Three Kenyan footballers to feature in Champions League group stages
Three Kenyan footballers are set to make history by featuring in the group stages of the Caf Africa Champions League.
The trio, forward Jesse Were, defender David ‘Calabar’ Owino and midfielder Anthony Akumu have been pivotal for Zesco United’s march towards this lucrative stage of the continent’s premier competition.
Zesco United, a Zambian club, defeated South Sudan club Albatra, Guinea’s AS Horaya and Mali’s Stade Malien to secure passage to the competition’s group stage.
Were scored thrice in six games in this competition, including the opening strike in the Zambian champion’s 2-1 win against Malian club Stade Malian at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola on Tuesday.
Coach George Lwandamina’s side join an elite group of seven clubs including Egypt’s Zamalek and Al Ahly, ES Setif (Algeria), Wydad Casablanca (Morocco), AS Vita (DRC) and Enyimba (Nigeria) vying to play in the quarter-finals of the competition.
All the participating teams at this stage of the competition are assured of at least Sh40 million in appearance fees and prize money.
“With the three of us playing against the seasoned sides in the Champions League group stages shows that we have talented players in Kenya who can play at the highest level in Africa,” the 27 year old who joined Zesco from Tusker FC in January told Nairobi News.
No Kenyan club has ever made it to this stage of the competition, with the likes of Tusker FC, Gor Mahia and Ulinzi Stars often exiting the competition at the first hurdle.
Meanwhile Harambee Stars coach Stanley Okumbi says he is “encouraged” by Were’s impressive returns in Zambia.
“I have been following up on what he is doing and I’m really encouraged with what I have seen. He is fast proving to be a reliable option for the national team heading towards our forthcoming assignments,” Okumbi said.
The youthful coach has played Were from the bench in the two matches he has been in charge of the national team, with Micheal Olunga understandably the preferred lone striker at the moment.