Harambee Stars ready to take a leap of faith

Harambee Stars players training at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on March 25, 2023 where the team was in preparations ahead of their International Friendly match to be played in Iran. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

After a forced 15-month break from international football, Harambee Stars captain Michael Olunga will lead the national team, yet again, when Kenya plays Iran tomorrow at Azadi Stadium in Tehran, from 7pm

This will be the first international match for the Stars since Fifa lifted its suspension on the country in November last year.

Harambee Stars last played in November 15, 2021 during the World Cup qualifiers where Kenya defeated Rwanda 2-1 at Nyayo Stadium.

Kenya had been in the cold for close to two years due to Fifa suspension that took effect on February 25 last year after former Sports CS Amina Mohamed disbanded Football Kenya Federation in November 2021 over mismanagement of public funds.

Speaking ahead of tomorrow's match, Qatar-based Olunga welcomed the decision to play Iran saying as players, they have longed to meet top teams.

Olunga believes Kenya can only get far in terms of ranking and competitions, if they play against top teams not only in Africa but also in Europe and other parts of the world.

"It's a good test for the boys and everybody is geared up for this friendly match," said Olunga.

"Everyone knows Iran is a very good side both tactically, technically but it's a good test for us and let's see how it's going to turn out."

Harambee Stars Turkish coach Engin Firat has admitted it will be difficult for Kenya to get impressive results in this tie, but promised to push to the final whistle.

"We will face a really top team, this we know and, in the end, this is what I want. This is a reality and it will be really hard task for stars," Firat said.

Firat cautioned that people should not be talking about a win in this encounter because it will be a learning experience for them.

"I don't know when Kenya last faced a top team. Still, some people are talking about winning, winning, winning. I don't know which planet they are living in. My main aim is for my players to understand why we have to go for this match."

"We are going there to learn. This is an opportunity to unite us as a team and to work as a unit against a top team. That is what am looking for. If somebody asks me about results now, I actually don't know what to say," he said.

Firat also defended his decision to drop some notable players, including FKF Premier League top scorer Benson Omalla, saying no player is guaranteed of a slot in the national team.

He said his target is to build a winning team as they focus on the World Cup qualifiers.

"We have to plan not for today, but for the future. We have a lot of players who are not in the same form as they were a few years back, but we are going to maximise our quality in the many upcoming matches," he added.

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