Sebastian Migne faces his first test as Harambee Stars coach when he leads the national soccer team to an international friendly against Swaziland’s Sihlangu Semnikati (King’s Shield) at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos this afternoon.
Stars will be in action at the same venue again on Monday for a date with Equatorial Guinea with Migne using the two matches as build-up for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier match against Ghana’s Black Stars in September.
Uncertainty had earlier shrouded the friendlies following the stand-off between Kenyan Premier League (KPL) and Football Kenya Federation (FKF) over the “Mashemeji derby” pitting AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia this weekend and which would have deprived Migne off the services of key players in the assessment process of the newly-assembled squad.
While FKF wanted the derby to be postponed, KPL was adamant that it was still on and even petitioned the Sports Disputes Tribunal who gave them the mandate to make a binding decision on the matter.
However, KPL ate humble pie and in the spirit of protecting the integrity of the league, postponed the match on Wednesday night.
“After consultations with the KPL Executive Committee, the match has been postponed to protect the integrity and reputation of the KPL,” read part of a communiqué sent to the press by KPL Chief Executive Officer Jack Oguda.
Meanwhile, Stars and Sihlangu are not strange bedfellows having last met in an invitation tournament at Arthur Davis Stadium in Kitwe, Zambia on July 9, 2013 where Kenya were 2-0 winners.
But looking back at the two team’s latest fixtures, it is Sihlangu who have the bragging rights as they beat Nambia 1-0 in a friendly played in Swazi capital Mbabane on April 19 unlike Stars who are smarting from a 3-2 loss in the hands of Central Africa Republic in Marrakech, Morocco.
But statistics may count for nothing and especially given Migne has summoned several green horns who will largely be unknown quantities to the Swazi who have in their ranks reputable talent.
Save for a number of regulars like Jockins Atudo, Boniface Oluoch, Ovella Ochieng, Francis Kahata and Musa Mohammed, Migne is expected to try out upcoming talent such as Mathare United defender Johnstone Omurwa, Wazito forward Pistone Mutamba, Gor Mahia fullback Philemon Otieno and midfielder Vincent Wasambo of Kariobangi Sharks.
Stars will miss influential Gor striker George “Blackberry” Odhiambo who has yet to recuperate fully from an illness.
Swaziland are expecting to lean heavily on the likes of Nhlanhla Gebue of Young Buffaloes, Sandumuzi Swale of Manzini Wanderers, Banele Mdluli who turns out for Green Mamba, Sidumo Shangwe from Mbababe Highlanders speedy striker Sidumo Shangwe.