Coronavirus Sidelines Harambee Stars Striker From Crucial Match

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Kashiwa Reysol forward Michael Olunga celebrates after scoring against Gamba Osaka during their Japanese J1 League match at Suita Football City Stadium in Osaka on February 16, 2020

Kenya’s lethal frontman Michael Olunga, will not be part of the national team squad that is set to lock horns with Comoros in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifying match slated for March 25, due to the Coronavirus epidemic.

Harambee Stars head coach Francis Kimanzi made the revelation on Monday, March 9, making it clear that players who were plying their trade abroad posed a health risk.

Kimanzi told journalists that Algerian-based player Masoud Juma would also not make it to the camp in readiness for the upcoming fixture.

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Kashiwa Reysol forward Michael Olunga celebrates after scoring against Gamba Osaka during their Japanese J1 League match at Suita Football City Stadium in Osaka on February 16, 2020

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“That is a major concern but you see we cannot take a risk when it comes to health issues because sports is all about health and for you to perform at a high level you need to be very fit and healthy.

“If there is anything to do with some health security information I don’t think there is anything we can do about it, ” Kimanzi stated.

The national team head coach had assembled his squad for the first training session at Kasarani in the build-up to the crunch-tie.

After picking two points out of a possible six in their opening two assignments away to Egypt and at home to Togo, Kimanzi and the Stars need a win at home against Comoros to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the continental showpiece.

President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered in a directive among others that a task force be formed to coordinate the country’s response to the virus that has been spreading across the world at an alarming rate.

The task force on Tuesday, March 3, imposed a ban on flights from Northern Italy, specifically from Verona and Milan, stating that the measure was because of the spike in cases in the area.

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Harambee Stars coach Francis Kimanzi gives instructions during a training session at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on October 12, 2019

Harambee Stars coach Francis Kimanzi gives instructions during a training session at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on October 12, 2019

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“This part of Italy is currently experiencing coronavirus incidents which could affect the safety of Kenyans,” the statement read in part.

In a surprise development, Health CS Mutahi Kagwe on March 6, announced that the government had temporarily lifted the ban to allow a single empty aircraft to fly to Kenya to repatriate about 800 Italians stranded in Malindi.

“We have temporarily lifted the ban so that one more flight comes to Kenya to lift those who were locked in Malindi, 800 of them, but no one will disembark from that plane,” Mutahi stated.

Several key national team players are based abroad namely: Johanna Omollo (Cercle Brugge -Belgium), Ayub Timbe (Reading FC – England), Eric Ouma (AIK Fotboll – Sweden), Eric Johanna (Jönköpings Södra IF – Sweden), Joseph Okumu (IF Elfsborg – Sweden),   Ismael Athuman (Las Palmas B – Spain) and team captain Victor Wanyama who recently moved to Major League Soccer in the US where he joined Montreal Impact.

Kimanzi made it clear that he was fully focused on the players available to him, in a bid to secure a crucial home victory.

In a move that excited the football-crazed nation, it was announced that fans would not pay a cent to watch the crucial 2021 Afcon qualifier, set to take place at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, on March 25

Sports betting company, Betika on March 5, announced it had reached a deal with Football Kenya Federation (FKF) to waive the gate charges. 

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Egyptian referee Ghead Grisha (right) speaks to Kenyan players during their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) Group C match against Senegal at the 30 June Stadium in the Egyptian capital Cairo on July 1, 2019.

Egyptian referee Ghead Grisha (right) speaks to Kenyan players during their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) Group C match against Senegal at the 30 June Stadium in the Egyptian capital Cairo on July 1, 2019.

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