Harambee Stars coach Firat defends move to snub Gor, Leopards players
Harambee Stars coach Engin Firat has defended his move to leave out players from Gor Mahia, AFC Leopards, and Tusker ahead of the forthcoming friendly matches against Qatar and South Sudan.
Speaking to the media on September 4, 2023, the coach suggested players attached to these teams were not included as they lacked match fitness.
Kenya is scheduled to play Qatar in Doha on September 7, 2023, before hosting South Sudan in Nairobi on September 12, 2023. These are two international friendlies that will help Firat fine-tune his charges ahead of the 2025 Africa Nations Cup qualifiers and 2026 Fifa World Cup which commence in November 2023.
The absence of Gor Mahia, AFC Leopards and Tusker players in the team led to speculation among fans.
“I respect everybody’s view on players (read team selection) and will not discuss any player individually. AFC, Gor, and Tusker coaches had their verdict after their first game of the (league) season and all agreed their players were not fit. They said this international break would help their players get fit for matches. Please explain to me this and how I would have given them a call-up,” posed Firat.
After the outcry from fans, Firat handed Gor Mahia midfielder Austin Odhiambo a call-up. The youngster has since linked up with his international teammates in camp at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.
The Turkish trainer, 52, further defended his squad selection criteria, saying it factored in all the avenues and he has his assistants who are helping in his quest to build up a formidable team.
On his strategy, the foreign coach said the friendlies the national team has been having has so far helped him identify talents but said it was still early to judge whether he has been successful or not.
“I want to push the boys to a level where they can play strong teams. I have an opportunity to try them in different positions and work together. This is the process we are doing to come up with the best combination,” he added.
Under Firat’s reign, Kenya beat Pakistan 1-0 and then lost by a similar scoreline to Mauritius in the Four Nations Cup tournament played in Mauritius in June 2023.
Kenya lost 2-1 to Iran in Tehran in another friendly contest on March 28, 2023.
On the upcoming World Cup qualifiers in November 2023, Firat talked up Kenya’s chances of qualification for the first time in the country’s history.
Kenya is placed in Group F alongside Seychelles, Ivory Coast, Gambia, and Burundi. The winning team will secure automatic qualification while the second place will have to negotiate their qualification journey via a play-off.
“This is a very balanced group, not even Ivory Coast is guaranteed a spot because every team can drop points. However, what we need to do is have an organized World Cup qualifier by bringing players to camp on time and making all the necessary arrangements,” said Firat.
Among the players who received a call-up are Kenya Police midfielder Kenneth Muguna who has a knock on his knee while Harambee Stars captain Michael Olunga who plays for Al Duhail has a swollen leg.