Is Wanyama’s era at Stars over?

Friday, March 26th, 2021 00:00 |
Michael Olunga (left) hands over his Keshiwa Reysol jersey to former Prime Minister Raila Odinga when he paid him a courtesy call at his Capital Hill offices in 2018. PD/EDWIN OTIENO

Michael Olunga has always sparkled in every league he has played in, that is the analogy Harambee Stars head coach Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee is applying after handing the mercurial forward the coveted arm band which has been held by veteran midfielder Victor Wanyama for eight years now.

Yesterday, behind closed doors, the 26-year-old captained the national team in their penultimate Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) match against Egypt in what is being heralded as a new chapter in the national team.

In three days time, he will be tasked with the same responsibility in Lome, Togo when Kenya take on the host team for their final match of the qualifiers.

Most often when a Harambee Stars captain is stripped off the arm band, he rarely makes it to the team selection again, a good example is former skipper Dennis Oliech who never wore the national colours again after head coach Adel Amrouche replaced him with Wanyama as the team’s mouth piece.

It seems like Wanyama’s time with the national team could be up, especially after a lacklustre performance against Comoros in two back-to-back Afcon qualifiers last year.

There has also always been a feeling that the former English Premier League star currently Impact Montreal, never replicated club form whenever he was representing the national team.

Olunga who banged 28 goals in 32 matches for Keshiwa Reysol last season in Japan enroute to winning both the Golden Boot and Most Valuable player award is the kind of player Mulee feels that has what it takes to take the armband from the former Tottenham midfielder on long term basis.

“The question of who should take the armband is an important one for any team. For any coach getting the right player for that job is not usually easy,” ghost explained to People Sport.

He added: “For me impeccable discipline tops it all, then if you find someone capable of banging in goals, then that is definitely an added advantage.”

Besides his sheer power Olunga has been described by national team technical bench as someone who strives to be the best he can in everything he does, and one who would clearly wish to have this responsibility.

“In many cases, it is not easy finding a player who has an identical form for club and Country. In most instance, top players perform very well for their clubs buy fail to reciprocate the same kind of energy for their countries,” illustrated Mulee.

After the two Afcon matches,  Kenya will embark on crucial 2022 world qualifiers when they will face Mali, Uganda and Rwanda in Group E, matches Olunga and his new look Stars squad will be expected to put in a good shift.

“There will be important matches for us in June. There is a lot at stake, we have to give the players we have confidence and self believe.

As a country we have tried severally to qualify for the world cup but failed. That is why I feel young players and different mentality has to be put to work,” emphasized Mulee.

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