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Goalkeeper Arnold Origi ready for Harambee Stars return

FOOTBALL By Rodgers Eshitemi | November 8th 2020
Veteran Harambee Stars goalkeeper Arnold Origi [COURTESY]


Veteran Harambee Stars goalkeeper Arnold Origi says he can’t wait to join the national team’s camp ahead of this week’s two-legged Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers clash against Comoros.

Stars take on the Group G leaders on Wednesday night (7 pm) at Kasarani Stadium before flying out to Moroni for the return leg on November 15.

But having been out in the cold for almost five years since 2016 when he last featured for Kenya, the 36-year- old HIFK Fotbal (Finland) shot-stopper is eager to don the national team colours again after the recent conclusion of the Finnish Premier League (Veikkausliiga) season.

Though Origi’s consistency had made him a household name in the country-earning him ‘Kenya 1’ name- since succeeding Francis Onyiso in 2005, he surprised many after he denounced his Kenyan citizenship for Norwegian one in August 2017.

Origi was eligible for citizenship having lived in Norway since 2007 when he joined FK Moss from FKF Premier League side Tusker.

However, the man who is fondly remembered for single-handedly denying Uganda Cranes a chance to qualify for the 2012 Afcon finals, opened up for Stars call up after the Scandinavian country introduced new regulations in January 2020, allowing dual nationality.

His absence opened doors for the likes of Patrick Matasi (St George, Ethiopia), Farouk Shikalo (Yanga, Tanzania), Ian Otieno (Zesco United, Zambia) and Samuel Odhiambo (Kakamega Homeboyz), but none of them has been able to strongly command the position the way Origi did in his 33 national team appearances.

And to ensure he continues with his predecessor, Francis Kimanzi’s rebuilding process Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee retained Origi and other several players.

Harambee Stars captain Victor Wanyama and keeper Arnold Origi leave the pitch after losing their Africa Cup of Nation qualifier match against Zambia at Nyayo stadium on Sep.6 2015. [PHOTO: DENNIS OKEYO/STANDARD]

Having guided Kenya to the 2004 Afcon finals in Tunisia, Mulee knows how important experienced players like Origi are in achieving his ambitious mission of qualifying for both the 2022 Afcon and World Cup finals.

Kimanzi had recalled the former Mathare United, Tusker and Moss (Norway) custodian in the team only for him to be shown the door by the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) last month

But after featuring predominantly for HIFK (21 matches) in the just-concluded regular season, Origi is ready to fight with the youthful quartet of Zesco’s Ian Otieno, Robert Mboya (Tusker), Brian Bwire (Kariobangi Sharks) and Timothy Odhiambo (Ulinzi Stars) for the starting place.

“Another season with lot’s of good memories as a goalie concludes. Extremely grateful for completing it injury free, full of motivation and energy to keep on going and create even more good memories,” Origi posted on his Facebook page.

“Full focus now turned to mamaland and @harambee_stars. Let’s finish the year on a high ISAIAH 40:31.”

Origi appears to be getting better with age if his performances in Finland are anything to go by.

He missed only one match as HIFK finished eighth in the league after garnering 28 points.

The custodian, whose last involvement with the national team was against visiting Guinea Bissau (0-1) on March 27, 2016 will be celebrating his 37th birthday on November 15 when Stars take on Comoros in Moroni.

Origi was given his Harambee Stars debut by former coach Mohammed Kheri in their 2-2 friendly match draw against star-studded Ghana at Kasarani.

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