Arrived at 6pm to play at 10pm: Tired Harambee Stars in do-or-die clash

By: ISAAC SWILA

Harambee Stars landed in Praia, Cape Verde on Tuesday at 6pm Kenyan time just four hours to their high stakes World Cup qualifier return leg that was due to be played from 9.45pm (Kenyan time) after a 20-hour flight ordeal.

The team left Wilson Airport, on Monday at 10pm, 12 hours behind schedule for the crucial match after the Skyward Express, the firm contracted to transport them to Praia, insisted to be paid in full before they could let the plane leave Nairobi.

The team hardly had time to check into their hotel, let alone rest before their match at the 15,000-capacity Estadio Nacional de Cabo Verde.

It took a late intervention by President Uhuru Kenyatta, who directed the Sports Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario to head to the Wilson Airport and solve the issue.

The 20-hour journey was long and draining to the players as the flight had to make a stop-over in Kano, Nigeria to fuel before proceeding to the Atlantic Ocean island nation which is located 6,870km away from Nairobi and 570km off the coast of Senegal.

The game was a do-or die affair for both teams with the aggregate winner earning the ticket to the group stages of the qualifiers for a slot to Russia 2018.

Stars were leading 1-0 going into the second leg.

Stars have had poor preparations ahead of major assignments and the outcry from the public has not made the federation change its style of managing the team.

Foreign-based players have had to haggle with the federation to get their air-ticket refunds.

Players have also routinely gone without being paid training allowances.

In fact, even before their departure, the team staged a sit-in at their Kasarani camp demanding to be paid allowances and only left for Wilson Airport after 90 percent of their dues were settled. Each player received Sh70,000.

So thorny has the issue of allowances and air ticket refund been that Kenya’s long serving custodian Arnold Origi declined to show up for both legs of round one of their World Cup qualifier against Mauritius demanding a refund of his air ticket money.

DID NOT TURN UP

Origi also did not turn up for the first leg clash against with Cape Verde in Nairobi.

Stars could have missed yesterday’s match which would have attracted fines from Fifa and possible suspension.

Cape Verde tour party:

Boniface Oluoch, David Okello, Omar Mbongi, Harun Shakava, David Owino, David Ochieng, Edwin Wafula, Victor Wanyama (captain), Stephen Wakhanya, Johanna Omollo, Eric Johanna, Collins Okoth, Kevin Amwayi, Clifton Miheso, Ali Abondo, Kevin Kimani, Michael Olunga, Jacob Keli, Jesse Were, Christian Bwamy, Bobby Williamson (head coach), Musa Otieno, David Ouma (assistant coaches), Mathew Ottamax (goalkeeping trainer), Willis Waliaula (team manager)

SOURCE: DAILY NATION