While Football Kenya Federation (FKF) president Nick Mwendwa is scratching his head over how to facilitate Harambee Stars’ preparations and travel to Egypt ahead of next week’s 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, the Pharaohs’ biggest problem appears to be who between Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and Ahmed Fathi will wear the captain’s armband in this match.
The seven-time African champions will host Francis Kimanzi’s Stars in Cairo on November 14 as the battle to compete at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon begins in earnest.
But Mwendwa announced Tuesday evening the squad was still waiting for the government to fund air tickets for the foreign-based players including captain Victor Wanyama and Michael Olunga to fly directly to Cairo.
Egypt though has no such logistical challenges.
Instead, coach Hossam El-Badry was forced to publicly back Fathi, and not Salah, as team captain for this game because the former is “older.”
Preparations for this game have been overshadowed by media reports suggesting a “request” by the Egypt FA for Fathi to relinquish the captaincy for poster-boy Salah had stirred up an ego battle in camp.
“The decision of the armband is the responsibility of the manager. There are no problems between Salah and Fathi. In the end, we decided the armband will go to the oldest player,” said El Badry.
Last week, Fathi’s agent, Ader Shawky, told Egyptian website Kingfut that the right-back was asked to leave the captain armband to Salah.
“Fathi was left surprised by this request and turned it down. I think he will not continue with the national team if captaincy was taken off him,” said Shawky.
Salah emerged top-scorer in the English Premier League last season and if fit, is expected to pose the biggest threat to Kenya’s defence marshalled by Joash “Berlin Wall” Onyango and goalkeeper Patrick Matasi.
Togo and Comoros make up this four-team group with only two teams expected to qualify. Kenya will host Togo in Nairobi in the next game on November 18.
Mohammed El-Shenawy (Al-Ahly), Mohammed Awad (Zamalek), Mohammed Bassan (El Geish);
Ahmed Hegazi (West Bromwich Albion), Ahmed Fathi (Al Ahly), Ragab Bakar (Pyramids FC), Omar Gaber (Pyramids FC), Mohammed Hany (Al Ahly), Abdallah Gomaa (Zamalek), Mahmoud Wahid (Al Ahly), Mohammed Hamdy (Pyramids), Mahmoud Alaa (Zamalek), Ramy Rabia (Al Ahly), Baher Elmohamady (Ismaily), Ayman Asharaf (Al Ahly);
Midfielders: Mohamed Elneny (Besiktas), Mahmoud Hassan Trezequet (Aston Villa), Tarek Hamed (Zamalek), Amr El-Sulya (Al Ahly), Hamdy Fathi (Al Ahly), Abdullah El-said (Pyramids FC), Mohamed Magdy Afsha (Al Ahly) Hussein El-Shahat (Al Ahly) Ahmed Sayed Zizo (Zamalek), Mohammed Farouk (Pyramids FC), Islam Issa (Pyramids FC);
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Hossam Hassan (Smouha), Marwan Hamdy (Wadi Degla), Ahmed Gomaa (Al Masry), Ahmed Hassan Kouka (SC Braga), Mahmoud Kahraba (CD Aves).
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