Kenya Under 23 coach Francis Kimanzi has named an 18-man squad that will report for residential training on November 9 ahead of the upcoming Africa U23 Cup of Nations qualifiers against Mauritius.
The squad, which has been trimmed from the initial list of 57 players, comprises of a bulk of players who did duty in the March friendly matches against Uzbekistan. Kenya beat Uzbekistan 2-1 on March 23 before losing 1-0 three days later in what was Kimanzi's first assignment with the Emerging Stars.
Michael Kibwage, Timothy Odhiambo, Teddy Osok, Ibrahim Shambi, Ahmad Ahmed, Chrispinus Onyango, James Mazembe, Piston Mutamba and Jaffari Awiti are some of the players that have been retained from that team.
Mathare United duo of Johnstone Omurwa and Lennox Ogutu have been drafted into the squad to provide more defensive options replacing Nicholas Meja and Bolton Omwenga who were in Uzbekistan.
Former Under 20 skipper Yusuf Mainge has been promoted to the Emerging Stars alongside goalkeeper Brian Bwire.
Benefitting from a break-out campaign is the trio of Boniface Mukhekhe, Sydney Lokale and Tobias Otieno who have been revelations at Nakumatt, Kariobangi Sharks and Sony Sugar respectively in the 2018 SportPesa Premier League.
Conspicuously missing from the squad is Sony Sugar custodian Kelvin Omondi who emerged second runners-up in the Goalkeeper of the Year award behind Bandari's Farouk Shikalo and Kenyan international Patrick Matasi in the end of season awards.
"It (the selection) was quite challenging because we had quality players in every position, but alongside my technical bench as well as the senior national team coach (Sébastien Migné) and his assistant (Nicolas Borriquet-Cor) we have come up with 18 players who will hit camp next week," said Kimanzi.
Mutamba, who is the only player in the 18-man squad that is in the senior Harambee Stars squad, is confident they can go past the qualifiers and compete for a place in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
"We will take this challenge step by step. We need to first beat Mauritius to dream of making it to the Cup of Nations and thereafter think of the Olympics," offered Mutamba.
Foreign based players who are within the age bracket are also expected to link up with the team when they hit camp. Sweden based duo of Ovella Ochieng' and Erick "Marcelo" Ouma, Georgia based Amos Nondi as well as US based Joseph Okumu are some of the players expected to join the team.
The two-legged clash against Mauritius will be played in Nairobi and Port Louis on November 14 and 18 respectively. Kenya will play the first leg at home before travelling to Mauritius for the reverse tie.
The winner of the tie on aggregate will proceed to the second round, with a third round also in line.
Emerging Stars will first have to qualify for the eight-team U23 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt next year, from where the top three teams will represent Africa at the Olympic Games.
Goalkeepers: Timothy Odhiambo (Ulinzi Stars), Brian Bwire (Kariobangi Sharks)
Defenders: Michael Kibwage (KCB), Lennox Ogutu (Mathare United), Johnstone Omurwa (Mathare United), David Owino (Mathare United), Harun Mwale (Ulinzi Stars), Yusuf Mainge (AFC Leopards).
Midfielders: Teddy Osok (Sofapaka), Tobias Otieno (Sony Sugar), Ibrahim Shambi (Ulinzi Stars), Abdallah Ahmed (Mathare United) Chrispinus Onyango (KCB), James Mazembe (Kariobangi Sharks).
Forwards: Boniface Mukhekhe (Nakumatt), Piston Mutamba (Sofapaka), Sydney Lokale (Kariobangi Sharks), Jaffari Awiti (AFC Leopards).