• “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," said Firat.
• The squad has a blend of local and foreign-based players, with Orlando City’s Nabi Kibunguchy, Murang’a Seal’s Eric Balecho, and KCB’s Hanif Wesonga earning their maiden call-ups.
Gor Mahia mercurial forward Benson Omalla has finally cracked a slot in the national team, Harambee Stars, after an incessant public outcry.
Omalla is part of the 28-man squad named by head coach Engin Firat on Friday ahead of the 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifiers against Gabon and Seychelles later in the month.
In an earlier interview, Firat explained why he had snubbed the red-hot Gor Mahia forward 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,” said Firat.
He urged the players to do their homework thoroughly to fully understand what is expected of them at the international level.
“For example, a centre-forward needs to play with the centre-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,” he added.
“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.”
The Turkish gaffer also called up Eric Johana for the first time since taking over as head coach but also handed debut call-ups to three other players.
Kenya are in Group F of the qualifiers alongside Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Gambia, Burundi, and Seychelles.
The squad has a blend of local and foreign-based players, with Orlando City’s Nabi Kibunguchy, Murang’a Seal’s Eric Balecho, and KCB’s Hanif Wesonga earning their maiden call-ups.
Gaborone United’s Duncan Otieno, Elfsborg’s Timothy Ouma, and UTA ARAD’s (Romania) Johanna also make a return to the team.
There is also room for Gor Mahia’s Geoffrey Ochieng, who has impressed for the Kenyan Premier League champions.
Harambee Stars play their opening qualifier against Gabon on November 16 in Franceville, and then against Seychelles on November 20 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
Foreign-based players were expected to start checking on Friday with the team’s first training session set for Saturday. Departure to Gabon is slated for November 15.
Goalkeepers: Patrick Matasi (Kenya Police), Ian Otieno (Zesco), Joseph Ochuka (Bandari); Defenders: Nabi Kibunguchy (Orlando City), Hanif Wesonga (KCB), Abud Omar (Kenya Police), Daniel Sakari (Tusker), Geoffrey Ochieng (Gor Mahia), Daniel Anyembe (Viborg), Eric Ouma (AIK), Joseph Okumu (Reims), Johnstone Omurwa (CF Estrela), Amos Nondi (Ararat); Midfielders: Duncan Otieno (Gaborone United), Teddy Akumu (Sagan Tosu), Duke Abuya (Singida), Ayub Masika (Nanjing City), Kenneth Muguna (Kenya Police), Eric Balecho (Murang’a Seal), Rooney Onyango (Gor Mahia), Eric Johanna (UTA ARAD), Richard Odada (Aalborg), Alfred Scriven (Hodd), Timothy Ouma (Elfsborg); Forwards: Masud Juma (Al Faisaly), Michael Olunga (Al Duhail), Moses Shummah (Kakamega Homeboyz), Benson Omalla (Gor Mahia)