‘Ghost’ positive as Stars hit camp ahead of Afcon qualifiers

‘Ghost’ positive as Stars hit camp ahead of Afcon qualifiers

Jacob IciaChief football writer

Harambee Stars head coach Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee is optimistic early preparations for the forthcoming Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers will pay direct dividends, with the local based players hitting camp on Monday.

Stars will have to beat all odds to qualify for the biennial continental fiesta from Group G, needing to beat seven-time champions Egypt at home and Togo away in Lome, following an uninspiring draw and loss to minnows Comoros in the previous two matches.

With the veteran coach on record saying it is not over yet for Stars, setting up an early non-residential camp is seen as one of the strategies to try to steal the almost abstract ticket to Afcon.

“What I’m pleased with is that most of the players have very good speed on the ball and also the spirit is good from day one. It means that if we continue in the same trend, by the time we hit the fourth week we will have a very good team to pick from –  the local based players – and then combine them with the abroad based ones,” said Mulee.

Mulee summoned 28 players to camp, who were all in the Monday’s training save for goalkeeper James Saruni (Ulinzi Stars), Sofapaka duo Michael Kibwage and Lawrence Juma who were on duty for their respective clubs.

Gor Mahia teenager Benson Omalla will miss the first week sessions that end on Tuesday, as he is busy preparing for his crucial final secondary school examination.

“We have double sessions tomorrow (Tuesday) before we release the players back to their clubs,” the coach said.

AFC Leopards striker Elvis Rupia who has been recalled into the team is equally optimistic the early preparations will increase Stars’ chances of qualifying.

“The atmosphere is good and you can see all the players are really positive, giving their best. I’m personally thankful for the opportunity, now I will pay back the confidence of the coaches by working hard to make the final team for the qualifiers,” Rupia who has so far scored 10 league goals in the current campaign said.

Mulee is under pressure to qualify having taken over from Francis Kimanzi midway the journey, the now Wazito FC coach having started with an inspiring 1-1 draw away to Egypt and a similar one against Togo at home.

Kenya has three points in Group G, topped by Egypt and Comoros who have eight each, with two rounds of matches to go.

Two top teams from the Group will make it to the Cameroon 2022 Afcon Finals, postponed from 2021 following Covid-19 pandemic disruption.

Provisional Squad

Goalkeepers

Brian Bwire (Kariobangi Sharks), James Saruni (Ulinzi Stars), Joseph Okoth (KCB), Peter Odhiambo (Wazito)

Defenders

Johnstone Omurwa (Wazito), Michael Kibwage (Sofapaka), Samuel Olwande (Kariobangi Sharks), Nahashon Alambi (KCB), Bonface Onyango (Kariobangi Sharks), David Owino (KCB), Daniel Sakari (Kariobangi Sharks), Baraka Badi (KCB)

Midfielders

Lawrence Juma (Sofapaka), Kenneth Muguna (Gor Mahia), Collins Shichenje (AFC Leopards), Micheal Mutinda (KCB), Musa Masika (Wazito), John Macharia (Gor Mahia), Reagan Otieno (KCB), James Mazembe (Kariobangi Sharks), Oliver Maloba (Nairobi City Stars), Bonface Muchiri (Tusker), Kevin Kimani (Wazito), Abdalla Hassan (Bandari)

Forwards

Erick Kapaito (Kariobangi Sharks), Elvis Rupia (AFC Leopards), Henry Meja (Tusker), Benson Omalla (Gor Mahia)