Harambee Stars: Wanyama and three others ruled out of Uganda match

By Rodgers Eshitemi: Wednesday, September 4th 2019 at 08:29 GMT +3 | Football
Harambee Stars'Victor Wanyama and Ismael Gonzalez during training [Courtesy]

National football team, Harambee Stars will have to do without the services of captain Victor Wanyama, midfielders Johanna Omollo, Ismael Gonzales and defender Joseph Okumu in Sunday’s international friendly match against Uganda Cranes at Kasarani Stadium due to various reasons.

Wanyama has been embroiled in a transfer saga with English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspurs for the last few weeks, Belgium-based Omollo is sidelined with an injury, while Okumu is still settling in at his new club IF Elfsborg, in Sweden.

Spanish-based midfielder Gonzales also withdrew from the squad yesterday after losing his luggage at the airport in Madrid on his way to Kenya. Wanyama had been linked with a transfer deadline-day loan move back to his former Scottish club Celtic but it reportedly fell through barely days after his highly publicised move to Belgian side Club Brugge had collapsed.

Though Wanyama’s name was conspicuously missing on the list of Spurs’ players to feature for their respective national teams during the upcoming international break, unconfirmed reports indicated that the former Southampton man will remain in North London for now.

Ethiopia-based goalkeeper Patrick Matasi and 13 local-based players held their first training session on Monday evening at Kasarani under the watchful eye of recently re-appointed head coach Francis Kimanzi. With the quartet missing, Kimanzi has recalled joint Kenyan Premier League golden boot winner Enosh Ochieng, Gor Mahia’s Lawrence Juma (from reserve team), Wazito’s Johnstone Omurwa and Bandari duo of Brian Otieno and Collins Agade to fill the void.

This will be Kimanzi’s first match since he replaced his immediate former boss Sebastian Migne last month.

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Though the former Mathare United coach bemoaned the trio’s absence, he said this is an opportunity for other players to show what they can do.

“We will have a full report on whether Victor (Wanyama) will be available for the match in the course of the week. If he doesn’t make it on time then we may have to rest him on Sunday. (Joseph) Okumu hasn’t settled yet in Sweden so we will also give him some time off while Johanna (Omollo) is injured and needs time to nurse it,”said Kimanzi.

“Of course they are top quality players so we will miss their services. It is, however, a good opportunity for us as the coaching staff to gauge other players we have called up.

Both Stars and Cranes will be using the friendly as part of preparations for the upcoming 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers in November.

Kenya is expected to lock horns with Egypt and Togo in November as Uganda tackle Burkina Faso and Malawi in the opening two fixtures. Stars have lined up another friendly next month before the trip to North Africa.

Prior to the Afcon qualifiers, Cranes’ homegrown players will clash with their Burundian counterparts in a two-legged 2020 Africa Nations Championship (Chan) qualifier this month.

“This friendly match is crucial in our preparation for the upcoming 2021 Afcon Qualifiers against Egypt and Togo in November. We have 14 players in camp at the moment. More players will be joining us in the course of the week,” said Kimanzi after Monday’s training session.

Meanwhile, Uganda Cranes interim coach Abdallah Mubiru has retained majority of the players who featured in the 2019 Africa Nations Cup finals in Egypt, in his 25-man squad for Sunday’s build up match against Kenya.

South Africa-based goalkeeper Denis Onyango headlines the foreign legion that has Khalid Aucho, Faruk Miya, Patrick Kaddu, Emmanuel Okwi and Murushid Juuko.

The foreign-based players will connect directly to Nairobi from their respective clubs.

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