Harambee Stars Erick Ouma (left) tackles Senegal’s Ismailia Sarr during an Africa Cup of Nations match in Egypt on July 1, 2019.[photo courtesy]

Though national team Harambee Stars have already bowed out of the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers, defender Eric ‘Marcelo’ Ouma says they must play for pride against Uganda in their Group B return leg match at St Mary’s Kitende Stadium, Kampala tomorrow.

Having been in the Kenyan squad that suffered a humiliating 6-0 defeat on aggregate (5-0 and 0-1) in last month’s encounter against Mali that consequently shattered their dreams to Qatar, the AIK Fotboll full back feels the East African derby presents them a perfect opportunity to redeem themselves.

The two rivals have played out to four draws in their last four meetings, with Kenya’s latest victory coming way back in 2015 when they beat Uganda 2-0 in the Senior CECAFA Challenge.

But tomorrow’s game will rekindle the 2012 AFCON qualifiers in Kampala when Kenya frustrated their arch-rivals to a barren draw and consequently deny them a chance to continental finals in Gabon.

Kenya are currently third on the log with two points from four matches, six points behind Uganda Cranes who are still in contention to qualify to the next round.

After the Kampala trip, Firat Engin’s charges will fly back to clash with the Amavubi of Rwanda in their final dead rubber match on Tuesday at Nyayo Stadium.

On the other hand, Cranes, who also secured double against Rwanda (identical 1-0 win) in October, will face group leaders Mali in a decisive match away in Morocco on Sunday. The two teams are separated only by two points.

While a win will put the Ugandans in a pole position ahead of their tricky tie at Agadir Grand Stadium, for Ouma, this is a moment for them to try and save their faces.

“It might be a derby, but we will take it just like any other game. Uganda want to remain in qualification contention, but for us we must redeem ourselves,” Ouma told Standard Sports.

“It’s now up to us to push hard and win. Of course it will not be a walk in the park, but we are determined and ready to fight till the final minute. We are going to play for pride. In football, everything is possible and I’m confident we can pull a surprise.”

Asked about the Rwanda game and the recent decision by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to allow the return of fans into stadium, the former Gor Mahia man said: “It is long since we last played in front of our home fans. We are really motivated as we prepare to host Rwanda on Tuesday. We must captalise on the home advantage.”

The Kenyans will face some familiar faces in Yanga midfielder Khalid Aucho and Azam goalkeeper Mathias Kigonya who previously traded for Tusker/Gor Mahia and Sofapaka respectively.  

Harambee Stars, who were hosted for a dinner by Football Kenya Federation (FKF) last night, depart for Kampala today.

 

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