Talented Onyango leads Kenya U-23 in Cosafa Cup 

Rooney Onyango dribbles past teammate Duncan Otieno during a past Harambee Stars training session at MISC, Nairobi chris omollo
Rooney Onyango dribbles past teammate Duncan Otieno during a past Harambee Stars training session.
Photo credit: Chris Omollo | Nation

Talented Rooney Onyango will be keen to continue with his rise when he leads Kenya Under-23 in the 2024 Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) Cup that started on June 26, in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Guest team Kenya arrived in the populous South African seaport city in the Eastern Cape Province on Wednesday morning for the 12-nation tournament.

They are in Group “B” together with Comoros and Zimbabwe. The invited East Africans open their campaign today against seven-time champions and holders Zambia at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium from 7 pm (Kenyan time).

Group “A” consists of South Africa, Mozambique, Eswatini and Botswana while Angola, Namibia, Lesotho, and Seychelles are in Group “C”. Group winners and the second best second team progress to the semi-finals.

Onyango, 22, has been impressive for Gor Mahia and the senior Harambee Stars and it is no surprise that Kenya U-23 coach Kennedy Odhiambo picked him to lead the side.

“He is one of the best players at the moment in the Kenyan league. This boy is so confident, he is a leader and I believe he has a bright future,” said Odhiambo on Monday at Nyayo National Stadium.

Playing as a right-back, Onyango was among the standout players in Gor’s triumph in the 2023/24 Football Kenya Federation Premier League (FKF-PL) that concluded on Sunday. K’Ogalo’s defence was the meanest in the league, as the team only conceded 20 goals, thanks to the presence of the solid Onyango.

He has featured for Harambee Stars as a winger, underlining his versatility.

Onyango has been a revelation since he made his national team debut against Russia last October.

He was impressive for Kenya against Burundi and reigning African champions Cote d’Ivoire in their Group “F” 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifiers at Bingu National Stadium on June 7 and 11 respectively. 

Kenya battled to a 1-1 and barren draw against Burundi and Cote d’Ivoire. All eyes will be on how the alumnus of Passenga Secondary School in Nyandarua will perform in South Africa alongside under-18 talents Aldrine Kibet, Elly Owande, Ibrahim Wanzala, and Amos Wanjala.

“I believe that with God and the planning we have done in the short time that we had, we will show what we are made of and I believe come July 7, we will be smiling,” said Odhiambo.

Kenya will be making their second Cosafa Cup appearance, having first featured in 2013 going out in the pool stages.

Zambia, the most successful team in the tournament will also be seeking to win an unprecedented third trophy in a row.

The 23-man Chipolopolo squad consists of only local players except Al Hilal striker Albert who is on loan at Red Arrows. 

The team is coached by Chisi Mbewe.

Today’s match will mark the 50th meeting between Kenya and Zambia. They first met on October 19, 1963, when the southern African nation was still referred to as Northern Rhodesia. Zambia has the most wins, 27, against Kenya’s 15. 

The other seven matches have ended in draws.

The two nations last locked horns in a friendly match on October 9, 2020 where hosts Kenya won 2-1.