Mon, 18 Jan 2021

NAIROBI, Nov. 8 (Xinhua) -- Kenya will be welcoming Comoros on Wednesday for the first leg of its 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers with the country hoping to get its bid to make a second successive final off to a strong start.

The match, scheduled to be played at Kasarani on the outskirts of Nairobi, is Kenya's first competitive international game since COVID-19 struck the country in early March.

Due to the pandemic, kick-off has been set at 7pm local time under floodlights and in an empty stadium.

Only match officials and a limited number of journalists and production crew, medical personnel and security will be permitted to attend.

On November 6, Harambee Stars players and coaching staff took time off their training to be taken through the new laws of the game especially during this pandemic period under the tutelage of FIFA referee Peter Waweru.

On the same day, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) emergency committee validated the specific measures for the resumption of days three and four of the Cameroon 2021 AFCON qualifiers that will be played this week.

"As a player, such a forum is important to me in that I get to keep abreast of the laws of the game that are constantly changing," Kenyan international midfielder Kenneth Muguna said.

Earlier in the week, all local-based players invited for the Comoros tie underwent mandatory COVID-19 testing, with their foreign-based counterparts arriving for the match coming in with clearance from the countries they play in.

Winger Ayub Timbe was among the first of the foreign contingent to report to camp on Saturday for the Comoros game, with the return fixture scheduled for November 15.

Timbe is currently unattached after parting ways with Chinese club Beijing Renhe.

Striker John Avire of Tanta in Egypt and midfielder Ismael Gonzalez of Las Palmas in Spain joined the side on Saturday, before keeper Arnold Origi checked in on Sunday morning.

"You know how difficult it is for several nations to get their players considering the COVID-19 situation, so I'm happy they have arrived and we now wait and see if the rest will make it," head coach Jacob Mulee said.

Mulee is back at the helm of the team for his fourth spell, having led Stars to the finals of the Tunisia 2004 AFCON finals where they won their first-ever game at the tournament.

Already, Mulee and his team have been dealt a blow by the pandemic since he will be without star striker Michael Olunga, once of Chinese side Guizhou Zhicheng.

Olunga has been in free scoring form for Japan's Reysol, scoring 23 goals this season and plundering six in October alone to make the J1 League team of the month, and has been shouldering the goalscoring burden for Kenya in recent years.

However, the 26-year-old will not travel after his club said it was suspending 'all activities' for the first team and its academy, after three players and 11 members of their staff tested positive for COVID-19.

"Michael can't travel because he is under isolation for 10 days but without him, we have to find a solution and we shall try our best," Mulee told Xinhua on Sunday.

Kenya and Comoros share Group G of the 2021 AFCON qualification with record AFCON winner Egypt and 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifier Togo.

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