AFCON: Harambee Stars ready to take on continent’s best

By Gilbert Wandera in Cairo, Egypt: Saturday, June 22nd 2019 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Football
Harambee Stars captain Victor Wanyama (left) and Joash Onyango during a team training session in Paris, France on June 13, 2019. [Courtesy]

Harambee Stars players are ready to make a positive return to the Africa Cup of Nations finals when they take on Algeria at the June 30 Stadium tomorrow.

Kenya returns to the African big stage after a 15-year wait and the players say they are well aware of the huge expectations from fans.

Goalkeeper Patrick Matasi says they are determined to start well and give the fans something to be proud of even as he urged for total support.

“The first match is normally very important and we want to give our fans a reason to celebrate and so we are looking to start well.

“We urge our fans to stand behind us fully,” he said on the second day of the team’s training in Cairo yesterday.

Matasi said they all understand that fans are waiting for good results and will strive to meet the expectations.

Get the latest sports news updates. Subscribe to our SMS sports service by texting 'SPORTS' to 22840.

Defender Eric Ouma said they are keen not to let down the fans who have always supported them.

“It has never been our intention to let down the fans and they should believe in our ability to represent them well in the tournament,” he said.

Ouma who is making a comeback to the team after a long injury lay off said morale is high in camp ahead of tomorrow's match having landed in Egypt two days ago.

“We are excited about the first match. It is going to be tough but that is what makes it exciting. We believe in our ability and having had good preparations, everything is possible.

“The most important thing is our mentality and we have worked on that during the camp in France and look forward to starting well.”

Captain Victor Wanyama also urged the fans to stand with the team as they return to the big stage in African football once again.

“We have been away for long and obviously the expectations are high but we are ready to do well and we can count on our preparations to propel us to a good outing in Egypt,” he said.

Defender Brian Mandela urged the fans to continue standing with them even as they have done so in the past.

“They have been with us through thick and thin and we urge them to maintain the same spirit,” said Mandela who joined the team in Cairo after a knee operation on Tuesday in France.

Striker Masoud Juma said the three-week training camp in France has helped a lot to improve the team’s ability to gel together.

“While in camp, we have had the opportunity to improve in different aspects and got better every day.

“We are now ready to unleash our best on our opponents,” said Juma who has been clubless for last six months.

Kenya’s neighbours Uganda will be in action today as they take on DR Congo at 5:30pm.

Another East African nation Burundi is also in action today as they take on former Africa champions Nigeria at 8pm.

For More of This and Other Sports Stories Subscribe to the Standard Epaper