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2021 AFCON Qualifiers: Why Victor Wanyama was omitted from Stars squad

FOOTBALL By Rodgers Eshitemi | March 21st 2021
Harambee Stars Captain Victor Wanyama dribble ball past Comoros Ali M.madi during Group G match of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Comoros at Kasarani stadium. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Harambee Stars coach Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee on Saturday named a new-look national team squad for the Group G 2021 African Cup of Nations Qualifiers fixtures with no room for Victor Wanyama, Arnold Origi and Johanna Omolo among other foreign-based players.

Only ten foreign-based players led by assistant captain Michael Olunga, Joseph Okumu, Eric Ouma and Anthony Akumu have been included in the 28-man squad that will clash with Egypt on March 25 in Nairobi before flying out to Togo on March 29.

Harambee Stars coach Jacob Ghost Mulee reacts during their Friendly match against South Sudan at Nyayo national stadium on March 13, 2021. Kenya won 1-0. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Olunga is back in the team after missing encounters against Comoros due to Covid restrictions.

But Wanyama’s exclusion means that third placed Kenya will have a new captain in the next two fixtures as they seek to revive their qualification chances to the AFCON finals.

Zambia-based Duncan Otieno (Lusaka Warriors) makes a return to the team after almost three years in the cold alongside Nkana Red Devils midfielder Duke Abuya with majority of the FKF Premier League players who featured in recent friendly wins over South Sudan (1-0) and Tanzania (2-1) at Nyayo Stadium also making the cut.

While Mulee has retained the attacking duo of Erick Kapaito (Kariobangi Sharks) and Elvis Rupia (AFC Leopards), he has surprisingly included Nzoia Sugar midfielder Kevin Simiyu and KCB goalkeeper Joseph Okoth in the squad despite failing to field them in the two friendlies.

The local-based players are set to report to residential camp today, a day before their foreign-based counterparts start checking in.

While defending his decision to exclude the regular foreign-based players, Mulee said his selection was purely based on the players’ current form.

“As a national team coach there are some tough decisions I have to make for the betterment of the team. I have selected these players based on their current form and activeness in their respective leagues, nothing else,” Mulee told Standard Sports.

“It is not about replacing someone but their ability to play at the top level. We are slowly but surely trying to build a team for the future and that’s why I think everyone who has been called up deserves a chance to wear the national team jersey."

He continued: “It was a bit difficult to engage the local-based players in the team against Comoros due to lack of match fitness. But I feel they have proven that in the last few training sessions.”

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