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Harambee Stars fine-tune for clash with visiting Zambians

Kenya’s Harambee Stars held two training sessions yesterday at Moi International Sports Centre in Kasarani as they stepped up their preparations for the international friendly match against Zambia’s Chipolopolo.

The two nations, familiar to each other in international football, will clash on Friday at the Nyayo National Stadium from 4pm behind closed doors because of Covid-19.

Harambee Stars Anthony “Teddy” Akumu in action during the team’s training session at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on October 7, 2020 ahead of their international friendly tie with Zambia on Friday.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

The team was boosted by the Wednesday arrival of England-based defender Clarke Oduor who plays for Championship side Barnsley.

The availability of Joseph Okumu, who plies his trade with Swedish top-tier side Elfsborg, remains in doubt.

Harambee Stars defender Joash Onyango in action during the team’s training session at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on October 7, 2020 ahead of their international friendly tie with Zambia on Friday.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Midfielder Kenneth Muguna is optimistic the team will register a positive result against Zambia despite the fact that a chunk of the squad in camp has not been in competitive action since the coronavirus pandemic halted the local leagues.

“Most local players have been training on their own and I think that has helped. It has not taken a lot of time for us to get in sync as a team. We are in good shape and looking forward to the game,” he said.

“Personally, I don’t know much about our opponents but as a team we expect a very tough match and we have prepared for the same. Our target is to play well and win the game,” he added.

Harambee Stars defender Brian Mandela in action during the team’s training session at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on October 7, 2020 ahead of their international friendly tie with Zambia on Friday.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Defender Brian Mandela, who is making a comeback to the team after a career-threatening knee injury sustained last year while in Stars camp for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nation, echoed Muguna’s sentiments.

“Injuries are a sportsman’s number one enemy. It has been a very frustrating time for me but I am now fully recovered and fit. It is an honour to be back in the national team and I am looking forward to giving my best if chosen to play,” he said.

Harambee Stars Coach Francis Kimanzi during the team’s training session at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on October 7, 2020 ahead of their international friendly tie with Zambia on Friday.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

“From what I have seen in the training sessions we’ve had, the lads are in good shape and I am convinced we will get a good result,” he added.

The team is using this friendly match to prepare for the November two-leg 2021 Afcon qualifier against Comoros and Mandela is optimistic Harambee Stars will qualify and do better despite drawing in its first two qualifiers, against Egypt and Togo.

The team has had to put up with Covid-19 protocols amidst the pandemic.

Balls are disinfected before Harambee Stars’ training session at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on October 6, 2020.

Photo credit: Pool | FKF

The federation tested all the local-based players, technical bench and the FKF media team for coronavirus before allowing them in camp.

The foreign-based legion are only allowed to join the team if they have a Covid-19 certificate. FKF has hired a 56-seater bus for the 28-man squad to allow for social distancing.

The bus, nets, balls and entire pitch is fumigated at least twice a day.

And journalists will only be allowed to interview players and members of the technical bench either via networking app Zoom, or the federation’s channel.

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