This Saturday Kenya’s Under 23 coach James Nandwa takes charge of Harambee Stars proper as they head off to Uganda to play the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup. Kenya have fallen at the group stage at the last two editions and this year they will not be helped by the fact they are pooled with Uganda, Ethiopia and South Sudan (debuting at the competition).
With the tournament not being FIFA recognised there were no Europe based players called up to the squad, selected separately from the one that will attempt to qualify for CHAN. That also meant that there were several regulars from local clubs that were exempted from going to the Challenge Cup. However, having said that, there is is no lack of experience in the team. The likes of Sofapaka goalie Duncan Ochieng and Ingwe striker Allan Wanga having multiple CECAFA campaigns behind them. With them are a host of young and young-ish players on the cusp of breaking into consideration for nation, many with the odd cap here and there. Indeed as far as I cc tell only 4 of the 25 man squad can truly be considered new to th Harambee Stars set up.
The challenge in front of this team, to reverse a trend of showing up to Senior Challenge cup with alot of bravado then underwhelming, will not be made easier by being stuck in the same group with hosts and most successful team in the competition, Uganda and the region’s sole representatives at next year’s CAF Africa Cup of Nations, Ethiopia. The 4th team in th group are South Sudan, who this blogger expects to be whipping boys. Though Uganda has a superior recent head to head record, and Ethiopia are in a pick form, I still reckon the familiarity of Harambee Stars with these opponents means they do have as real chance of winning both games, or at the very least the outcomes will be down to much smaller margins than might be expected from the 3 team’s recent histories. Should they get into the quarter finals then really anything can happen. But There’s a very tough grou to get out of first.