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Hosts Leopards, Gor set for ‘pay bill’ derby

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AFC-TRAIN-DEEPNAIROBI, April 9 – What will be a successful season for champions Gor Mahia head coach Frank Nuttall or opposite number; AFC Leopards’ Zdravko Logarusic will be to lift the 2015 KPL title.

But nothing can satisfy their fans more than carrying bragging rights when the two old giants clash in their first meeting this season in Sunday’s ‘Mashemeji’ (In-laws) derby at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium.

Build up is already at fever pitch with broadcast rights holders, SuperSport transmitting the mouth-watering clash live starting with an hour long pre-match analysis before kick-off at 3pm local time (GMT+3) with an entirely local crew.

Plans and arrangement are in top gear from fans that will not only compete in numbers on the material day but also bid to outdo the other in chanting, singing and dancing for their beloved clubs.

Gor who draw the bulk of their fan base from Luo Nyanza will paint the capital city green as they converge at their usual Tom Mboya statue shrine before matching to the venue while Leopards whose bedrock support from largely the central part of Western Kenya will counter the wave with their blue and white striped kit in the country’s biggest football match.

In a sad state of affairs, the well supported local titans are once again facing financial problems that have added the spice to Sunday’s encounter billed by some wags as ‘Paybill Derby.’

Gor and Leopards have extended the begging bowl to their supporters using mobile service platforms with others establishing their own initiative to motivate players by greasing their hands to give blood for the shirt.

“Players need your support. Gor Mahia fans have initiated (a) players’ motivation kitty towards boosting morale of players ahead of Mashemeji Derby. 0716 373 503 is the M-PESA number….Please send whatever you have we will appreciate,” staunch Gor supporter, Ibrahim Jaafar Olum posted on the team’s official Facebook wall to run alongside their authorised pay bill number 350100.

Last week, Leopards rolled out their own mobile paybill number 196464 in what was a clever number play with the year they were established, 1964 with their players going for months without pay and their head coach rumored to have abandoned last week for the same reason.

-Social media banter-

Ahead of the encounter, opposing fans have taken to social media platforms to spar against each other, with each team’s shortcomings providing the ammunition for the roasts.

“Which AFC will be playing, AFC Opwora, AFC kawaida (usual) ama (or) AFC karanga (Combined)?” Samson Kidha posted on Leopards in reference to reported splits at The Den.

“Wembe ni ule ule kwa mashemeji,” Edwin Wamalwa wrote on the Leopards wall indicating they would use the same stick to thrash their rivals.

The violent past during the fierce games is never far off the surface with supporters taking to the same platform to call for peace.

“Hi pals. The Derby is coming up this weekend, and we all would love a family afternoon out with lovely football. My anti hooliganism campaign is still on and one key message we should all be sharing is saying ‘NO’ to hooliganism. Let’s share the message on the hashtag ‪#‎StopHooliganismKE. Penda Futaa, Sare Noma. (Love football, shun hooliganism) ‪#‎MK23,”Leopards attacking midfielder, Mike Khamati, wrote on Facebook.

“On Sunday 12th LET’S KEEP PEACE, PEACE, PEACE!!” another Ingwe fan Sa’adallah Junior added.

A lot is at stake for both sides and as Gor will be looking to register their fifth successive win on the bounce away to Leopards who are banking on a huge turnout to clear three-months salary and bonus arrears they owe players and technical bench from gate collections.

It will be the maiden derby for both Nuttall and Logarusic at their clubs, but it’s the latter who has the feel for it more, having managed Gor for one and half seasons where he left without losing to Leopards in three matches (winning twice and drawing once) between 2012 and 3 season.

Despite their poor form in the run up to Sunday, Ingwe enter the game with heads high having claimed bragging rights last season after thumping Gor 3-1 in the first-leg before playing to a 2-2 draw in return.

K’Ogalo who have not beaten Ingwe since May 2013 when departed Uganda forward Dan Serunkuma got the winner in a 1-0 win with Logarusic still in charge, have sunk 12 goals in their opening four games to storm to the summit in their defence with two games in hand.

“It’s going to be a special day of football for both players and fans because all of them have been looking forward for this derby. But then again, it is just another match with only three points at stake.

“I’ve been involved in derbies before and this will not be any different. True, this is my first derby here but I’m ready for it. The players are ready for it too. We will take stock of our performance against KCB then plan for the next game,” Nutall who saw his charges deliver warning after easing past KCB 3-1 on Wednesday said.

-Sluggish start-

Ingwe have had a sluggish start that leaves them four points behind their perennial rivals and will look at the derby as a potential turning point.

Logarusic is back in the team after sitting out in their 1-1 draw against Thika United last weekend and declared his charges are ready for the big game.

“Gor are enjoying great form. They seem to have had very good pre season and it is showing from the way they are playing. But derbies are interesting and it’s not about form. My job at Leopards is to ensure we win.

“I’m looking for a great outing on Sunday. It will be my fifth derby here and I can’t wait,” asserted the Croatian who was on the stands to watch Gor tear KCB apart.

K’Ogalo’s joint top scorers Meddie Kagere and Ali Abondo are likely to take centre stage supported by Michael Olunga, Khalid Aucho and the defensive duo of Abouba Sibomana and Karim Nzigiyimana.

With skipper Jerim Onyango yet to start a match this season, former Harambee Stars custodian Boniface Oluoch is expected to continue his role in between the sticks with stand in captain Musa Mohammed partnering with Harun Shakava at centre back in place of Liberian import Dikir Glay who is ineligible to play due to lack of work permit.

For Leopards, 2013 KPL Golden Boor winner, Jacob Keli who has scored two goals so far is set to return after missing their last match against Thika United where they were held 1-1 to lead Logarusic men upfront alongside Noah Wafula , Timonah Wanyonyi and Nigerian Austin Ikenna.

Inform Burundian, Emmanuel Ngama is expected to control the midfield flanked by Musa Mudde, Diallo Lamine and Bernard Mang’oli while Joseph Shikokoti, Martin Imbalambala, Edwin Wafula and Martin Kiiza will man the defence.

Regular Wycliffe Kasaya who was benched against Thika is likely to return in the starting line-up for Joel Bataro in goal.

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