Harambee Stars head coach Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee will now have enough time to recover from a medical procedure after the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) on Thursday pushed back the FIFA World Cup qualifying matches.
The second round of the qualifiers that were set to kick off in June and in which Stars were set to host Uganda in the opening match, have since been pushed back by at least two months.
Had the games proceeded as scheduled, Mulee, could have been forced to hasten his recovery to prepare the team. The tactician is still stranded in India, where he had gone to donate one of his kidneys to his ailing brother.
Stars were set to kick off the race to Qatar 2022 with two crucial East Africa derbies; a match against Cranes in the first week of June, and thereafter, take on Amavubi of Rwanda a week later.
But the much-expected clash with the Cranes, Kenya’s fiercest regional rivals, will now be staged in September after CAF postponed the World Cup qualifiers due to covid-19 pandemic.“The CAF Emergency Committee, in conjunction with FIFA decided to postpone the CAF qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 that were due to be played in June 2021 after taking into consideration the current challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic; and the need to ensure optimal playing conditions for all participating teams.
The qualifiers, CAF directed, will not take place in the existing windows of September-October-September, 2021 and March 2022.
“CAF is reassessing its protocols and processes to enhance the implementation of Covid-19 related protocols, including, specifically focusing on the pre-match testing which had been the source of some challenges in the previous window.”
Stars were scheduled to host Cranes on June 5/6 and thereafter travel to Rwanda. Mali is Kenya’s other opponent in the Group E.
CAF reverted to the format used for the 2014 qualification format after a proposal to merge the 2021 AFCON Qualifiers with those for the World Cup was turned down after a CAF meeting on 11 June 2018.
Forty teams (ranked 1–26 and 14 first-round winners) from 19 groups of four teams will battle for a place in the third and final round in a two legged home-and-away round robin matches with the group winners advancing to the next round.
The ten second round group winners will then play home-and-away over two legs with the five winners to qualify for the Qatar World Cup.