Austin Odhiambo: Harambee Stars coach Engin Firat makes U-turn on Gor Mahia midfielder

Gor Mahia midfielder Austin Odhiambo in action against Murang'a Seal at the SportPesa Arena. Photo: SportPesa

Austin Odhiambo: Harambee Stars coach Engin Firat makes U-turn on Gor Mahia midfielder

Joel Omotto 17:33 - 18.05.2024

Harambee Stars coach Engin Firat seems to have had a change of heart towards Gor Mahia midfielder Austin Odhiambo ahead of Kenya’s World Cup qualifiers in June.

Gor Mahia midfielder Austin Odhiambo seems to have mended fences with Harambee Stars head coach Engin Firat who is reportedly set to include him in the squad for the upcoming matches.

Firat is due to name his squad for the two 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Burundi and Ivory Coast, which will be played in Malawi next month, and among those set to make a return to the team is the ever-green Gor Mahia midfielder.

It will mark a major U-turn for Firat who heavily criticised Odhiambo’s attitude in March when he defended why he did not include him in the national team ahead of the Four-Nations Tournament, despite his great form at club level.

“The Gor Mahia fans, what do they want from their player? A player that is disciplined and does everything for their team, right?” posed Firat during a media briefing in March.

“So, why should it be different with the national team? It is very simple with Austin, last September he and Stanley [Wilson] were in camp so what happened, he could not get a visa to go to Qatar but I told them we will only be in Qatar for two days so I want them back.

“We came back, Stanley was already there [but] no sign of Austin, no one could reach him. His brother Tyson [Otieno] was here, I asked him where is Austin, and he said he didn’t know which is strange.”

Firat then explained how Odhiambo informed his team that he had malaria at a time he was supposed to be in camp only to be seen playing for his club hours later.

The Turkish tactician also went on about how the Gor Mahia man is still not ready for the national team, comparing him to youngsters Stanley Wilson and Timothy Ouma, who are already playing in Europe while saying goals and assists are not enough proof that he is capable.

“How old is Austin? 24, how old is Stanley Wilson or Timothy Ouma? Stanley is 17, Timothy was already 17 when he signed in Europe and he [Austin] is still in Kenya but somebody still wants to explain that he is world-class,” Firat said.

However, Odhiambo struck a reconciliatory tone, saying he is working hard to return to the national team and to his credit, he has continued his impressive form for Gor Mahia, scoring nine league goals so far.

"I think it [disciplinary issue] has been resolved, and I am working hard to earn a call-up to the national team,” Odhiambo said in response to Firat’s comments.

Pulse Sports understands the midfielder is among three Gor Mahia players who are set to be named in Firat’s squad, the others being ever-present Rooney Onyango and striker Benson Omala.

It will not be the first time Firat is making a U-turn on a player he has snubbed over various issues during his stint as Harambee Stars coach.

Omala was also the subject of criticism last year when Firat defended his exclusion from the squad, at a time when he was the leading scorer in the FKF Premier League before he later gave him a call-up ahead of the World Cup qualifiers in November.

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