Harambee Stars coach Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno has vowed his charges will do all it takes to retain this year’s Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (Cecafa) Senior Challenge Cup.
“We have selected the best crop of players from our league and are looking to find out which ones can help their senior teammates at the (Afcon) qualification matches. Most of the players have impressed so far,” said Otieno in Kampala.
“They want to end what has been a busy year on a high. We came with the trophy and want to go back home with it. These players want to do it, and so far so good.”
Kenya won the last edition of this tournament after beating Zanzibar in Machakos two years ago and a largely second-string Stars squad appears to be on course to equal that record at this year’s regional football showpiece in Uganda.
Stars squad, mainly composed of Kenyan Premier League players, has so far defeated Tanzania and Sudan in their opening Group ‘B’ matches at the StarTimes Stadium in Kampala on Sunday and Tuesday respectively.
These results ensured Stars stormed the semi-finals with a match — against Zanzibar on Saturday — to spare.
Despite the impressive returns, Otieno is wary of the threat posed by chief rivals Uganda and speaking after watching Stars beat Sudan 2-1, suggested he’d rather face the host team in the final.
“We came here to win the title but found ourselves in the toughest group. We will try and beat Zanzibar so as to finish top of the group and avoid Uganda, for now,” said Zico.
Like Kenya, Uganda has impressed at the tournament with wins against Burundi and Somalia in Group ‘A’.
Otieno has been forced to take charge of Kenya’s matches against Sudan and Zanzibar after the tournament organisers slapped Stars head coach Francis Kimanzi with a two-match stadium ban for “unsporting behaviour”.
“We are not happy with the ban. We have been punished without an opportunity to defend ourselves,” said Otieno.
The former Kenya international challenged his players to show their worth to stand a chance of being considered for selection in both the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations and 2022 World Cup qualifiers respectively.
Bandari prodigy Hassan Abdallah, scorer of two of the three goals Kenya have plundered thus far in this tournament, should have done his case of selection to the Afcon qualifier squad plenty of good.
Also staking a claim are Kariobangi Sharks wingback Samuel Olwande, reserve goalkeeper Samuel Odhiambo and Ulinzi burly forward Oscar Wamalwa. who was surprisingly selected ahead of AFC Leopards hit man John Mark Makwatta.
Uganda is the most successful nation in the region with 14 Cecafa titles. Kenya is second with seven.
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