Kenya coach Antoine Hey has dropped all the Mathare United players from the national team after they decamped from residential training on Wednesday.
The four - Edgar Ochieng, Kevin Ochieng, Austin Makacha and Titus Mulama - were excluded from a 25-man squad that Hey announced on Thursday for the final preparations ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Tunisia on March 28 in Nairobi.
“These players left the camp unauthorised and against our clear instructions,” Hey said.
“This is a break of rules. It is a disrespect to our players, a disrespect to our national team and our country and therefore these players are no longer involved in our plans for Tunisia.”
Keep off, says Kasuve
And on Thursday night, there were reports that UK-born Taiwo Atieno finally received his Kenyan passport and was drafted into the Stars’ team for the Tunisia match.
However, Football Kenya Limited vice chairman Titus Kasuve told journalists to steer clear of the issue.
“This is the Kenya national team and you should just leave that boy alone and don’t write anything about him,” Kasuve said last night.
Mathare United went against the wishes of the Harambee Stars management when they removed the four players from the camp at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.
FKL technical director Patrick Naggi said he advised the Mathare United coach, Francis Kimanzi, that the concerned players would be released on Thursday for club duty but that Mathare refused and instead picked the four from camp without official release.
“This is not a good sign. When certain individuals, players, club officials, whoever, think that they are more important than the national team and national interest, then there is reason for concern,” the soft spoken Hey said.
Interestingly, only Mathare insisted on having their players on Wednesday with the rest of the KPL clubs waiting for the official Thursday release.
The move means that the four Mathare players, who were an integral part of the Harambee Stars World Cup qualification campaign in second round, will not be part of the team that faces Tunisia on March 28.
Also out is experienced Mathare goalkeeper Duncan Ochieng who had only just got a recall to the squad on Tuesday but had yet to report to camp. But the most telling loss is undoubtedly key central defender Edgar Ochieng, and Hey admitted as much.
“Edgar was definitely going to be part of my starting 11. But we have a good solution. Fortunately we have recalled Musa Otieno and we can play him in a different capacity,” Hey said.
The named squad members include Kenya’s top professionals in Europe Dennis Oliech, Macdonald Mariga, Patrick Oboya and Robert Mambo.
Also named, as expected, was veteran Musa Otieno, Allan Wanga and the Tanzania exiles George Owino, Boniface Ambani and Bernard Mwalala.
“The foreign-based players are invited based on our information of their current status and performance,” Hey said. The team broke camp yesterday until Monday.
Harambee Stars squad – Noah Ayuko, Wilson Oburu, David Okello, Mulinge Munandi, John Njoroge, Jockins Atudo, Julius Owino, Pascal Ochieng, Joseph Shokokoti, Evans Wandera, Victor Mugabe, Francis Ouma, Peter Opiyo, Fredrick Ajwang, Hillary Echesa, Taiwo Atieno, George Owino, Musa Otieno, Robert Mambo, Dennis Oliech, Patrick Oboya, Macdonald Mariga, Boniface Ambani, Bernard Mwalala.