The Kenyan Premier League (KPL) champions will pause their title party in a bid to extend their recent dominance over AFC Leopards when the bitter rivals clash in the GOtv Shield final on Sunday.
A win would cement the status of the class of 2013 as K’Ogalo legends, emulating their 1987 predecessors who are the last of the great Gor teams to win the league and cup double as well as the defunct CAF Cup Winners Cup to complete the treble.
Despite the recent weeks being one long party after Gor snapped an 18 year-old drought to return to the apex of domestic football, having not won their last two matches, any game against Leopards is enough motivation to rouse K’Ogalo from their carnival mood in the latest installment of the fixture christened ‘Mashemeji (in-laws) Derby.’
The defending champions who will be chasing a third consecutive domestic cup title, has been training under closed doors at their citadel City Stadium in Nairobi ahead of the much anticipated derby at the cathedral of Kenyan football, Nyayo National Stadium.
Speaking to Capital Sport on Thursday, K’Ogalo coach Bobby Williamson expects a tough match with knocks affecting his charges not a threat to his aspirations.
“There are a few injuries but I have a big squad, I’m never concerned about players who are injured, we carry on and give other players a chance to play but that’s up to me to make the decision on Sunday.
“GOtv Shield is a tournament the boys have been doing well over the last few years and on Sunday we are at it again.
“We have to make sure we don’t disappoint our fans who turn out in large numbers, but it’s a derby any one can win,” the former Uganda Cranes tactician who will be at the touchline for his second Mashemeji derby told.
“I decided to come with a new programme to train under closed doors because it’s professional, we should not be having people coming to watch our training, be it the local fans, because the players will not concentrate,” Bobby declared.
Captain, Jerim Onyango, admitted the team was still in celebratory mood, a fortnight after lifting the KPL trophy but players have tried to moderate it and focus on winning the Shield.
“Playing against our arch-rivals is already a motivation as it’s a big match and we know the game will not be easy because we are the defending champions.
“Expectations are high from our fans that have been loyal to the team and also, we want to lift the Shield for the third time so that we can keep it forever,” the outstanding K’Ogalo custodian who is seeking to emulate David Ochieng and Tirus Omondi who were in goal in 1987 added. He will be competing with Tanzanian Ivo Mapunda, who has played in all GOtv matches thus far for the gloves.
With the Green Army now chanting ‘Gigiwasekao’ a Luo expression meaning ‘we have taken these things’ in-form striker Dan Sserunkuma who has found the back of the net four times against Ingwe, will be looking to raid the Leopards den once again.
At the back, Harambee Stars revelation, defender David ‘Calabar’ Owino, alongside Musa Mohammed and Donald Mosoti will be tasked with locking out Leopards attacking force led by the red-hot Allan Wanga.
Isaiah ‘Janabi’ Omondi, Otieno Solo, Otieno Bassanga, Bobby Ogolla (now assistant head coach), Jaffer Mwidau and captain Austin Oduor marshalled the defence of the last K’Ogalo double winners.
In midfield, the likes of Israel Emuge, Joseph Njuguna, Eric Ochieng and the rising sensation Joseph Wanyonyi have their 87 equivalents Abass Magongo, Charles Otieno, Okello Zangi, Onyango Fundi, Ochieng Pierre and Odembo ‘Artillery’ Nyangi to emulate.
Of course, Sserunkuma will draw comparisons with Peter ‘Omuga’ Dawo, the striker who joined K’Ogalo in 1987 and had a habit of sinking winning goals such as the one against Zamalek that won Gor the Mandela Cup, the only continental club crown in Kenya’s name.
Fellow forwards, Edwin Lavatsa and Kevin Omondi have Anthony Ndolo, Sammy Onyango and Ben ‘Breakdance’ Oloo to look up to as they face the side they beat in return leg of the 1987 league courtesy of Dawo and on the final of GOtv predecessor, Moi Golden Cup, where Ingwe were clawed 2-0 to complete the treble.
Sunday’s crunch fixture will witness Gor and Leopards legends square it out to curtain raise for the final for the first time.
The winner of the tournament will pocket Sh2m (USD 23,201.80) as the losing finalist will walk away with Sh750, 000 (USD 8700.68).
Leopards last silenced Gor on October 2, 2011 with a 3-1 victory in the KPL but K’Ogalo have since them found a way to skin their foes, the latest being on August 25 when they came from 2-0 down to force a 2-2 draw in the league that effectively extinguished Leopards hopes of stopping their title charge.