Controversy followed Sebastian Migne’s squad submitted to Confederation of African Football (CAF) yesterday after Zesco United midfielder Anthony Akumu, with his vast experience and varied abilities, was dropped.
Also axed from Kenya’s national team to the 32nd edition of Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) are Clifton Miheso and Christopher Mbamba who alongside defender Brian Mandela sustained long-term injuries. The injuries and selections have left Kenya with a dearth in height at the back that could be detrimental to the country’s fifth appearance at the finals.
Mandela’s absence from the backline leaves the untested Joseph Okumu who plays college football in the United States and Bernard Ochieng of relegated Vihiga United as the only centre-backs with considerable height.
Remaining trio David Owino, Joash Onyango and Musa Mohammed are less than six feet tall, a recipe for aerial disaster against teams well endowed with height like Senegal. With the taller duo of Okumu and Ochieng lacking requisite experience to anchor Kenya’s backline, the national team would have perhaps benefitted from Gor Mahia skipper Harun Shakava’s traits but he was not called by Migne.
While the defence might hold in the opening two matches against Algeria and Tanzania. Senegal will require a different approach. The ‘new’ defensive pairing will be tested on Saturday when Kenya plays Democratic Republic of Congo in Madrid, Spain. Mohammed partnered Onyango in Nairobi last year when Kenya famously beat Ghana 1-0 and the duo is likely to get the nod ahead of Owino.
From the onset, there was bound to be acrimony when the final squad is announced as the team was teeming with vibrant defensive midfielders from skipper Victor Wanyama to Ismael Gonzalez of UD Las Palmas II and Sofapaka’s Dennis Odhiambo all vying for slots in the same position.
Akumu happened to be the lowest in Migne’s pecking order and bade the tournament farewell even before it began. Wanyama’s slot is assured as he is the captain and Kenya’s most prized asset while Odhiambo has Migne’s trust, having featured in the Frenchman’s previous matches. He also has the versatile advantage of playing at centre-back and left-back. Gonzalez too can play at right back.
The attributes of players in defensive midfield left Migne with little choice but to fans’ favourite Akumu who can also play in central defence.