NAIROBI, Kenya, October 25 – The headquarters of the self-styled ‘County of choice’ Machakos welcomes hordes of Green (‘Gween’ in local pronunciation) Army supporters who will invade the town to back their beloved Gor Mahia to the hilt in their top of the table clash against hosts Sofapaka on Sunday.
Victory for the defending Kenyan Premier League (KPL) titleholders against their closest challengers who adopted Machakos as their home from this season in a bid to piggyback on the County’s boom will bring them to touching distance of the crown and knock out Sofapaka who are four adrift (54 against 50) out of the race.
A defeat for K’Ogalo will throw everything wide open with two games left with a draw only serving to extend the agony for their supporters to next week.
Machakos that lies approximately 54km from Nairobi, a short distance that sometimes seems like eternity during heavy traffic along the busy Mombasa-Nairobi highway and narrow 16km snaking feeder road to the town is not a new hunting ground the Green Army who turned everywhere in the admittedly small urban centre into a cacophony of green and white during K’Ogalo’s season’s away opener against Mathare United, another that adopted the town in a 1-0 victory.
This time, they return to ‘Masaku’ as it’s popularly known by its residents with their heads held high and at a time their club needs them most with their title they waited 18 years to savour last season at stake.
Despite most of the major roads set to be closed Sunday including Mombasa Road that leads to due to the Standard Chartered Nairobi International Marathon, the K’Ogalo faithful are adamant they will reach their destination with some giving alternative routes through social media in their official face book page.
Larky Luke Oj advised; “now that most roads will be closed on Sunday, we will mess ourselves up if we use Jogoo Road which is usually messed up juu ya (because of) jam….my advice is that tutumie (we use) Thika Road then at clay works (just after Kenyatta University) we take a turn that heads to City Cabanas then tuendelee na safari (we continue with the journey).”
Some of the fans took the opportunity to advocate peace after watching their ‘Mashemeji (In-laws)’ and bitter rivals of all ages; AFC Leopards fined after a section of their fans caused trouble at their GOtv Semi-final against Sofapaka leading to its abandonment.
Social media was rife with reports ‘mischief makers’ were intent on sparking fracas and compel Gor to be docked points by authorities to derail their charge, with the perpetrators said to be buying replica K’Ogalo jerseys in numbers to fulfil their nefarious plot.
“Be very vigilant on Sunday. Reports suggest a group of goons will camouflage as Gor fans and start causing chaos during the game, their target being to have the club docked points,” veteran football reporter, Odindo Ayieko wrote on Facebook.
Woud Obwebwe Tinga added, “The way things stand we should be very careful with our game on Sunday. Politics might come in, we should tread carefully while Haggai Daktari posted on the same forum, “Try and cause any kind of chaos in Machakos on Sunday during our game against Sofapaka and you are as good as dead.”
A meeting with County security bosses was scheduled for Saturday by both homesides since Mathare will welcome Sony Sugar in the earlier clash of the televised double header.
-Gor’s historical edge-
Gor head to the tie with a better head-to- head record against Batoto Ba Mungu who have just won once since joining the league in 2009 but head coach Frank Nuttall says they will approach the match like any other before the crunch tie.
“Everybody is focused and we know everything is not based on Sunday’s game. I urge the fans to encourage the players and give them support by turning up in large numbers because it will be a tough match considering Sofapaka is a good team,” the Scotsman told Capital Sport.
Captain and keeper Jerim Onyango said they will not be dwelling in the past but will be seeking to maximum points to knock the home side out of contention.
“We are done with Mathare and we are now focusing on how we can put down Sofapaka. Everyone is geared up for the match and I’m looking forward to a very good game.
“Beating them in the first-leg or in the past doesn’t mean they are a bad side so we are expecting a tough game since they will be at home. It’s a very important match because if we win our chances of retaining the league are high,” Onyango who has the added motivation of welcoming his second born this week charged.
Gor who are unbeaten in the second-leg are coming from a 1-0 win over Mathare and will be looking upon talisman Dan Sserunkuma for goals with George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo and Daniel Onyango flanking the Ugandan in the absence of doubted Timothy Otieno.
Last season in a fixture of similar importance at this stage of the season, Sserunkuma scored a brilliant winner in a 1-0 win as Gor took the title and Sofapaka finished third.
Captain and central defender Felly Mulumba is suspended after accumulating five yellow cards to deal the challengers a huge blow.
The Sam Timbe side, who heads to the encounter after booking a GOtv Shield final, will be looking to dominate the midfield orchestrated by Ekaliana Ndolo and Danson Kago while speedy Enoch Agwanda and Abdul Razak Fiston will be the men to beat upfront.
Batoto Ba Mungu are in the hunt for a second KPL title after they won promotion for 2009 before going on to clinch the honours at the first time of asking.