The contribution of foreign legion during national Under-23 team Emerging Stars 5-0 thrashing of Mauritius in the first leg of the Olympic qualifiers at Kasarani Stadium on Wednesday was discernible to most fans in attendance.
Ovella Ochieng’, who plays for Vasalund of Sweden as well as Kenya’s senior national team (Harambee Stars), is among the players who stood out although he did not score.
The former Kariobangi Sharks striker covered almost each blade of the grass on the right flank and was often a victim of vicious tackles by Mauritius defenders a bid to contain his darting runs which resulted into two of the five goals.
Perhaps it was an element of bad luck for Ovella, who was arguably the man of the match, not to find the back of the net after giving the Baby Les Dodos’ rear guard of Adel Langue, Jean Jacques Patate and Gukoola Nelesh a lot to think about.
To many, this was a replica of a performance Ovella displayed during Harambee Stars shock 1-0 over Ghana in a Group F Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Nairobi in September.
Another fine display was by Joseph Okumu who was initially plying his trade with Free State Stars of South Africa before turning professional with Real Monarchs of USA.
Soon after his introduction in the second half, Okumu left Mauritius defenders in sixes and seven and it was least surprising when he helped himself with the fifth goal that knocked the winds out of the sails of the visitors.
Another foreign-based player Henry Ochieng, who plies his trade with Braintrre of England, sat on the bench with coach Francis Kimanzi planning to field him in future to gauge his capability.
Although he has seemingly come of age to play professional football, Kariobangi Sharks striker James Mazembe proved quite a handful to his markers and also did well to be among the scorers in the evening.
Kimanzi acknowledged the input of the professionals, saying they will serve as catalysts to give the young lot a learning experience.
“It’s good to have them (professionals) around as the upcoming players will learn a lot from them going forward and especially this time when the team wants to ink its name in the history of the Olympics qualifying,” said Kimanzi.
The Emerging Stars leave for Port Louis today for the return match on Sunday with the winner set to meet either Sudan or Seychelles in the next round.