Major puzzle for Stars coach on whom to name for Afcon qualifiers

Monday, March 2nd, 2020 00:00 | By
Harambee Stars coach Francis Kimanzi. PHOTO/File

Vincent Voiyoh

Harambee Stars coach Francis Kimanzi will have a major selection headache when naming his charges for the home and away matches against fast-rising Comoros in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers. 

Kenya will take on Comoros in Nairobi on March 25 before facing the same opponents in Moroni a week later, meaning Kimanzi has to name a  strong team. 

Concerning player selection, a lot has happened since the disappointing 1-1 draw against Claude Leroy’s Togo in Nairobi last November.


Red Arrows custodian Ian Otieno received a national team career revival call from Kimanzi and was used during the group opener against Egypt after Patrick Matasi’s injury in the first half of the game.

Otieno proved a point despite poor  communication with his defenders leading to the Pharaoh’s equaliser.

The former AFC Leopards and Posta Rangers man was also in between the sticks when Kenya faced Togo at Kasarani, a match which saw Matasi sit out due to the knee injury.

Matasi has since recovered and has gone on to play seven games for his employers St George’s of  Ethiopia, keeping three clean sheets.

The two are likely to get Kimanzi’s nod but Tusker’s Robert Mboya could give the coach a thought, having kept six clean sheets in nine league matches.

Sweden-based Eric ‘Marcelo’ Ouma and Joseph Okumu could easily make the team while Gor Mahia’s Joash Onyango might also get another chance.

Brian Mandela, who missed the 2019 Afcon, due to an injury has fully recovered but has remained clubless since July when he was released by South Africa’s Premier League outfit Maritzburg United.

Kariobangi Sharks’ Samuel Olwande is arguably the best option at right-back considering Gor’s utility player Philemon Otieno just returned to training recently after a surgery last year.

However, if given a chance, Sweden-based defender Michael Wandera would provide a long-term solution for the position, considered a weak link by many.

Wandera 24, had brief stints with AFC Leopards, Kakamega Homeboyz and FC Talanta before moving to Europe in 2014. He now features for second tier side Gottne IF.

Harun Shakava of Nkana FC and Zesco United’s David Owino could also make the team.


Speedy winger Ayub Timbe, who also missed the Togo game due to injury, will certainly be in Kimanzi’s list especially after his loan move to English Championship side Reading FC from Beijing Renhe.

His younger brother Musa Masika is also waiting for his maiden senior debut and may have caught Kimanzi’s eye with his dazzling show for Wazito FC.

Francis Kahata is also likely to make a return after he was left out of the last two assignments.

Kahata, who ditched Gor for Tanzania’s Simba last year, has settled well, scoring five goals with as many assist for his new team this season. 

Another midfielder in contention is Anthony ‘Teddy’ Akumu now with Kaizer Chiefs in South Africa. His versatility would give the team the much-needed tenacity and grit.

However, the big puzzle for Kimanzi is skipper Victor Wanyama who has not played at all at Tottenham this season. Former coach Mauricio Pochettino had ignored Wanyama and hopes that his successor Jose Mourinho could bring him out of the wilderness has not materialised.

Ismael Gonzalez, Eric Johana and Johana Omollo are also available for selection.


Kimanzi is still searching for a second striker to partner Kashiwa Raysol’s goal machine Michael Olunga.

It will be hard for him to omit Zesco’s John Mark Makwata though as he had already scored 12 goals in KPL before he left Leopards for Zambia. 

Tusker’s Timothy Otieno has scored 13 this season and could prove a point with a call up. 

More on News