The past international break saw several BetKing Premier League (BPL) stars put the colours of their respective clubs aside to represent their nations in qualifying matches for the 2021 AFCON Championship.
A total of 10 BPL teams had representatives in the recently concluded qualifiers and below we take a look at how each player faired.
The Coastal outfit had two players head out for international duty in goalkeeper Justin Ndikumana and winger Hassan Abdalla. Ndikumana was called up for Burundi’s qualifiers against Morocco and the Central African Republic while Abdalla represented Kenya against Egypt and Togo.
Ndikumana didn’t get a chance to suit up in both matches as The Swallows failed to seal qualification by finishing 3rd in Group E. Needing to get maximum points from both games to at least stand a chance of qualifying, Burundi only managed a point in a 2-2 draw with CAR before falling 1-0 to Morocco.
The same fate also befell Abdalla with Harambee Stars but at least for the winger, it was a memorable time in national team colours as he emerged as a future star with his ability in front of goal. The young forward scored twice, first grabbing the equalizer as Stars drew 1-1 with Egypt in Nairobi before netting the opener in a 2-1 win away to Togo as Jacob Mulee’s charges secured their first win of the qualifiers.
Four points out of six however weren’t enough to secure qualification for Stars as they finished 3rd in Group G.
Young fullback Daniel Sakari also had a time to remember in the qualifiers as he emerged as a worthy solution to Kenya’s long standing personnel problems on the right side of defence. The former Kakamega Homeboyz player clocked the full 180 minutes in both of Kenya’s matches against Egypt and Togo showing superb industrial ability up and down the flank.
James Mazembe, Sakari’s partner in crime on the flanks for Sharks, made the bench against Egypt.
John Kuol was another player from Kariobangi Sharks who headed out for international duty. The towering defender made the bench in both of South Sudan’s matches against Malawi and Bukina Faso.
Goalkeeper James Saruni played the full 90 minutes between the sticks as Kenya defeated Togo 2-1 in Lome. The veteran shot-stopper was well on to a memorable clean sheet away from home only to concede deep in stoppage time. Nonetheless it was a superb showing from the man who has kept the most clean sheets so far in the league (8).
The 4-time Kenyan champions also had lefback Harun Mwale make his competitive debut for the national team as the former St. Joseph FC player came off the bench to play the final 27 minutes.
The Bankers were well represented as they had four players head out for national duty with Kenya. The four were Nahashon Alembi, David Owino, Baraka Badi and Joseph Okoth. It is however Alembi who managed to get a run in the team, clocking 75 minutes in the two matches against Egypt and Togo.
The lanky defender earned his competitive debut in Kenya’s 1-1 draw with Egypt in Nairobi as he came on for the final 12 minutes to tighten Stars’ defence after a redcard to Wazito’s Johnstone Omurwa. He did enough in the game to warrant a start against Togo and clocked 63 minutes in Lome.
Striker Elvis Rupia and a late call-up for Clyde Senaji ensured representation in the Harambee Stars squad for the 12 time Kenyan champions. Senaji received a call-up to join Jacob Mulee’s charges after the Egypt game to replace the injured Kenneth Muguna and grabbed the opportunity with both arms as he put-up an outstanding performance in the heart of defence against Togo.
The midfielder-cum-defender was instrumental in the build-up to Stars’ opening goal, feeding Cliff Miheso who then in-turn teed-up Abdalla. Rupia was named on the bench in both games.
Ingwe also had Bien Shaka and Saad Musa turn-out for Burundi and South Sudan respectively. Shaka managed the final 16 minutes for The Swallows as they fell 1-0 away to Morocco while Musa came on after an hour in his nation’s 1-0 upset away to Bukina Faso.
Wazito had two of its stars make the Kenya squad with defender Johnstone Omurwa and midfilder Kevin Kimani getting opportunities to suit up for the national team. Omurwa started against Egypt and played 73 minutes before he was red carded for an off-the-ball incident.
Kimani on his part didn’t get to feature against The Pharaoh’s but started and clocked 53 minutes against Togo.
The record Kenyan champions had four players head out for international duty with Cliff Miheso and Captain Kenneth Muguna featuring for Kenya while strikers Jules Ulimwengu and Tito Okello also switched to the international stage for Burundi and South Sudan respectively.
Miheso featured in both matches for Kenya, playing the final 22 minutes against Egypt as well as starting and managing 75 minutes against Togo. The left footed winger provided the assist for Hassan Abdalla’s opener against Togo.
Muguna also had a superb showing for Kenya as he clocked the full 90 against Egypt but an injury in the game saw him miss the trip to Lome.
Striker Tito Okello managed the full 90 minutes in both games for South Sudan as Africa’s youngest nation registered similar 1-0 losses against Malawi and Burkina Faso and in-turn missed out on a spot in this year’s continental showpiece.
Jules Ulimwengu on his part didn’t get to feature for Burundi but made the bench in both games against CAR and Morocco.
The sugar millers for a while now have not had a player feature for the Kenyan national team but that changed with the recently concluded international break as midfielder Kevin Simiyu earned his debut.
The defensive minded midfielder was introduced for the final 15 minutes as Stars secured a 2-1 win away to Togo.
Sofapaka were also well represented this past international break with Lawrence Juma, Amissi Bizimana and David Nshimirimana heading out for national duty.
Juma managed 68 minutes for Harambee Stars against Egypt while Bizimana played the final 16 minutes in Burundi’s 1-0 loss away to Morocco. Nshimirimana was named among the subs as The Swallows battled to a 2-2 draw in Bujumbura against CAR.
The current BPL leaders had two players head out for international duty with goalkeeper Emery Mvuyekure and striker David Majak both featuring for Rwanda and South Sudan respectively.
Mvuyekure had an outstanding period between the sticks for the Amavumbi as he kept clean sheets in games against Cameroon and Mozambique.
The 28-year-old clocked the full 90 against Mozambique before coming on after an hour, away to Cameroon as Oliver Kwizera received his marching orders.
Despite the superb showing as Rwanda managed four points in the two games, Mvuyekure and his teammates were unable to make it to this year’s final showpiece as they finished 3rd in Group F.
The same fate also befell Majak and his South Sudanese teammates as they finished bottom in Group B. The lanky striker managed 120 minutes in matches against Burkina Faso and Malawi.