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Stars coach Kimanzi has been in constant touch with players despite pandemic

By Charles Thuku
Wednesday, July 15th, 2020
Harambee Stars Head Coach Francis Kimanzi during the team’s training in Kampala during the 2019 Cecafa Championships. Photo/PD/RODGERS NDEGWA

Harambee Stars Head Coach Francis Kimanzi has opened up on how demanding it always is to select the best players to the national team for international assignments.

Kimanzi gave the hint even as he disclosed how his technical team has been putting a lot into preparations during the trying time of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is a difficult situation but I must say that we have been engaging with players at a personal level.

We have also been doing a lot of planning and following up on our scouting database,’’ stated the coach who took up the mantle in August last year after serving as former coach Sebastien Migne’s assistant.

“Obviously, players selection is never easy, but what really counts is the current form,’’ added Kimanzi.

The veteran coach, however, noted that players plying their trade abroad do not necessarily have an edge over their home-based counterparts when the technical bench sits down to select the squad.

“Take for instance when Gor Mahia midfielder Lawrence Juma, he was in top form and we picked him into the starting team ahead of other foreign players.

Playing abroad is secondary to the player’s current form when it comes into selection,’’ he said.

Kimanzi was, however, cagey in any foreign based players he has been keeping an eye on after being challenged on why he overlooks several players who  shine for their respective teams in foreign leagues.

According to pundits, David Sassey,  the 21-year old midfielder who plays for Crawly Town FC in England and who previously turned out for Watford FC Academy, former Gor Mahia offensive midfielder Amos Nondi who plays professional soccer in Georgia, Sweden-based Anthony Wambani and Francis Kahata who plies his trade with Tanzanian giants Dar Simba deserve national team call-ups.

Wambani, in particular, is said to be in red-hot form at the moment and is best remembered when  made his debut for Kenya’s senior side in the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup Championships in Kampala, Uganda in 2019.

 Kimanzi’s best experience with Harambee Stars was the run-up to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) held in Egypt when Kenya came up against eventual finalists Senegal, Algeria and neighbors Tanzania in the preliminary stage.

Prior to the biannual continental event, Stars held a month-long camp in France and played a friendly match in Madrid, Spain.

“The tournament itself was a magnificent experience but it is the run-up that drew a lot of lessons. Being together for a month and working under a top coach was such a learning experience,” remarked Kimanzi.

The tactician also hailed efforts by Football Kenya Federation (FKF) in seeing to it that Harambee Stars players have a smooth time in camp courtesy of a fully fledged logistics team that works around the team.

FKF has also endeavored to keep the national team active in all international windows in the past four years.

“It’s important for the team to remain active since the players are from diverse backgrounds.

Building a team takes time and it is safe for this reason that we need to utilize every opportunity to squeeze in a match,” he said.

Added Kimanzi: “Our logistics team has also done a good job booking flights, hotels and training sessions on time. We always need to have the players in proper mental shape if we are to produce results,”

Kimanzi’s parting shot for the players was simple:”Keep safe, we need you healthy, hopefully when things get back to normal,’’

Stars’ was scheduled to face Comoros in April 2020 in two-legged AFCON qualifier before the pandemic struck.

Kenya held Egypt to a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Cairo before playing out a 1-1 draw against Togo in Nairobi.

The final tournament has since been postponed to January 2022.