•Firat distanced himself from accusations of favouring foreign-based players, insisting he is the only coach in Africa who includes a significant number of local players in his squad.
•Responding to claims that he had blatantly turned a blind eye to top-notch players who have proved their mettle on the topflight stage, Firat said he strictly bases his selection on merit.
Harambee Stars head coach Engin Firat has thrown down the gauntlet to local-based players to pull up their socks if they wish to get a call-up to the national team.
Firat distanced himself from accusations of favouring foreign-based players, insisting he is the only coach in Africa who includes a significant number of local players in his squad.
"I wonder why people keep bringing up the discussion about foreign and local-based players. The fact is that they are all Kenyans and deserve to play for the country as long as they have what it takes to be in the squad," Firat said.
"There is no coach in Africa who gives opportunities to local-based players as much as I do. For example in our World Cup qualifiers group, some coaches named their teams without including any local players. We have Gabon, Ivory Coast, and Gambia where none of the local players made the squads."
Responding to claims that he had blatantly turned a blind eye to top-notch players who have proved their mettle on the topflight stage, Firat said he strictly bases his selection on merit.
"You don't need the president, the cabinet secretary, or even the media to lobby for your inclusion in the national team. We will always give you a chance as long as you are good enough," Firat remarked.
"It's completely misplaced to allege that I usually snub local-based players. For example, during the invitational tournament in Mauritius, I included 16 local-based players in the traveling squad. How come nobody noticed that?"
Firat explained why he had snubbed red-hot Gor Mahia forward Benson Omalla on numerous occasions despite his sublime form.
"You can be a superstar in Kenya but that is not enough to qualify you as a national team player. All local-based players getting a call-up to the national team must bring their style of play to the international level. He urged the players to do their homework thoroughly to fully understand what is expected of them at the international level."
For example, a center-forward needs to play with the center-back behind him, needs to control and pass well enough, and dribble.
"These are the qualities I keenly look at before considering a striker for national team selection. Omalla must be able to change his style and play the way Olunga does. If he fails to do so then he'll always find himself struggling on the international stage."
Firat said a player will always crack a national team call-up as long as he can live up to expectations, singling out Gor Mahia right-back Rooney Onyango who featured full-time against Russia on his international debut.
"You noticed that he could cope with the high intensity required for the match. Our training sessions last for only one hour and have a very high intensity. International football is always of high intensity. Unfortunately, most local-based players are struggling with physical fitness."
He added: "I aim to build a team that can succeed. We don't have players who feature for big clubs like PSG and, therefore, we must settle for the ones who are available and strive as much as we can to bring them to the desired heights," Firat concluded.