AFCON: Gor Mahia defender eager to prove his worth

Harambee Stars' defender Joash Onyango (centre) with coach Sebastian Migne (left) after he was sent off during their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Ghana Kasarani Stadium on September 8 last year. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]
Last September Kenya pulled a surprise 1-0 win over Ghana in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier match at Kasarani.

It is that result that turned around Kenya’s fortunes in the qualifiers and the team eventually made it to the finals in Egypt next month.

Gor Mahia tough tackling defender Joash Onyango was one of the heroes of that day after he denied Ghanaian forward Abdul Majeed Waris a goal scoring opportunity at the hour mark.

With that action, Onyango earned a straight card and Harambee Stars survived and picked three vital points that propelled them to Egypt.

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Looking back months later, Onyango says he did not think his tackle was bad enough to warrant a red card.

“After we had scored the opening goal, Ghana put us under a lot of pressure as they fought to equalise.

“We survived the first half and come the second half, the pressure continued but we held on well.

“I was just defending but was not aware I was the last man when I made the tackle.

“When the referee called for a foul and flashed the red card, I was devastated. I knew I had let down my teammates and so you can imagine the relief I felt when the free kick went wide.

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“I’m glad that my replacement did a wonderful job and we were able to hang on until the end. It was a big relief at the end of the match,” he said.

Despite his impressive performance for Stars in the qualifiers, Onyango says he did not expect to be called up for the final squad travelling to Egypt.

“If you look at the squad now, the coach has many options and he could have easily overlooked me and still had a good side.

“But I’m happy that the coach has opted to give local players a chance in the team and in turn we have not let him down.

“In the past, other coaches preferred foreign-based players especially at the back but now we have an equal opportunity to fight for positions in the team.

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“This has had a very positive impact on our performance and motivated us to push ourselves every time we get an opportunity to play.”

Looking ahead, Onyango believes the team can put up a good show against their group opponents in Egypt.

“We could be the underdogs in that group but we are not looking down on ourselves. I believe both Senegal and Algeria are not far off from Ghana whom we had a good game against in the qualifiers. We may not have too many superstars in the team but with teamwork, we should be able to do well,” he said.

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KenyaAfrica Cup of NationsAfrica Cup of Nations qualifierKasaraniGor MahiaJoash Onyango