December 8, 2021

Olunga, Wanyama absences a blessing in disguise for local Kenya stars – Okoth

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Famous players from foreign leagues were unable to join Harambee Stars due to travel restrictions

Former Sofapaka and Western Stima forward Ronald Okoth has termed the absence of key foreign-based players as a blessing to the local ones.

Kenya will host Zambia on Friday for a friendly tie without Michael Olunga, Victor Wanyama, Arnold Origi, Johanna Omollo and Ayub Timbe but the retired striker said the available players – especially those drawn from the Kenyan Premier League – must see the absence as an opportunity to impress.

“The unavailability of the foreign-based players is an advantage to the local ones because this is their great opportunity to show their worth and what they can offer,” Okoth told Goal.

“If the professionals would have come, definitely they would not have been called up.”

However, Clark Oduor, Cliff Nyakeya, Masoud Juma, Joash Onyango, Ian Otieno, Timothy Otieno, Anthony Akumu, and Francis Kahata are players from outside the country available for Kimanzi.

The 2013 KPL winner also explained the importance of giving an opportunity to the players who grace the local leagues. Since when he was appointed, head coach Francis Kimanzi has worked with Samuel Olwande of Mathare United, Johnstone Omurwa of Wazito, Gor Mahia’s Lawrence Juma and Kenneth Muguna consistently.

“It shows that the players will always perform if they are shown trust by the coach,” Okoth explained.

“It is the best source of encouragement for the local lads and I should also laud Kimanzi for building his team with local players something that we have not seen for long.”

Okoth pointed out the strength Chipolopolo will enjoy during the Friday clash but added the Kenyan players must fight and prove their worth regardless of records.

“I think on paper Zambia have an upper hand especially if you consider how active they have been in the previous months,” the former Mathare United star said.

“But I know our boys are also looking forward to this game knowing that it is an important encounter irrespective of what history states.

“Expectations are very high on the boys and they surely know what it takes to play for the national team. I am sure they know it is a rare opportunity and you have to make maximum use in order to stamp authority on the national side.

“As much as Zambia have the upper hand, I know we can fight but let us wait and see what we can get after 90 minutes.”

Harambee Stars were allowed to start training by the government three days before the Nyayo Stadium Zambia meeting and Okoth feels the same should be extended to the leagues.

“Hopefully, the government action will set the pace for the leagues’ resumption,” he concluded.

“It is a great gesture from the government to allow Harambee Stars to train although it can be seen as too little too late and we would like to see our own leagues resume.”

Kenya will play Zambia behind closed doors.