•The biggest talking points have been the exclusion of Zesco United striker Jesse Were and bringing on board two Kariobangi Sharks’ goalkeepers John Oyemba and Brian Bwire at the expense of experienced local shot-stoppers.
•Tito feels that Peter Odhiambo of Gor Mahia has had a good run in both the league and their historic Caf Confederation Cup quarter-finals run and should have at least made the standby list.
Former Kenyan international Titus “Tito” Mulama has tipped Harambee Stars to reach the Afcon 2019 quarterfinals despite the current controversy over the provisional squad.
This comes in the wake of criticism and negative energy from different quarters after coach Sebastien Migne named his provisional squad of 26 players in preparation for next month’s Afcon finals in Egypt.
Migne has been roasted online by football fans, pundits and other stakeholders, who believe he was forced to include fringe players with orders from above.
The biggest talking points have been the exclusion of Zesco United striker Jesse Were and bringing on board two Kariobangi Sharks’ goalkeepers John Oyemba and Brian Bwire at the expense of experienced local shot-stoppers.
The inclusion of uncapped Sweden-based Christopher Mbamba has also raised eyebrows in certain quarters.
“Every coach has his own philosophy and reasons for calling certain players and leaving others out. But to be honest, I was surprised to see Were miss out going by his form in Zambia league and the Caf Confederations Cup,” said Tito.
Tito, who featured for Mathare United alongside his twin brother Simeone Mulama, was part of Ghost Mulee’s side that graced the 2004 Tunisia Afcon, playing in all the three preliminary matches and scoring in their 3-1 loss to Mali.
The 38-year-old adds that Kenya has a rich history of great goalkeepers and at the moment, Patrick Matasi of Ethiopia's St. George’s and Bandari’s Farouk Shikhalo are exceptional.
He, however, feels that Peter Odhiambo of Gor Mahia has had a good run in both the league and their historic Caf Confederation Cup quarter-finals run and should have at least made the standby list.
Migne, who named a big chunk of players from the qualifiers in his defence, denied any pressure from other quarters to include some players and insisted that Bwire was included to gain experience, while Were was left out due to his poor form with the national side, having scored only one goal in 26 appearances.
“I can tell a great player who deserves a chance, but my opinion remains only an opinion just like the other Kenyans who are questioning the selection. However, there is room for change if there is no vested interest from other quarters in the squad just like the coach said the door is not yet closed,” added Tito, who holds a KNVB coaching certificate and coaches youngsters at a Soccer Academy in Huruma and Kenya Soccer School.
“During our time under Ghost Mulee, we won the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup, the Castle Lager Cup and played as a unit for long before the 2004 continental tournament with only talented Emmanuel Ake, Tom Juma, Mike Okoth and Moses Gikenyi included after the qualifiers under captain Musa Otieno,” said Tito.
He admits the team is well balanced and will proceed to the quarterfinals for the first time in history but needs a better bench if they are to sail past the second round.
“We have great individuals and experienced European-based stars, who will rise to the occasion under the leadership of captain Victor Wanyama and lethal striker Michael Olunga.
“Senegal and Algeria are ranked way above us and have great players in Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and Manchester City’s Riadh Mahrez but we have the ability to surprise either side and qualify as their stars will be under more pressure,” he said.
He, however, warned that the most difficult game will be against our neighbours Tanzania, who are returning after 39 years and have more anger to impress.
“We may not have reached the quarters, but we won hearts by qualifying for the 16-team bonanza and ensured our record of never losing to Burkina Faso stood. The ball is in Migne’s court in the 24-team showpiece. We just wish them all the best as they fly our flag high,” added Tito.
The team is in residential training at Kasarani and heads to France on June 31 for further training and international friendlies against Madagascar (June 7) in Paris, before taking on of Gambia on June 15 in friendly matches ahead of the Egypt tournament.