James Magayi @magayijim
With captain Victor Wanyama ruled out of the upcoming 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, (Afcon) qualifier against Ghana tomorrow, the onus to rally Harambee Stars squad falls on two inspirational figures.
Defender David ‘Calabar’ Owino and Michael Olunga, who has made four career-defining club moves in the last three years, have assumed the big brother roles.
“We are playing at home and that should mean something. We must give our best and make sure the country is proud from the fans to football managers and our families because they will all be rooting for us.
It is a unique opportunity to represent the country of close to 50 million people so we have to take it with pride and do it to the best of our ability,” Olunga, who recently signed for Japanese top-flight side Kashiwa Reysol said on Wednesday.
“Ghana have a very good squad and we know what they are capable of but we are equally good and we will fight for points in the game. Our ultimate goal is to qualify for Afcon and despite losing the opening game, we can revive our chances by taking points against Ghana and moving on from there,” the former Girona forward said at the team’s training base.
Olunga hails himself as a complete professional who adapts well to where he moves. He has played in Kenya, Sweden, China, Spain and now in Japan in a short span. “I do not find it difficult to settle at all. I am a professional who must do what is required of me wherever and whenever,” added Olunga.
He went on: “That mentality helps me cope in any team anywhere.” Owino is Stars vice captain and should wear the armband in Wanyama’s absence although he is struggling with a niggling injury. He urged his compatriots to show that there is no gulf in quality between Kenya and Ghana in terms of football.
“We have good players capable of beating anyone. Our efforts will dictate the outcome but there is nothing special in Ghanaian players that is missing in us.
We have competed and shown that the margins are very minimal and right now anyone can beat anyone. We have home advantage and must make it count,” Owino who is a rock in Zambian club Zesco United’s defence.
Stars coach Sebastian Migne urged fans to fill Kasarani Stadium and give the team a morale boost.
“It would be great if fans came in large numbers to cheer the team. Even if they don’t fill Kasarani, 30,000-40,000 is good enough to intimidate our opponents,” the Frenchman said.