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Harambee Stars start dream to 2026 World Cup with away duel in Gabon

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Harambee Stars players during a training session at Kasarani.
  • Harambee Stars play Gabon in Franceville
  • Their second match is against Seychelles in Ivory Coast
  • This is the first competitive fixture in two years

National football team Harambee Stars will take on Gabon in Franceville on Thursday night in their first match in the qualifiers for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. This will be Kenya’s first international competitive match since the AFCON qualifiers in 2021, and the team will be looking to start off on a positive note.

Stars travelled to Franceville aboard a chartered flight on Tuesday and had a feel of the match venue on Wednesday, and skipper Michael Olunga says they are ready to give a good account of themselves.

“We have prepared well over the last few days and everyone is ready. We want to start positively and such competitions, it is always crucial how you start. Gabon is not an easy opponent and always when you play in West Africa, the atmosphere is always intimidating,” Olunga said.

He added; “But as a team we have to handle that pressure because if we want to be able to play at the World Cup, we need to be able to withstand away intimidation.”

Coach Engin Firat is also looking forward to starting the campaign on a positive note, having been encouraged by what he has seen in the last few friendly matches the team has played.

“We have shown progression and improvement. Everyone is hungry and ready to go. It will be tough playing back to back away matches but we are ready as a team to give the best account of ourselves,” the coach said.

Firat with fielding headache due to injuries 

Harambee Stars head coach Engin Firat

Ahead of the match, the tactician has been faced with several challenges, with central defender Joseph Okumu doubtful with injury. His absence has necessitated the call up of Dennis Ng’ang’a who plays in Zambia with Zanaco.

Also missing the trip to Gabon is Denmark-based right back Daniel Anyembe, also injured, while Erick ‘Marcelo’ Ouma and Ayub Timbe have been named in the final squad, but have some fitness questions as they are also struggling with nagging injuries.

Meanwhile, USA-based defender Naby Kibunguchy has earned a maiden call up and makes the travelling squad, same as KCB’s Haniff Wesonga.

Kibunguchy made a plea on social media to be called up, saying he dreamt of playing for the national team, and has now had that wish granted.

“I really feel great to have made the squad and it shows that the hard work I have been putting for the last several years is paying off. I am looking forward to contributing as much as I can and hopefully compete well for a spot,” said the defender, who has lived most of his life in the USA.

FKF Premier League top scorer Benson Omalla has also earned a place in the travelling team, having been previously left out in the last two friendly matches.

Stars will be looking to bag in a win away from home as they kick off the audacious journey towards the 2026 World Cup. Skipper Olunga, who will lead the hunt for goals, says they are more than ready.

Confident of preforming well away from home 

Harambee Stars training in Franceville

“Mist of our preparations in the friendly matches we have played have been away from home. We are already accustomed and we are confident. Gabon is a tough team, we know their qualities but we have prepared well and have nothing to fear. The boys will give their best,” Olunga says.

On whether Kenya can compete to be at the World Cup, Olunga says; “Impossible is nothing. For you to achieve some thing,s you have to dream, and not just dream but also work. We have a good squad and I believe we can work for some great results,” noted the Qatar based forward.

Harambee Stars final squad


Patrick Matasi, Joseph Ochuka, Ian Otieno


Nabi Kibunguchy, Haniff Wesonga, Daniel Sakari, Dennis Nganga, Johnstone Omurwa, Abud Omar, Amos Nondi, Eric Ouma


Ayub Masika, Alfred Scriven, Duke Abuya, Rooney Onyango, Duncan Otieno, Richard Odada, Kenneth Muguna, Anthony Akumu, Timothy Ouma, Eric Johanna


Masud Juma, Michael Olunga, Benson Omala

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