The national men football team Harambee Stars proved once again that the country isn’t short of talents when it comes to facing some of the best in Africa.
While it can be argued that the team was determined to prove their worth against players like Liverpool’s Mohammed Salah, credit must go to the head coach Jacob Ghost Mulee, who despite having been given no chance by the latest call up he made, seemed to have brought back the mojo that saw him lead the national team to the 2004 African Cup of Nations.
In the starting team on Thursday, Stars had 13 local players but that was four less than Egypt who had 17 of their players plying their trade in their local teams. In the Starting XI, only four (Johnstone Omurwa, Kenneth Muguna, Abdalla Hassan and Lawrene Juma) were picked from the Kenyan Premier League; Egypt having seven of their starters from the Egyptian league.
People have been racing about the performances of defender Daniel Sakari (Kariobangi Sharks) and Kenneth Muguna (Gor Mahia) after the game but the other two didn’t do bad either apart from that blemish from Omurwa when the team was clearly on the ascendency. There have been a section of fans who have urged the Federation to build their team around the latest local players with others having the opinion that the omitted foreign players should be handed a chance again.
Both sets of fans are right. When you are going to field any local player in an international game they are highly likely to show up. They might not be at the levels of their counterparts in Europe but you’ll be guaranteed a total output. This is mainly because most of them see these opportunities as a platform to showcase their worth. There is no better human than that person who wants to prove a point. But that move can always backfire.
Coming against established players doesn’t only require a proper output; it needs some awareness and a proper tactical approach. During Stanley Okumbi’s tenure, a lot of local lads, who were at the peak of their game in our league, were handed their national team debuts. But most learnt that the level didn’t only require form but a bit of experience too. A few like Samuel Onyango (currently at Gor Mahia) showed up; others (like Wycliffe Ochomo) vanished.
Having foreign stars in a team has its merits and demerits too. There have been so many complaints about captain Victor Wanyama not showing up for Stars games as he does while on club duty. He is an established star and would rarely need Stars to prove his worth (some say). While they might be correct, people should understand that different coaches have different tactics. The former reasoning can hold ground so is the latter. You are just never sure about those lads when it comes to the national teams. A coach who has such players in his team should recognize this and act as needed for the sake of the entire team.
Having those foreign stars can have its advantages too. When an opponent arrives on the ground even before a ball is kicked, they’ll always be aware of these players. Most of their tactics revolves around players like Wanyama and people tasked to do their duty must always have the concentration to nab these threats. The presence of an established player is always a plus for any team.
Its good to have both set of players in a set up. Reasons Egypt would afford to bench Arsenal’s El-Neny knowing that the player tasked to replace him could give the same output. All a team needs is the right balance in games; its never about pro or local.
Also Read: Player Ratings: Harambee Stars v Egypt