The last thing Harambee stars needed at this crucial stage was a scandal that would alter their concentration for the next Cecafa Cup match today against Ethiopia.
Stars have been on a roll after putting up a brave show against Uganda despite losing 1-0 and recently, beating South Sudan 2-0. The performance has put them to within a draw of reaching the last eight of the regional competition, for the first time in three years.
However, the eviction of their two key players from the camp in Kampala, has sort of thrown the technical bench in a spin and coach James Nandwa will have to come up with a new strategy, using the other options. Paul Were and Kevin Omondi were shown the door after breaking strict curfews rules and it remains to be seen how much impact their exit will have on the morale of the Stars camp.
"The morale in the camp is high. We want to have players who are focused on the job at hand and obviously the two players (Were and Omondi) were not, and we are better off without them," opined Nandwa.
Prior to the reports over the duo's shenanigans, Nandwa had been hoping to address Stars wastefulness in front of goal that saw them throw away easy chances against South Sudan and knowing that they will be facing more equipped opponents in their next match. All that will now be overshadowed by their off the field problems that Stars have endured in the last 48 hours.
Nandwa, however, is adamant that they will rise above the latest distraction and seal Stars place in the last eight. "Ethiopia is a very tough opponent and we must keep our focus on the game and keep away any other issues. Were and Kevin's issue is water under the bridge. The players know they have a job to do and many people are looking upon them to do it well. I expect every player to give his best," said Nandwa.
Up to four changes will be made today with Gor striker Rama Salim being reinstated back into the starting line up as well as Thika United winger Clifton Miheso--the scorer of the second goal in Stars 2-0 victory over South Sudan
Also likely to be given a rare starting place will be Sofapaka right back Thomas Wanyama who was used as a right winger in Stars training at the Kyambogo University grounds in Kampala yesterday.
Vice captain Bernard Mangoli will return in place of Sofapaka's Anthony Kimani. AFC Leopards Mike Barasa in spite of missing two clear cut chances against South Sudan will retain his place in the starting line up. Ethiopian coach Seydoun Kebede termed today's clash with Stars as a life or death situation for them if they are to qualify for knockout stages.
"This is a match we must win. We know Kenya is a good team but we will go at them from the start and try and get the victory in order to reach the next round," he said after Ethiopia's 1-0 defeat to Uganda left third in Group 'A' with an inferior goal difference to Kenya. The two top teams in each group qualify for the quarters while the two best losers from the three groups join them in the last eight.