Stars coach takes pressure off players to swallow as Zesco talisman is snubbed

By Rodgers Eshitemi and Gilbert Wandera: Friday, March 22nd 2019 at 02:00 GMT +3 | Football
Kenya Harambee Stars Jesse Were against Mozambique's Black Mambas during their friendly match at Kasarani Stadium on November 12, 2016. Kenya won 1-0 [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Zesco United striker Jesse Were has once again been dropped from the national team Harambee Stars squad for tomorrow’s 2019 AFCON qualifiers Group F dead rubber tie against Ghana’s Black Stars, in Accra.

Were’s omission from the 22-man squad that left for West Africa yesterday morning has caused a stir in football circles with fans believing the former Kenyan Premier League golden boot winner deserved a spot in the side.

Having been given a last minute call up as a replacement for the injured Japan-based forward Michael Olunga and with the team having already qualified for the upcoming continental finals in Egypt, many expected Were, who has been instrumental for his Zambian club, to make the cut.

He last featured for Harambee Stars in their 1-0 friendly match win over Malawi on September 11, 2018, at Kasarani Stadium.

Sofapaka’s Pistone Mutamba, who replaced Were in that match, and Masoud Juma, who recently joined Libyan side Al Nasr, travelled to Ghana at his expense.

While head coach Sebastian Migné had earlier challenged the striker to prove his worth in training, former Kenyan international Boniface Ambani feels the decision to overlook Were is frustrating the player as it has further reduced his already slim chances of going to Egypt for the Africa Cup of Nations.

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“Each and every coach has his own system of play and maybe Migne thinks Were doesn’t fit in his system. But I think he deserves to be in the team because he has been consistent with his club Zesco; both in the Zambian League and CAF clubs’ competitions,” Ambani told The Standard Sports.

“This clearly shows that he’s nowhere in the picture for AFCON finals. This is quite frustrating as a player who’s been doing quite well with his club and everybody expects him to play for the national team. This decision might affect his career.”

Ambani added: “ I really don’t know who is calling the shots at the team because Were has been active throughout the season. I’ve been in that situation and I know how frustrating it is. But since we are going to Egypt, don’t be surprised to see more of these as people search for caps for their players.”

At the same time,  Maritzburg United defender Brian Mandela passed a late fitness test to make the trip to Ghana as head coach Sebastian Migné looks to take pressure off his players ahead of tomorrow’s top of the group F encounter.

“We are not under pressure. Even if it were a crucial qualification match, we still would have taken it easy. This will be a chance for me to gauge the players ahead of AFCON finals,” said  Migné.

Meanwhile, in Khartoum, the national under-23 team lost 2-0 against hosts Sudan in the first leg match of their Olympic qualifier.

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