Six players axed from Iran tour

Thursday, March 23rd, 2023 11:00 | By
AFC Leopards custodian Levis Opiyo (left) defends the ball from Benson Omalla of Gor Mahia FC during their Mashemeji derby match played at the Nyayo National Stadium, Nairobi on January 29 2023. PD/RODGERS NDEGWA

Football Kenya Federation premier  league goalkeeper with the safest pair of hands, Levis Opiyo, is among six players released from Harambee Stars’ camp.

The AFC Leopards’ custodian earned his Kenya call-up after his stellar show in the league, keeping 13 clean sheets thus far.

His release from the camp means first-time call-up recipient Bryne Omondi (KBC) could make the cut to the Iran-bound squad together with experienced Patrick Matasi and Zesco United’s Ian Otieno.

Other players who have been released early include the Nzoia Sugar FC duo of Samuel Mwangi and Hassan Beja, who were hoping to make their Harambee Stars debut after receiving maiden call-ups.

Dynamic KCB wing-back Maurice Owino has also been asked to leave the team’s base after five days of training. Police FC’s winger Alvine Mangeni was reportedly dropped after falling ill while Kakamega Homeboyz captain Moses Mudavadi did not show up in the training camp like other players who reported to the team’s camp on Friday last week.

Head Coach Engine Firat is expected to further trim the number of players to 23 from the initial 35 who were named in the provisional squad.

The final squad is expected to jet out to Tehran on Sunday evening with all eyes set on Iran who are playing today against Russia, their first friendly match in this international break.

Belgium club KAA Gent defender Joseph Okumu and Wilkins Ochieng who plays for FC Koper in Slovenia joined the rest of the players in camp yesterday.

Harambee Stars is expected to have an open media session on Saturday at Kasarani before the Sunday travel.

Highly rated team

Meanwhile, coach Firat says he is eager to get another top-notch friendly match for Kenya, with his focus mainly on a classy European team this year. The Turkish tactician who previously handled the Moldova national team says it is important for Harambee Stars players to gauge themselves against highly rated teams so that they can have a meaningful show during major tournament qualifiers.

“We want to change something, especially me. Therefore, I am sure we will find one team from Europe. I have already contacted my friends in UEFA and I have a dream to play a top team from Europe because I have faced some good teams. If we will be able to play against such teams even if it is next year it will be a good thing for the country and my players” Firat said.

The experienced 52-year-old coach who served as an assistant manager for Iran between 2007 and 2008, finds pride in playing against tough European opponents when he was in charge of Moldova for three years.

Firat has defended his choice to play Iran noting that it will be the first of many as he begins an arduous journey to shape Harambee Stars, striving for qualification for major football tournaments in future.

Some of the teams that he faced in that period include two-time World Cup champions France, Austria, Greece, Slovenia, Israel, Turkey, Italy and Albania

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