Stake your claim now, Kimanzi tells Harambee Stars players

Harambee Stars head coach Francis Kimanzi has challenged the players in camp to bother him and his technical bench, on who to settle on for November’s African Cup of Nations qualifier against Comoros.

With a number of first team players unavailable for Friday’s friendly against Zambia, Kimanzi says this is an opportunity for some of the players yet to break into the regular team to justify their selection ahead of next month’s crunch matches.

Captain Victor Wanyama, Michael Olunga, Johanna Omollo, Ayub Timbe and Joseph Okumu are some of the key players missing due to COVID-19 related travel obstacles. Eric Ouma had not been considered for the match as he returned to full training just recently after a surgery.

“It’s a match that can give us a lot of homework depending on how they perform. It will be interesting to me if four or five of them can show us they are ready. We would be happier to have the trouble of choosing the team to face Comoros. Let them leave us asking why not him…” challenged Kimanzi.

Kimanzi said he is keen to introduce young players into the senior team progressively, as a leap into the future of the Stars.

“We must start taking care of tomorrow. When we have young players like Oduor (Clarke) and Katana (Mohammed) being introduced among the experienced ones, we are avoiding a situation where we get to a point we struggle with transition,” offered Kimanzi.

Specifically, Kimanzi revealed Barnsley’s Clarke Oduor will make his debut for Stars despite jetting in just a day before the match.

“He (Oduor) had only one training session because he arrived on Wednesday night. There were travel issues but he finally managed. He will get some playing time so that we see what he got,” confirmed the coach.

There was hope that like Oduor, Elfsborg’s Okumu would arrive at least by Wednesday night but he would not, with the coach citing some last minute travel complications owing to COVID-19 restrictions.

Meanwhile, Zambia jetted in the country on Thursday night and held training session on Friday morning, at the Nyayo National Stadium where the match will be played.

With the Zambia friendly being the only match Harambee Stars will play before their home and away matches against Comoros, Football Kenya Federation (FKF) president Nick Mwendwa says he expects at least four points from the islanders.

“For me it’s clear, we need at least four points from them (Comoros). We will host Egypt here and play Togo away. Before we get to the two last matches, we need to bag a minimum four points in the November window. That way we will be firmly in the 2021 AFCON journey,” Mwendwa stated.

The federation wanted to stage two friendlies before the Comoros matches but the federation boss has confirmed only one will be played due to logistical challenges.

Kenya has two points from draws against Egypt (away) and Togo in Nairobi, with Comoros who won away to Lome (Togo) and drew Egypt at home leading their group G with four points.

Top seeds Egypt are level with Kenya on two, while Togo lies bottom with one in the journey to Cameroon continental fiesta next year.