Newly appointed Kenya 15s head coach Paul Odera says their target in the recent provisional selection was to strike a balance between the juniors and senior players ahead of the international duty.
Adamant fans hold the opinion that the team lacks the experience and grit needed to face opponents on international level, starting with Uganda in the Elgon cup. The team boasts of 12 players currently playing for the U20 side that will be heading to Sau Paulo later this year for the world junior championship trophy.
According to Odera, several senior players missed out due to injuries. Davis Chenge missed the selection due to injury same to Willy Ambaka and Sammy Oliech who sent their apologies for not turning up. Odera says they are welcome into the squad when fit enough.
Peter Karia misses out due to personal engagements and the tactician maintained that the selection is still open to any player who is looking to make an impact.
“We were looking to blend the senior players and youngsters. This squad is open to everyone who is willing to be in right frame of mind, it doesn’t matter the club you are playing for be it Kenya Cup, ESS, Championship, age, or if you are based abroad,” Odera told Scrummage.
“Chenge is injured at the moment. He said he needs some rest. I think he has played non stop for three to four years. I spoke to Karia and he has personal commitments so he will not be available for the next two months as he is engaged.”
“Ambaka and Sammy Oliech are injured, they have served the nation well in the past. I received their apologies and if they are fully fit we will always consider them. Felix Ayange was not considered for this particular squad but for the future assignments he will be considered. Remember we could not call everyone,” he said.
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For Odera, it is all about the long term plans for the team that will lead them to the 2023 World Cup set for France. He believes picking youths and preparing them for the same is the way to go, not looking at the age or club the players are currently plying their trade with. The tactician’s intent is clear as some of the players play in the championship league tier.
“We are looking to see if the youngsters can get much practice at a high level ahead of the Junior Trophy. The bigger picture, however, is to develop a squad that will get us to France in 2023. If we get 22 or 23 year old’s that have played 10 times for Kenya that will be good for us heading of the 2022 qualifiers. But If they are not good enough they won’t play. It is not a matter of forcing players to the squad because they are young.” he concluded.
National team selection has always been marred by claims of inconsistency in the process, Odera introducing a whole new twist to the picture barely a month since he took over the reigns.
The squad will have its first assignment on 22nd June when they face neighbors Uganda in the first leg of the Elgon Cup in Kisumu.