‘The future is young’

Wednesday, March 24th, 2021 00:00 |
New Harambee Stars captain Michael Olunga enjoys lunch with teammates in Nairobi yesterday. INSET: Head Coach Jacob Ghost Mulee. Photo/PD/RODGERS NDEGWA

Amos Abuga and Charles Thuku

Harambee Stars head coach Jacob Ghost Mulee is defiant the future is ‘young’ for the national team.

Mulee says the newly convened list composed of mostly local players is exactly what the country needs as focus on the 2022 World Cup begins.

He further gave an indication he wants to build his team around his new skipper Michael Olunga, who will be returning to the team having missed the two games against Comoros due to the stringent Covid-19 measures.

“He is  a very top player that is why he will captain the team. I want the other young players to learn from him and become better themselves,” said Mulee.

The new-look stars that has only 10 foreign based players has an immediate test of facing Egypt and Togo in quick succession for their final  two matches of the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations, matches the head coach says are winnable.

“I am more optimistic with the young crop of players we have. What I am looking at is the future of the national team. I know we can achieve a lot with the players we have selected today,”  Mulee assessed.

Dropping bigwigs like  former skipper Victor Wanyama, Ayub Timber, Brian Mandela, Erick Johanna and Johanna Omollo is perhaps one of the boldest decisions a Kenyan coach has had  to make in recent times.

Indeed, Mulee could be in quandary when naming the final squad for the two remaining Afcon qualifying matches.

Mulee has at his disposal a large pool of players, mainly those playing at home, and the fact that more than two can play in the same positions is what could make him rack his brains to ascertain the best line-up for the must-win fixtures.

In goalkeeping, Patrick Matasi who was instrumental in Stars qualification in the 2019 Afcon is out of Mulee’s plans as he was not summoned for the duties apparently due to the howlers in the preliminary matches against Senegal and Algeria in the biennial tournament held in Egypt  

This leaves Zesco United’s Ian Otieno, James Saruni of Ulinzi Stars and rookie Joseph Okoth of Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) as Mulee’s only options to stop shots with all of them deservedly earning places in the national team due to their exemplary performance with their clubs sides.

 However, among the trio, Otieno looks the likely the first choice gloveman starter as he is comparatively more experienced especially having featured for Stars in the qualifying group match against Togo in Nairobi on November 17, 2020, which ended 1-1, as well as the home international friendly against Zambia on October 9, 2020 which Kenya won 2-1.

Like the goalkeeping, there will be a lot of competition in the defense too and with the absence of Gor Mahia’s Philemon Otieno, who is back at K’Ogalo after recovering from a knee injury.

Otieno played as full-back for Stars in Afcon before he sustained an injury later in a Chan qualifier against Tanzania with Kariobangi Sharks Samuel Olwande being deployed as stop gap but now that the lat

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