reference to midfielder Philip Mayaka of Colorado Rapids.
Team captain Micheal Olunga, who is among the foreign-based players who have arrived in the country ahead of the qualifiers, supported Firat’s decision to consider local talent.
“We need different dynamics in the squad and I must say it is high time we reorganised the team after being eliminated in the World Cup qualifiers. If you look at the current squad, it’s a blend of youth and experienced players who have a burning desire to succeed,” said Olunga.
The Al Duhail striker said the team is determined to end the last two qualifying matches on a high, beginning with the one against Cranes in Kampala on Thursday.
“Kenya may be out of the race but we as players are duty-bound to redeem our badge.
It was really disappointing to be eliminated in the early stages and we have to give our all to make amends,” said Olunga.
Asked if he thinks Kenya shall beat their perennial adversaries Uganda Cranes as well as Rwanda’s Amavubi, Olunga said it is possible.
“Let’s talk about our immediate opponents, Cranes first. Playing against them has not been easy but if we put our act together, we can beat them before their own fans,” said Olunga.