Omalla earns Stars call-up

Thursday, March 16th, 2023 01:00 | By
Gor Mahia FC forward Benson Omalla celebrates after scoring a hatrick against Wazito FC during their FKF-PL match staged at Kasarani Stadium, Nairobi on February 14 2023.PHOTO RODGERS NDEGWA

Gor Mahia’s goal-getter Benson Omalla has been rewarded for his feat in front of goal by earning a call-up to the national football team Harambee Stars ahead a high profile international friendly build-up match against Iran on March 28.

Omalla has scored 18 goals for his club so far this season to lead the goal scorers chart, an achievement that head coach Engin Firat could not ignore as he named his provisional side yesterday.

Harambee Stars will be returning to action for the first time in 15 months when they face a highly ranked Iran national team in a friendly match in Tehran.

After an aborted encounter against regional neighbors Burundi, Football Kenya Federation (FKF) moved with speed and managed to secure a high level test match against Iran, who are in position 24 in the latest FIFA rankings. Iran is also the best ranked team in Asia.

Nicknamed Team Melli, has featured in the FIFA World Cup on six occasions, the most recent being the Qatar tournament where they managed to grab one victory in Group B against Wales (2-0) and lost against USA and England.

The last time Kenya played against an Asian opponent was in June 2018 when the team featured in Hero International Cup and lost to hosts India in the final.

Coach Firat has expressed his delight in playing Iran, noting that it is a step in the right direction for the national team.

“Iran is a world-class team, ranked 1st in Asia. Playing a tough opponent is a chance to push our players to the maximum, to make them familiar with high-level football and show the difference between where we are and where we want to be,” Firat said.

Iran has a new coach after the exit of Portuguese Carlos Queroz. The new manager is former player and Coach Amir Ghalenoei.

Meanwhile, former Harambee Stars captain Victor Wanyama has been left out of the squad despite previous media reports that he had reversed his decision to retire from international football after meeting the Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba last December.

Qatari based Michael Olunga will lead the frontline while goal-keeper Patrick Matasi who recently moved to Police FC from Tusker FC returns to the team after almost a two-year hiatus.

New faces in the 30 man squad include Denmark based Daniel Francis Anyembe who plays as a right-back for Danish top tier side Viborg FF.

Anyembe, 24, has already featured for Denmark junior teams and he will be a great addition for Harambee Stars should he accept the invitation.

Another new name in the team is 25 year-old Kenyan born striker Alfred Richard Scriven who plies his trade in Norway for FC Hodd.

Superb AFC Leopards’ custodian Levis Opiyo also received his maiden national team call-up after giving a great show in the opening round of the FKF Premier League,with the most clean sheets in the top tier competition.

The team is scheduled to hit camp tomorrow in Nairobi and later jet out for Tehran on 26th this month.

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