Christopher Mbamba's promising football career took a mysterious turn after an AFCON omission, leaving fans puzzled by his three-year absence.
On Tuesday 14 May 2019, Kenyan football fans were treated to an unusual sight as then-coach Sebastien Migne broke tradition by holding a press conference to unveil the Harambee Stars squad set to represent the nation in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.
The Kenyan football scene had grown accustomed to receiving national team selections through media releases, a stark contrast to the typical practice in West African football powerhouses.
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Among the names on that initial 30-man provisional squad, one stood out - Christopher Mbamba.
Christopher Mbamba's inclusion in the preliminary squad sparked hope and excitement among fans, but it was short-lived.
When the final 27-man list was announced after training camp in France, Mbamba's name was conspicuously absent. The federation cited an ankle injury sustained in his last match before joining the camp as the reason for his omission, leaving fans with unanswered questions.
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Mbamba's journey with Harambee Stars began with his maiden call-up for the final 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Ghana.
Despite showcasing his prowess during training, the Sweden-based midfielder did not make an appearance in the contest due to paperwork complications.
The then-26-year-old was playing for Oskarshamns AIK in Sweden's second-tier league, known for his speed and versatility as a winger or attacking midfielder.
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Born in Zimbabwe but raised in Sweden, Mbamba received his football education in the Scandinavian nation. He had previously played for clubs in Norway, such as Ham Kam, and even had a stint in England with Port Vale.
“I’ve always been eligible. I was called up for Sweden before and at the time left the door open for a call-up to Kenya. Representing your home country, where my roots lie, is what every footballer dreams of.
"So the only real response would be to represent Kenya to my maximum ability and contribute to having an impact not only on the National Team but the national footballing scene with pride,” Mbamba declared at that time, eagerly awaiting his first appearance for the Kenyan national team as per Nairobi News.
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However, fate had different plans. Despite his ambition to don the Kenyan jersey, Mbamba missed out on the AFCON final squad due to bureaucratic hurdles.
He expressed gratitude to coach Migne for the opportunity and expressed confidence in the squad selected to represent Kenya in the tournament.
“I am proud of how far I reached with this team,” Mbamba shared with reporters in France as per Goal. “The squad is good, and I am expecting to see them go as far as the quarter-finals of the competition. They are good players, they have the hunger to play, and I know they will do well for the country.”
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Those words marked the last public statement from Christopher Mbamba, and since then, his whereabouts have remained a mystery.
He celebrated his 31st birthday in April, but his last appearance in professional football dates back to January 2020 when he seemingly joined Assyriska BK, a team in the Swedish fourth tier.
Mbamba signed a contract with the club until the end of the season, but he never graced the pitch again, as the league came to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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As a free agent, Mbamba has struggled to secure a spot with a top-notch club for three years now, leaving football enthusiasts eagerly awaiting news of his next move.
Where has this once-promising midfield gem disappeared to, and will he ever return to the Harambee Stars, resuming his international footballing journey after leaving Sweden and Zimbabwe to represent Kenya?