NAIROBI, Kenya, November 9- After some 2,610 hours of football spanning across 29 matches, it’s all boiled down to the final 90 minutes to determine which captain will lift the big eared Tusker Premier League trophy.
The Kenyan Premier League (KPL) have made plans to have the real trophy at City Stadium with two replicas at Awendo Green and Hope Centre in case league leaders Gor stumble at home to open the door for either Tusker or AFC Leopards to be crowned the winners.
“We have put all logistics in place to have the trophy taken to the league leaders. We also know who will hand over the trophy for the winning team in Awendo and Hope Centre but for City, we are not sure whether the Prime Minister, Sports Minister or head of the federation will be at hand,” KPL chief executive confirmed to Capital Sport.
“Already, the replicas have been made and all other logistics are in place for the climax,” he added.
The need to have silverware across three venues is a testament of the knife-edge finale on the cards with either Jerim Onyango (Gor Mahia), Joseph Shikokoti (Tusker) and Martin Imbalambala (AFC Leopards) standing by to hoist the trophy depending on the outcome when the final whistles go for the 30th round of the thrilling season.
Kenyan football fans have been transported back through a time portal to the retro era of the 80s and early 90s when the big three, Gor, Leopards and Tusker (formerly Kenya Breweries) used to duke it out for the title.
Ahead of the Super Saturday, the table leads thus, Gor 58, Tusker 57, Leopards 57 and to say City, Awendo and Hope Centre will en capsule the proverbial English side Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s ‘Squeaky bum time’ will be an understatement.
This is the third season in a row that the title chase has gone to the wire, no doubt a boost to broadcast sponsors SuperSport who could have not wished for a better fodder for television hence the arrival of the big guns such as Thomas Mulambo for this campaign’s finale.
In 2010, it was the turn for K’Ogalo, then under the charge of Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno to fall three points short of the title as Ulinzi celebrated and a year later, the soldiers chased Tusker all the way to the finish line before relinquishing the title.
The simple mathematics dictate that Gor need only a 1-0 win over Thika United at their cauldron or for the three front runners to all draw their matches to settle the title but should K’Ogalo falter, then it will be up in the air.
The Brewers who relinquished their advantage when they were bottled at City 1-0 a fortnight ago face City Stars who have guaranteed their continued top flight status in 13th while Leopards travel to Awendo to face Otieno’s Sony with the former K’Ogalo chief who was the last Gor captain to lift the national crown presenting Ingwe a potential banana skin.
Ahead of the curtain closing fixtures, conspiracy and the muted talk of deployment of ‘remote control’ or witchcraft that used to be a mainstay of Kenyan club football of yore have gathered pace.
Gor’s management staunchly declined Football Kenya Federation’s call to shift their season-ender to the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, with the mythical significance of their City home that can only carry 12,000 fans not lost on the Green Army.
“City Stadium is Gor’s home venue and that is where the match will be played. Everything is in place for that and the match will take place there as planned on Saturday at 1500hrs,” said David Kilo, the club senior vice chairman told the press.
With Gor and Thika being sponsored by Brookside Dairies, the conspiracy theorists have pointed out that the match ‘could be decided at the boardroom’ with the firm keen on not ‘seeing the widely supported Gor’ loose the ‘milk derby’ to the lesser supported side.
With 17 goals this season, Ugandan import, Dan Sserunkuma is the latter day K’Ogalo hero as he has fired them to the cusp of the league title, his winner against Tusker and hat-trick against Muhoroni in the last two fixtures emphasising his importance to the title-march.
Such is the devotion to the cause for the striker who transferred from City Stars that he declined the chance to link up with his national team The Cranes for preparations of the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup after being called-up by Bob Williamson.
“At the moment all my mind is on my club Gor Mahia which has been very close to me and for that reason I will not be going to the Uganda Cranes camp to prepare for Cecafa that is my decision,” Sserunkuma told SuperSport.com.
To assume the summit, Gor strung an impressive run of eight wins in eight with Mathare United who held them to a 2-2 draw in August the last side to deny them the three points.
After wobbling in their title defence, Tusker turned to Robert Matano inthe same month and after securing consecutive 0-0 draws against Ulinzi, Leopards and his former side Sofapaka, the Brewers went on to win four on the bounce to take charge at the top before being brought down by Gor.
They recovered to beat Western Stima 2-0 to remain in the hunt.
Up to the start of the second leg, it was a matter of what margin Leopards could potentially win the title after a roaring start to the competition that saw them go ten matches unbeaten.
It all began to unravel for Jan Coops side in April when they decided to take their match against Tusker to Mombasa.
There, the Dutchman who was enjoying his first full season following his appointment mid last tern saw his side lose 2-0 but they still enjoyed a five-point cushion at the top but a draw against Karuturi, a shock 3-0 reverse at City Stars and a 2-1 loss against Sofapaka allowed challengers to catch-up.
The house of Ingwe was divided as reports of Coops being ‘suspended’ surfaced but the club’s rank and file met to resolve the crisis and they hauled themselves back to contention only for Western Stima and Gor to end their stay at the top by skinning them by identical 2-1 margins in September.
Those successive defeats could yet prove to be the results that denied Ingwe their first title since 1998.
Based on the form-book however, nobody would begrudge Gor should the side that has transformed under Croat national, Zdravko Logarusic at the helm win the crown having knocked the door for the past three seasons.
“We are not celebrating yet since we know what is ahead of us and we must remain focused, committed and strong enough to manage the pressure,” Logarusic said.