Makwatta latest inclusion in Stars squad

Zesco United striker John Mark Makwatta has been called up to the Harambee Stars team ahead of Wednesday’s African Cup of Nations qualifier against Comoros. The former Ulinzi Stars and AFC Leopards striker is the latest inclusion, following the absence of lead striker Michael Olunga whose club Kashiwa Reysol has been struck hard by Covid-19. Football Kenya Federation has confirmed Makwatta’s arrival in the camp this afternoon, although he was not part of 40 players handed the initial call-up. At the same time, only captain Victor Wanyama and Belgium based Johanna Omollo had not arrived by the time of going of publication, and are expected to jet in tonight. Meanwhile, former international Boniface Ambani says the absence of Olunga in the Wednesday’s African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier should be an opportunity for another star to shine. Ambani, who holds the record of most goals in the Kenyan Premier League in a season (26), says it would be healthy for Kenya to thrive without the Kashiwa Reysol hitman whose club is ravaged by Covid-19 hence the travel restriction. KPL All Stars and Ulinzi Stars striker John Mark Mkwatta drives on goal against Hull Select XI at the KCOM Stadium, UK. (PHOTO/Mike Okinyi) Speaking on Radio Citizen’s weekly sports show, Michezo na Burudani, Ambani underscored the need to instill confidence among other players while fanning competition in the team. “It should not be a very big debate, if Olunga misses. There are other strikers in camp, and they are called up because they have something to offer. It’s upon them to seize the opportunity to make both the nation and themselves proud,” noted Ambani. In Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee’s 40-man squad called up for the crucial double header against Comoros, former Sofapaka and Tanta FC’s John Avire and Gor Mahia’s star-on-the-rise Benson ‘Omala’ Ochieng are potential replacements for Olunga. “Whoever the coach trusts among them, even if it is the young Omala (Benson) – the challenge is on them to show respect for the national team shirt. We would rather be spoilt for choice in the future.” Ulinzi Stars’ Oscar Wamalwa and Masoud Juma are the other strikers in the squad named a fortnight ago, while Zesco United’s (Zambia) John Mark Makwatta has been called up in the last minute after Olunga’s fate was sealed due to the pandemic. Rolling back the clock, Ambani recalls how he broke into the national team in almost similar circumstances. “I was also given my first opportunity against Djibouti when there were other top players, the likes of Mike Okoth. I gave my best and proved I deserved the shirt,” he said,  keeping off the discussion on who stands the best chance to start between Avire, Omala, Wamwalwa and Juma. While Comoros, the Group G leaders in the Cameroon 2022 journey are seen as a threat to any team in the pool, Ambani feels otherwise. “I don’t think Comoros is a team to worry Kenya that much. The players need to believe in themselves. There is no room for excuses for professional players. Even if the local league stopped in March due to COVID-19, players are expected to keep a basic level of fitness. “Even without fans in the stadium, psychologically they need to be ready because it is happening everywhere. I believe the coach is preparing them in that aspect,” the former AFC Leopards, Tusker FC and Yanga ace, said. Captain Victor Wanyama and Johanna Omollo are expected to join the rest of the team on Monday night.

latest stories