NAIROBI, Kenya, February 23- The battle lines have been drawn, the sparring contest is dusted, the stage is set and what remains is 22 opposing front line men to earn their corn on the pitch.
After a bruising league contest that lasted until the final minute of added time last season champions Tusker and Football Kenya Federation Cup holders, Gor Mahia, lock horns in the curtain raising DStv/SuperSport Super Cup on Saturday at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium.
With both teams in continental action next week, coaches, Robert Matano and more so K’Ogalo boss, Zradvko Logarusic are desperate to carry the day in the tie that will leave the winner Sh750,000 richer as the perfect boost to morale ahead of the forthcoming season.
On Friday, the two men flanked by their skippers engaged in pre-match niceties but the fierce determination for both clubs to trump their rivals was never far from the surface.
“Tusker has few fans so when we go to the field to play, we know that we are also our biggest fans and beating Gor with their many supporters is what every Tusker player dreams off,” the Brewer’s deputy skipper and custodian Samuel Odhiambo charged to encapsulate his team’s burning desire to do one over the enemy.
“It’s a big game considering that they won the league and we were the runners-up. We respect Tusker as the league champions but will not show them too much respect and may the best team and the one that takes its chances win.
“Lifting this trophy will be a big morale booster for us before we head to Seychelles. Some of our players were demoralised after we drew with (Ansa) Re-Union,” fellow keeper and Gor captain, Jerim Onyango reiterated.
Brewers in fine fettle
Tusker have been on a roll having thumped St Michel, also of Seychelles, 4-1 in their CAF Champions League preliminary tie away and come to this match in fine fettle having launched their campaign in December where they played in high profile friendlies in Tanzania in addition to sailing to the finals of Mapinduzi Cup in Zanzibar.
Last season, they bottled Gor Mahia on penalties to lift the Super Cup and coach Robert Matano, who was not at the helm at that stage is licking his fingers at the prospect of more silverware.
“We are playing in the same cup and although we have been in good form, we are playing a good team and we want to retain the trophy and it will be an entertaining match.
“As far as we have it, our aim is to maintain what we have and we know every team is looking to take what we have,” Matano who came to Tusker for the final ten games of the league season last year stated.
He promised to give some of the players who did not feature in their away match in Seychelles a chance to state their case ahead of the return leg next Friday.
“Our coach knows nothing else apart from winning. He normally tells us he is a winner and will always remain a winner and the players have learned that. He is like a father and makes us work hard,” Odhiambo said of the tactician locally known as ‘Lion’.
Is Logarusic under pressure?
Gor Croat coach, Logarusic is already feeling the heat having lost the inaugural Kenya Power Charity Cup on penalties a week before the Islanders forced his side to a tepid stalemate that deflated the fervent Green Army support.
However, the Croat who confirmed he will stay until the end of the current season after speculation about his future dominated K’Ogalo’s close season insists his side is still in the process of pre-season training.
“We have only worked 20 percent with the ball and 80 percent with the physical conditions. As a coach, I know our fans want to win everything including other things outside the country. We have been in pre-season training.
“We are building ourselves for the long run and during the season, I’m ready to go to every competition. I have a programme for the whole season but I will try to win every competitive game since Gor Mahia expect that,” the Croat offered alluding that his side was yet to get revved up as they seek to distil the Brewers potency.
“We are not living in the past and this game will help me know how far we have come one week before we travel to Seychelles,” he added in reference to their CAF Confederation Cup away return tie.
He will be missing the services of influential attacking midfielder, Rama Salim who is out injured while David Odhiambo is a doubt for the Super Cup rumble.
Sponsors DStv and Super Sport presented a Sh1.25m cheque with the runner-up taking home Sh500,000 with the man of the match and both coaches receiving a DStv Walka mobile satellite device.
A total of 27,000 tickets have been printed for the tie with the VIP seats being levied at Sh500 and stands going for Sh200. Ticket Masters outlets within the city including 20th Century and Kenya cinemas and City Stadium will dispense them with no ones available at Nyayo on match day.
The match will be aired live on SuperSport East (channel 219) and SuperSport Select with build-up half an hour before the 4pm local time kick-off.