Olunga: Why Kashiwa Reysol striker will miss Kenya vs Comoros double-header

Michael Olunga of Kenya celebrates goal against Tanzania.
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The lanky forward will miss the upcoming double-header against the Island nation set for November

Kenya international striker Michael Olunga will miss the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match against Comoros.

The Harambee Stars, under the tutelage of coach Francis Kimanzi, are scheduled to play Comoros in Nairobi on November 9 before clashing with the islanders in Moroni four days later.

However, Goal now understands Olunga, who is currently enjoying a good spell with Japanese top-tier side Kashiwa Reysol, will not be able to travel for the two matches, as well as the planned friendlies against Zambia and Sudan.

A source close to the player has confirmed to Goal Kashiwa Reysol are not ready to release Olunga for the international assignment as the player will miss seven matches should he travel to Kenya owing to the coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

“Japan have put in place tough rules owing to Covid-19 and it might not be easy to have Olunga for the Afcon qualifier against Comoros at home and away,” the source, who did not want to be named, told Goal on Friday.

“Why Kashiwa Reysol are concerned is because should they release the player to play for Kenya, then when he returns to Japan, he will have to undergo a 14-day quarantine and in that period they have important league matches to play, so they are not ready to release the player.”

Olunga, who also featured for Thika United, Tusker, and Gor Mahia in the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) is currently the top scorer in the J1-League with 15 goals.

Apart from the foreign-based players, Kimanzi will have a headache to pick his squad for the double-header with the KPL yet to resume after the government extended the ban on contact sports until further notice last Friday.

However, the government, through Cabinet Secretary of Sports Amina Mohamed, assured that national teams involved in international assignments will be allowed to play matches.

In a recent interview, Kimanzi called on the government to lift the ban, insisting by extending the restriction, footballers in the country will continue to suffer and it will also have a major impact on the performance of the national team in the upcoming Afcon qualifiers.

“We understand the pandemic has brought with it a crisis in sports and other fields,” Kimanzi is quoted by Nation Sports. “But if we plan properly, and with guidance from the government, then it is possible to play football.

“Staying for six months without playing is a long period for any professional footballer.

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“We have important engagements lined up and as it stands we need at least a month to prepare for them. I am not sure if our foreign-based players will be allowed to come here and play.”

Kenya started their campaign for the 2021 Afcon, to be held in Cameroon, with an impressive 1-1 draw away to Egypt. They followed it up with another draw, by the same margin, in Nairobi against Togo.

In Group G, Comoros, who started their campaign with a 1-0 win against Togo before settling for a goalless draw against the Pharaohs, lead with four points.

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