NAIROBI, Kenya, November 5- Having taken 18 years for Kenya’s most supported club, Gor Mahia, to wrest back the domestic premier league title, the next target for the side is to reclaim its place at the high table of continental football next season.
The Nairobi based club that draws fanatical bedrock following among the Luo community of Western Kenya clinched the title with three games to spare, sparking wild celebration among its fans popularly known as Green Army on Sunday when they were presented with the trophy.
It took two foreign coaches, Croat Zradvko Logarusic and Scotsman, Bob Williamson to lead them to the title they last won in 1995 before their era of local, regional and continental dominance ended amid mismanagement and football wars that took the better part of the next decade.
It sees their return to the CAF Champions League next season and being the only Kenyan club to win continental silverware when they won the now defunct CAF Cup Winners Cup (Mandela Cup) in 1987, Gor are aiming to cause ripples in Africa once more.
“The match was good but we wanted to be crowned champions in style by winning this match, but we are now focusing on the CAF Champions League which we want to make history,” said Williamson after they lost 2-0 to KCB before the trophy presentation on Sunday.
“The passion, the drive and the commitment to their team our fans possess are enough to inspire the players to aim at taking them as far as they can in the competition,” he said.
“I will sit with the club management when the celebrations are over and discuss the areas we need to strengthen our squad to make it more competitive in the Champions League and domestically,” the coach added.
“It’s a different ball game out there and difficult to make it at least to the group stages where the prize money comes starting in but Gor have the capacity to mount a spirited continental challenge,” the Scot who succeeded Logarusic in late June added.
His predecessor came within a win on the last day of last season to seal the title but Gor drew 1-1 with Thika United to allow deposed champions, Tusker FC who beat Nairobi City Stars 3-0 to leapfrog them to the crown.
“That was the painful experience that drove us this season. We learnt our mistakes and this time, we made sure we established consistency. The coming of Williamson help in keeping the squad united and focused at a time when we could have easily lost it again,” Ugandan striker, Dan Sserunkuma, who top scored for Gor for the second season running, told.
Having come close to leaving the club two months ago, Sserunkuma added he was pleased he did not force his move as he looks forward to lead Gor’s continental challenge.
“Winning the title with Gor is the happiest moment in my career and I do not regret staying because now, I can play in the biggest stage of African football,” the striker said.
Williamson, who was Uganda head coach before coming to Gor, never selected Sserunkuma for the national side despite his scoring prowess that saw him voted the Kenyan Premier League Player of the Year in 2012.
“To be honest, I regret not having him play for the Cranes but he has a big international future ahead of him,” the tactician confessed.
With the players arriving for their presentation match on three limousines; their faithful packed the 60,000-seater Moi International Sports Complex, Kasarani stadium, to witness the historic moment.
Their fourth loss of the season did not dampen the spirits as the Green Army besieged Nairobi in an eight-kilometre procession from the stadium to the Central Business District shutting down all businesses en route.
“The last time Gor won the league, I was only nine years old and it gives me so much joy to lift this cup hopefully, not for the last time. We need to invest heavily in the Champions League since until the group stage, it is the club to generate the huge finances involved,” said captain and goal keeper, Jerim Onyango, who was one of the star performers for the titleholders throughout the season.
“This season, we did not perform well in the CAF Confederation Cup because we could not compete with the resources our opponents had to have good preparation. It is our aim and mission to take the name of our club to the continent,” Onyango said.
Having won the domestic cups in 2009, 2011 and 2012, Gor crashed out of the preliminary stages of the Confed Cup on the first two before exiting at the first round this year.
However, with renewed investment in the technical bench and playing unit largely driven by the astounding support their fans give them home and away, Gor are in a better position to cause a stir in Africa next season.