Stanley Okumbi, the Harambee Stars coach has asked Football Federation of Kenya (FKF) to consider shelving Kenya Premier League matches whenever the national team has a friendly match.
He made the appeal after Harambee Stars were held to a barren draw by Malawi Flames in an international friendly which was being played outside the FIFA calendar.
Two clubs, Gor Mahia and Tusker FC declined to release their players for the match while others barely had time to assemble for the friendly after playing in league assignments.
Okumbi called up five players from league leaders Gor Mahia.
After the match, Okumbi was disappointed and asked the federation to work closely with the league managers to ensure players are available even if it meant shelving the league matches.
“In future if we could have some of the league matches pushed to allow us to play then it would be good. But I totally understand Gor and the reason they had to pull their players out,” the tactician added.
Football Kenya Federation announced the team will be playing a friendly match once every month in the build up to CHAN to be hosted by Kenya.
“Most players arrived in camp yesterday and we didn’t even get time to train. Mathare and Posta Rangers players played a match yesterday and came here for the game today so basically, there wasn’t much we could expect,” Okumbi commented.
The match which was a build up towards the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) saw Okumbi field an under strength team made up of local-based players.
Most of the new players who were given a chance to make a case for inclusion in the larger squad failed to sparkle.
Match more beneficial to Malawi
The match at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos was more beneficial to Malawi who will travel to Antananarivo, Madagascar for the first round CHAN qualifier on Thursday.
Ahmad Ahmad, the new CAF president who hails from Madagascar and had just come from visiting Somalia was in the stands to watch the match.
Ronny Van Geneugden, the new Malawi Belgian tactician took charge of his first match since his appointment early last week.
“I am convinced with how we have played as a team. We are trying to build up a new unit with young players and if we can come away and get a point, that is very convincing. I am confident we can get a good result in Madagascar,” the Belgian commented.
In the team skippered by Posta Rangers defender Jockins Atudo, Okumbi handed several players their first start in a national team shirt.
Kariobangi Sharks left back Bolton Omwenga started in the same position across the back four.
Bandari’s Darius Msagha, AFC Leopards’ Duncan Otieno and Western Stima’s Kennedy Otieno were also handed nods for their first ever national team appearances.
Harambee Stars’ first chance fell on winger Samuel Onyango who fired a shot over from the edge of the box before Malawi also created their first.
Kevin Hanganda’s diving header from a Simeon Singa cross went wide.
Harambee Stars didn’t play what has now become their natural style, passing the ball around and using pace on the wings to attack.
Change of tact
Instead, they chose to go more direct, swinging balls from deep and into attack, a tact that failed to bear any fruits.
Cavin Odongo was presented with another chance for Harambee Stars in the 23rd minute when he intercepted Luck Magata’s pass back to his keeper, but he could not get a meaningful effort on goal.
Bandari’s Msagha struggled to assert himself on the left wing and was hauled off in the 36th minute for Mathare’s Daniel Mwaura.
Five minutes to the break, Harambee Stars had a chance with Kennedy Otieno heading wide unmarked inside the box from a Samuel Onyango cross.
At the start of the second half, Mwaura had another chance off an Onyango cross but again, he failed to hit the target.
Malawi responded in the 55th minute with Singa’s shot from the edge of the area which was punched away for a corner by Patrick Matasi in the Kenyan goal.
As the game wore on, Okumbi continued to shuffle his side with the likes of Brian Birgen, Palos FC’s Morven Otinya, KCB’s Chris Onyango and Sony’s Amos Asembeka all getting a run-in.
Despite the below par performance Okumbi picked his sixth draw in 13 matches.
Kenya Starting XI: Patrick Matasi, Jockins Atudo, Simon Mbugua, Robinson Kamura, Bolton Omwenga, Duncan Otieno, Victor Majid, Samwel Onyango, Darius Msagha, Kennedy Otieno, Cavin Odongo. Subs: James Saruni, Collins Okumu, Shami Mwinyi, Masita Masuta, Brian Birgen, Geofrey Kataka, Morven Otinya, Daniel Mwaura, Crispinus Onyango, Amos Asembeka.
Malawi Starting XI: Ernest Kakhobe, Stanley Sanudi, Francis Mlimbika, John Lanjesi, Lucky Malata, Davie Banda, Chimango Kayira, Simeon Singa, Kelvin Hanganda, Gilbert Chirwa, Muhammed Sulumba Subs: Lehmann Nthala, Brighton Munthali, Pempho Kansichri, Yamikani Fodya, Levison Maganizo, Harvey Mkacha, Dalisto Sailesi