Harambee Stars coach Engin Firat ‘not bothered’ by calls to include Omala
Kenya coach Engin Firat insists he is less bothered about the reaction by a section of fans on his team selection ahead of the international friendly versus Russia.
The two teams will meet in an international friendly in Turkey on October 16, 2023, and Firat has been under the spotlight for omitting some players from his squad, mainly Gor Mahia striker Benson Omala who has been in fine form of late.
Similarly, Firat has been asked to defend some of his selections including forward Ovella Ochieng and defender Daniel Sakari, both of whom have not played much football of late.
“The door is open for every player in Kenya (to play in the national team),” said Firat.
“In the last two matches, Elvis Rupia was playing in the starting 11 and he was a goal-getter number one in Kenya. He made a transfer to Tanzania and now he is not with us,” said Firat, 53.
“Sometimes there are changes in the squad depending on the form or what the team needs at the moment. The door is open but I really don’t care if I have to answer to every player or every favourite fan,” he added.
The contest, which is being played in Turkey owing to the turmoil in Russia brought about by the war in Ukraine, is set for the Mardan Sports Complex in Antalya from 7 p.m.
Harambee Stars, as the Kenya national football team is commonly referred to, has set up a training camp in Turkey for the past week in readiness for the clash.
Firat is fine-tuning his charges ahead of the 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifiers which commence in November 2023. Kenya posted surprise results in the previous friendlies held in September 2023, beating Qatar 2-1 in Doha before falling to a shock 1-0 loss at home to South Sudan.
The Turkish coach’s sentiments come at a time when there have been varied reactions over the decision to omit Omala, who has scored six times in as many league matches this season, from the squad.
In an exclusive interview with Nairobi News, Omala’s father suggested, but without sharing proof, that his son’s woes in the national team leading to his lack of selection had been caused by a ‘jealous’ senior player in the squad.
Firat also overlooked Omalla in the games against Qatar and South Sudan.