Harambee Stars coach Engin Firat on Thursday created a social media buzz after dropping Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Premier League leading goal scorer Benson Omalla from the final national team squad that will face Iran next week on Tuesday in Tehran.
Kenyans from every corner spoke their minds on Firat’s decision, with others calling it an outright blunder for the Turkish tactician.
Omalla has been in stellar form in the 2022-2023 season where he has scored 19 goals in 20 league matches, averaging a goal per game.
Lethal from headers and a flexible player who can score with both legs, many Kenyans were disappointed that the former Kisumu Day prodigy will not be part of Harambee Stars when Kenya returns to international football for the first time since 2021.
Speaking after being dropped, Omalla said he has learnt a lot during his few days in the camp.
“Gratitude to the coach and the technical bench for the call up to the national team.
“That was an achievement in itself because they believed in me and though I have not made it to the final squad, I gained a lot and it's a stepping stone to my football career,” posted Omalla on his official social media pages.
Ian Wagga posted on tweeter how he was disspointed with Firat for overlooking Omalla, a move he said will demoralize hard working local players.
“Can’t believe they actually dropped the top scorer Omalla in the KPL for a friendly. Sends a very wrong message to young players playing locally,” said Wagga.
Silva Mutio said, “Dropping the leagues top scorer for some fancy mixed race striker is insult to the entire nation and league.”
“Dropping Omala is an outrageous decision. At the times when we need a transition in our attack line with Olunga getting old, really?” posted Guyo Abdulahi.
Others however gave Firat the benefit of doubt.
“After the exploits of genius Mikel Arteta I have adopted a mantra of not being too quick to judge a coach instead let's give Firat time to execute his philosophy. Again you can be top scorer in KPL but fail to star for the Stars,case in point Jesse Were,” said Lunalo.
Humanis Felly added, “Well, I am not a person who rushes to make conclusions based on social media hype, Firat won his last game with Kenya so I will judge him after at least four games with us. I think it is a good selection, the coach knows better.”
Kenya has not competed in any match since Fifa’s suspension on February 24 last year, owing to the government’s interference in football management in the country.
Fifa lifted the suspension on November 28 after the government reinstated the disbanded Football Kenya Federation (FKF).
Other players who were dropped on Thursday are Bandari defenders Mohamed Siraj and Andrew ‘Roma’ Juma.
On Wednesday, Firat dropped Nzoia Sugar duo of Hassan Beja and John Mwangi, AFC Leopards goalkeeper Levis Opiyo and KCB’S Maurice Ojwang.
Harambee Stars Final Squad
Goalkeepers: Patrick Matasi (Kenya Police), Ian Otieno (Zesco), Bryne Odhiambo (KCB).
Defenders: Daniel Anyembe (Viborg), Daniel Sakari (Tusker), Abud Omar (Kenya Police), Joseph Okumu (Gent), Brian Mandela (Sundowns), Johnstone Omurwa (Estrela), Eric Ouma (AIK), David Ochieng (Mathare United)
Midfielders: Amos Nondi (Ararat), Richard Odada (Philadelphia Union), Teddy Akumu (Sagan Tosu), Wilkims Ochieng (FC Koper), Victor Omune (AFC Leopards), Alpha Onyango (Gor Mahia), Kenneth Muguna (Azam), Abdallah Hassan (Bandari), Duke Abuya (Kenya Police)
Strikers: Alfred Scriven (IL Hodd), Michael Olunga (Al Duhail), Elvis Rupia (Kenya Police)