Harambee Stars host Zambia in international build-up match

Friday, October 9th, 2020 00:00 |
Harambee Stars Zambia-based custodian Ian Otieno in training with the national team. Photo/PD/SPORTPICHA

Harambee Stars will be itching to inflict revenge when they lock horns with the Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets) of Zambia in an international friendly at Moi International Sports Centre (MISC) in Kasarani today.

The last time the two teams met was in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers with Zambia having the last laugh, having beaten Kenya 2-1 in the first leg in Nairobi and forcing a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture in Lusaka.

The two were penciled to meet later the same year in friendly at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos but it was cancelled due to logistical issues relating to Zambia’s itinerary to Kenya.

Today, odds are heavily stacked on Kenya given the statistics of the two teams which are worlds apart.

Again, Stars players are working against time to hit the right fitness levels as most of them have been inactive since the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) was suspended during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March.

This is unlike Zambia whose leagues are active after the government rolled out measures to curb the virus.

Chipolopolo holds dominance over Harambee Stars as during their 36 meetings, they have won 23 matches, lost six and drawn seven.

These statistics do not make a good reading for Kenya which is why Francis Kimanzi’s regiment will be going flat out to register a convincing victory not to earn a measure of respect from Zambia which is among Africa’s football giants.

Again, Stars are working against time to hit the right fitness levels since most players have been inactive since the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) was suspended during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March.

A good result for Stars will also to serve as a huge morale boost ahead of their upcoming AFCON qualifier against the Les Coelacantes of Comoros.

Since Stars assembled for residential camping in Kasarani last Sunday, there has been determination by players in training which Kimanzi hopes they will translate into a win over the visitors.

Above all, it will give a chance to new players to show what is up their sleeves at the maiden appearance for the national team and especially in the absence of seasoned who played a role during the team’s AFCON held in Egypt.

Conspicuously missing are professionals like Cercle Brugge midfielder Johanna Omollo, Micheal Olunga of Kashiwa Reysol, Montreal Impact’s Victor Wanyama and Ayub Timbe of Beijing Rhene of China.

These professionals were ruled out of the match due to various reasons, the major of which is travel restrictions due to the pandemic.

Their absence thus leaves the current players jostling for their positions as they seek to impress Kimanzi and earn playing time in the match against Comoros.

In the absence of Arnold Origi, who had been recalled from retirement, Zesco United’s Ian Otieno should be preferred between the posts in place of Ulinzi’s Timothy Odhiambo. 

Among those to watch in defence are Clarke Oduor, Brian Mandela of South Africa’s Maritzburg United and Philemon Otieno of Gor Mahia.

Kenneth Muguna should lead in holding the midfield together while the attacking line has men like Timothy Otieno and Elvis Rupia shouldered with the onus of banging in goals.

Premier League clubs are reportedly already making contingency plans to play out the whole of the 2020/21 season behind closed doors.

Yet, it remains to be seen if there will be any demand for such a deluge of sanitised matches from armchair supporters, TV companies and even players.

“It’s a strange situation not having the fans there. That’s what makes football, that’s what makes the atmosphere,” Tottenham and England midfielder Harry Winks told the BBC.

“It’s not something that I like and I know a lot of players feel the same way. It’s not something that anybody really wants to do.”

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