Intensifying preparations

Friday, February 16th, 2024 01:30 | By
Harambee Stars stricker Miichael Olunga talks to FKF president Nick Mwendwa at JKIA upon arrival from a previous foreign fixture. PD/ FILE

The national Men’s Football Harambee Stars is lined up for a busy schedule in friendly matches in next FIFA international break window next month and could play in USA and Malawi.

Football Kenya Federation President Nick Mwendwa has revealed that the local body has been in talks to see Harambee Stars play another World Cup team Ecuador in March 2024 in the USA.

Because of the distance and logistical challenges of travel to the USA, Mwendwa said Kenya could take the Harambee Stars CHAN team to tackle Equador should the plans get to fruition.

“We have a request and we are trying to put it together in one window but the local team can make it. We understand it is difficult to go to the US because of the visa issues but they said they will do so, so let us wait and see since we are open to this proposal,” Mwendwa told People Sport.

Ecuador, ranked 32 globally, is a South American team that has participated in the FIFA World Cup on four occasions including the last edition that was held in Qatar two years ago.

Should the highly ranked friendly come to pass, then it will be another milestone for coach Engin Firat’s side which has already played three world cup teams in friendlies with a famous win against back-to-back Asian champions Qatar.The other two top-notch build up matches have been against Russia and Iran.

Mwendwa further confirmed that Harambee Stars will take part in a four-nations tournament in Malawi during the same window. The tournament will involve hosts Malawi, the 2012 African Cup of Nations champions Zambia and Zimbabwe. The tournament also see the Kenya U-20 team take part in the competition against the juniors of the other teams mentioned.

“We going to top gear this year as far as team preparations for the African Cup of Nations are concerned. We have serious engagements and we will be playing in a four-nation tournament in Malawi this year in March. The participating teams include Malawi, Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Although the dates of the tourney is yet to be disclosed, it is to be played during the next month’s FIFA international break window that falls between March 9 and 29.

The local football body FKF is looking forward to preparing the Kenyan teams for big tasks ahead this year and beyond.

Should the USA trip mature, it will aid in shaping a locally assembled team that is set to represent Kenya in the 2024 African Championships (CHAN) that will be co-hosted by Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in September.

For the senior Harambee Stars team often referred to as the A team, featuring in the Malawi tournament will be vital as coach Firat seeks solutions ahead of match day three and four of the 2026 FIFA World cup Qualifiers at home against regional neighbors and the newly crowned AFCON champions Ivory Coast in June 2024.

Some good news to the local football enthusiasts is that the two games against Burundi and Ivory Coast will be staged at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi as outlined by FKF president Nick Mwendwa.

“We have confirmed that we will play at Nyayo because Nyayo is not going to be closed now, we are finishing a few things but Ivory Coast will be played at Nyayo Stadium.”

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