NAIROBI, Kenya, March 31- Sofapaka have received a boost with news their dependable winger, Bob Mugalia, will be fit to play in Saturday’s crucial return CAF Confederations Cup second leg clash against Egyptian giants Ismaily.
Mugalia was a huge doubt for the match after he went out injured while on duty with national team Harambee Stars in their Tuesday’s 3-0 away loss to Nigeria’s Super Eagles in Abuja.
“We have assessed Mugalia and his is fit for the game after initials fears his injury was serious,” Sofapaka caretaker coach, Ezekiel Akwana, said Thursday in the team’s pre-match press conference at a Nairobi hotel.
With Mugalia back in the frame for Saturday, Sofapaka are now left anxious on replacement centre half, Kilonzo Tumba who is expected to slot in for the suspended Edgar Ochieng in defence.
“Tumba has had a bout of Malaria but we expect him to recover by Friday but he remains a concern but if he does not make it, I have enough replacement players. The 20 who are in training for the game are giving me a hard time on who will be in my starting line-up since they are all ready,” Akwana expressed.
The tactician who will lead the side as the head of the technical bench for the last time on Saturday before vacating the lead coaching role to Francis Kimanzi thereafter disclosed he would only release his starting 11 from Friday night. Apart from Ochieng, he will also miss the services of his other first choice centre half, George Owino who is out injured.
On his team’s chances to be the first ever Kenyan outfit to knock an Egyptian team out of a continental tournament, Akwana reiterated, “We will work to get a quick early goal and when one goes in, the rest can come. Yes, I believe we can win no matter how hard things appear.”
At the same time, team captain, James Situma, who featured in Stars travelling party charged he would rely what he learnt in the national team during last Saturday’s Africa Nations Cup qualifier against Angola and Nigeria’s friendly to rally his team mates in the tie they are trailing 2-0 from the first leg in Ismailia.
“We won against Angola and then lost to Nigeria but I learned a lot from playing against international players who have won many things. This is the knowledge I shall try to pass on my team mates on Saturday.
“The match is difficult but I believe Sofapaka has the players to get the result and make history for our country. When we were promoted to the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) in 2009, we made history by winning the title in our maiden year and we can make history again.”
On his own indifferent displays with Stars where he looked the shadow of the utility player who has commanded respect in local circles, the skipper intoned, “Harambee Stars and Sofapaka have different coaches who give different instructions and roles to their players so personally, I know what I have to do to lead the team against Ismaily.”
Club president, Elly Kalekwa, made an impassioned plea for fans to turn out in numbers to lend the side support saying it was crucial in enhancing their chances of upsetting the Egyptians who arrived on Tuesday.
“Let me tell you the truth, the game in Egypt was played 60 percent by their players and 40 percent by their fans and this is the kind of atmosphere we need to create on Saturday to give our boys a chance.
“We are not calling our fans to repeat the bad behaviour of their fans like lighting up smoke flares when we had possession, making it impossible for us to see the ball or throwing objects to the pitch but we can learn for the huge support they gave their team,” Kalekwa held.
He however, told they were yet to receive the Match Commissioner’s report to see whether the incidents were noted which would open the Egyptian club to governing body CAF sanctions.
Kalekwa announced tickets for the match had gone on sale from Thursday afternoon at Nyayo National Stadium, City Stadium, Roy Sambu, Kenya Cinema, 20th Century Cinemas, Goshen Gardens and Hope Centre in Kawangware with VIP seats going for Sh500 and Sh100 for terraces.
“On Saturday, we will be flying Kenya’s flag and we therefore, open ourselves to all fans even those living outside Nairobi to come and be with us. There is time for them to make travel arrangements,” the president said.