NAIROBI, Kenya, March 12- As he was being interviewed by the media on Tuesday at Nairobi’s City Stadium, Gor Mahia head coach Zradvko Logarusic had to pause on a number of occasions for the deafening drone from landing Kenya Defence Force (KDF) planes to die down.
Ever the comic, the Croat who was preparing his team before Wednesday’s departure to Cairo for their opening away leg of their first round CAF Confederation Cup tie against ENNPI SC of Egypt saw the lighter side of the distraction that had radio and television reporters on edge.
“They (KDF) are preparing to evacuate us from Egypt if the situation gets out of hand,” he joked as yet another Buffalo plane circled to land at the Moi Air Base in Eastleigh.
But Friday’s match behind a closed stadium in get this, the Air Defence Stadium; in Cairo due to the current political instability in Egypt is not a laughing matter for the 1987 CAF Cup Winners Cup (Mandela Cup) titleholders.
Having dismissed Islanders Anse Re-Union 5-0 on aggregate in the preliminary round of the competition, Logarusic has retained the faith in the same players who destroyed their opponents away after a timid 0-0 stalemate at home threatened to end their continental sojourn at the infant stage.
“There is no need to chance a winning team,” he quipped relying on the tried and tested wisdom of successful coaches worldwide.
Logarusic released a squad of 20 who will called upon to wring a first leg result ahead of the return fixture in Nairobi in two weeks time with Anthony Akumu, who missed the return-leg due to suspension, being drafted into the squad as well as little known duo Mikael Mayoyo and Phillip Soti.
The affable Croat tactician expressed optimism that his charges would deliver a result in their first-leg opening round tie against their Egyptian rivals.
“Let’s go and see them. I have this advantage I have not seen them live or on DVD but I believe in Kenyan players and myself. Gor will represent Kenya properly, I have a young team and I can’t tell how pressure will affect them.
“Sometimes, they will explode and one or two of my strikers will give me a good game but I know they will give me a good result there,” Logarusic expressed.
He added the ENNPI clash would offer his players a chance to prove themselves as they seek to make an impact on the continental scene.
“I always target the sky. They (Egypt) have a good defence, a good attack but I’m asking my players to go out there and hold them and if they can attack them, it’s good but let’s wait.
“Last week, my target was the first round but now, I want them to go as far as they can,” Logarusic charged.
With Gor missing the injured attacking midfielder, Rama Salim, the coach stressed his side had enough players to attain their objective.
“Last week, we had Dan Sserunkuma and Ivan Anguyo on the bench, the best striker and midfielder from last season. We have other players who came in and did the job,” he explained as his team without the established pair managed to beat league rivals Sofapaka 1-0 last weekend.
“We are going out there to play for a result. Why should we be scared of Egyptians? They don’t have better player than the ones they have, they don’t have a better coach than me and the best defence is to attack.
“This (Sofapaka) was the 33rd game we have not been beaten and this years we are stronger since we have brought in three players to improve in the squad. Which coach would have left his best players on the bench?”
He watered down the impact of new signing Paul Mungai Kiongera who netted the winner against Sofapaka to add on to his brace against Anse Re-Union that helped Gor navigate the preliminary round of the CAF Confed Cup 5-0 on aggregate.
“We should not make a lot of noise about Kiongera. He has potential, he has the talent but he has a lot of space to improve. The problem with Kenya is that a star will shine for two or three weeks but after three months nothing, we should keep him a star.
“I have no stars here and he is not our team, are you sure that Kiongera is better than Kevin Omondi or Edwin Lavatsa? No,” Logarusic offered.
Gor are scheduled to return back to the country on Sunday.
Squad: Jerim Onyango, Ivo Mapunda, Anguyo Ivan, Antony Akumu, Abondo Ali, Moses Odhiambo, Solomon Nasio, Christopher Wekesa, Donald Mosoti, David Owino, Edwin Lavatsa, Joseph Njuguna, Kevin Omondi, Kiongera Raphael Mungai, Danny Sserunkuma, Mikael Mayoyo, Rama Salim Patrick Obonyo, Ouma Moses Odhiambo and Phillip Soti
Technical bench: Logarusic Zdravko,(Coach), John Bobby Ogolla [Ass. Coach], Salim Iddi (Team Manager)
Officials: David Kiilo (Vice-Chair), Ronald Ngala (Deputy Sec. Gen).