NAIROBI, Kenya, November 16- The third meeting this season of archrivals Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards on Saturday may be to compete for the minor prize that is the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Cup but the intensity will be no lesser.
Both marquee sides of Kenyan football were beaten to the league last week by the third force- Tusker FC- in dramatic circumstances on the last day of competition last weekend and for some Gor fans, the failure to secure a first domestic crown in 17 years was too much to bear as they went on rampage.
Once again, a trail of destruction littered their wake and ahead of the clash christened Shemeji (In-law) derby, FKF and their Kenyan Premier League (KPL) counterparts went a long way to bring both clubs together to urge the maintenance of law and order.
“We are urging fans to observe discipline and stop hooliganism during this game. Both clubs have done well in the past season and we should celebrate the game,” federation boss Sam Nyamweya held while slamming unruly supporters.
After the technical and security meeting on Wednesday, Nyamweya led a peace march from the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani where the match and indeed all Gor games will be played to press home the point.
As expected, coaches at the opposite dugouts have sharpened their resolve as they prepare to face each other for the second time this season since September 22 when Croat Zdravko Logarusic outwitted his Dutch opponent Jan Koops when K’Ogalo ran 2-1 winners in their second leg league tie at the same venue.
“We almost won the Premier League title but that is now over. It’s time to dust ourselves up and finish on a high by retaining the FKF cup,” Logarusic told SuperSport.com.
“Gor Mahia is a strong team and a good opposition and this match is good for local football. I hope that hooliganism doesn’t repeat itself because it’s hurting Kenyan football.”
“I know without a doubt that we have a good chance of winning the game and that is what we will try and execute when we clash,” opposite number Koops asserted.
The match will also mark a century of games since the arch rivals first met and therefore, its historical significance cannot be understated.
On March 18, Gor welcomed Ingwe in the first leg of the league with K’Ogalo starving off relegation while Leopards were in the thick of a 23-match unbeaten run that saw them start the competition on a ten-game unbeaten sequence.
With the Green Army growing restless on the Nyayo National Stadium stands, the match turned on its head with a quarter of an hour left when Ali Abondo was given a straight red.
Gor fans took exception to this decision and soon after, projectiles descended on the pitch as the match was held up for almost 15 minutes since they felt Leopard players had gotten away with meaty challenges unpunished.
The match ended 0-0 and the fracas poured outside with irate Gor supporters turning their wrath on property within the vicinity and outside the stadium, including damage to vehicles as crew of broadcasters SuperSport were allegedly assaulted.
Disciplinary hearings fined the club heavily and their scheduled KPL Top 8 tie on April 1 was rescheduled to July 12 but it was never to be as Leopard’s management made good their threat to snub the tie.
Gor went on to win the tournament by beating Ulinzi 2-0 to spark their revival under Logarusic having fired Cameroonian Anaba Awono and his entire technical bench a month earlier in June.
Leopard’s fortunes went the other way as Ingwe lost their unbeaten run and saw their once seven-point lead in the league whittled down as the competition came to the business end.
Their September game was then billed as a potential decider and with most Ingwe fans staying away, a Ugandan import Dan Sserunkuma first double was enough to cage the Leopards who had veteran forward Mike Baraza score at the beginning of the second to set up a tense finish.
After enjoying their league bliss, Tusker’s charge for the domestic double will continue on Sunday at the same stadium when they face another wounded side, Sofapaka in the other semi.
Gor are the defending FKF Cup champions and should they navigate through their arch rivals on Saturday and win the final on Tuesday, then they will represent the country at the CAF Confederations Cup which would go a long way to erase the distress of letting the league title slop from their grip when they were on pole.
The matches will be televised on SuperSport from 3pm local time on both days after the broadcast partner who had pulled the plug on Gor following reports of assaulting their crew and damaging equipment following their league loss once again surfaced.
FKF and KPL disciplinary bodies are investigating the claims in a view of sanctioning Gor should the club be found culpable.