NAIROBI, Kenya, October 3 – At this time last season, the ‘Giniwasekao’ slogan rent up the air as Gor Mahia closed in on their first title in 18 years, having opened a seven point lead at the top of the Kenyan Premier League.
This term, the clarion call has been adjusted to ‘Ginitunawesdefend’ (loosely, we can defend this) but the crescendo has not hit the feverish heights of last year since three potent contenders and a determined rank outsider, are in the running for the coveted trophy with Gor once again on pole in a flying finish to the season.
K’Ogalo on 48 points, have a chance of giving their Green Army some voice to chant ‘Giniwasekao’ a Luo phrase meaning ‘we have taken this’ or the cross breed between the native language and street slang, ‘Ginitunawesdefend’ should they overcome a tricky test against Nairobi City Stars who are fighting tooth and nail to stay up after three near misses from the axe on Saturday.
The second clash at the venue will see Gor face City Stars hoping to seal the double over them after a 2-0 stuffing in the reverse fixture.
The match has high stakes for both sides with K’Ogalo out to establish a five point cushion with a win while the Kawangware based side who are three points off safety can start planning for life in the second tier Super League should they fail to cause a seismic upset by toppling Gor.
Gor who are likely to field the same side that beat trophy rivals Chemelil Sugar before slumping to a barren stalemate with lowly Bandari know Stars who have perfected the Great Escape can rise to the occasion against titans after forcing Tusker to a 1-1 deadlock.
City Stars who have not beaten Gor in the last five matches, drawing two and losing three.
The Robinson Ndumbuisi side will miss forwards Ray Omondi and George Abege with injuries while keeper Fredrick Majani will be seeking to stand tall in the between the sticks after impressing against the Brewers, as veteran Denis ‘wise’ Okoth will be the man to watch in the midfield.
For Gor head coach Frank Nuttall, the resurgence of George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo might give him headache in deciding whether to start with the 2010 Player of the Year or the youngster Timothy Otieno who was a shoe-in before he got injured.
Kevin Oluoch has cemented the left fullback position, while Godfrey Walusimbi will continue in his attacking role partnering with his Ugandan counterparts; midfielder Geoffrey Kizito and talisman Dan Sserunkuma.
-Stealth Sofapaka rising-
Closest challengers, Sofapaka, 46, who have gone about mounting their title quest without the spotlight they deserve are away to a team tagged ‘Gor B’; Sony Sugar at Awendo Green Stadium, a ground they have curiously almost always left with the three points and should the ‘status quo’ remain, their almost sneaky pursuit for a second KPL title in their history might finally hit the big headlines.
The third force in the title race, 2011 and 12 champions, Tusker FC, 42, who cannot afford to drop more points, will be in action against Mathare United who on their day, can outclass any team in the division in what promises to be an entertaining clash.
Uncharacteristically, the Brewers remain winless in five, having run out of steam at the worst possible moment.
Anything less than victory over the trouble-riddled 2008 champions whom they spanked 3-0 in the first leg to hand coach Francis Kimanzi victory against the side he led to glory will surely end their title bid should the top two get the result in the first of a televised double header at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium.
The fourth horse that has broken into a gallop for the crown at the final lap of the dash for honours are 2010 champions, Ulinzi Stars, who climbed to fourth on Friday on 41 with a come-from-behind 2-1 win at Chemelil, who are down a place on goal difference, at Chemelil Complex.
Now under Robert Matano, the self-proclaimed ‘Lion’ who led Tusker to their last title in 2012 and Sofapaka to their only diadem in 2009, the soldiers have won three on the bounce and it is famously recalled they best Gor to the top honours on the back of a storming run of eight victories in eight under Benjamin Nyangweso, now an assistant to the boss.
For them, the title winning template is still in place while Chemelil, who are yet to win a televised game they have featured this season, are not out of it yet, suppose of course, the cameras stay away!
Titans Leopards in relegation battle danger
Limping giants AFC Leopards are desperate for a first win in four to inch closer to top eight when they travel to basement side Nakuru All Stars on Sunday.
Mathematically, Ingwe could be sucked into the relegation dogfight leaving head coach Pieter de Jongh with no choice but to go full pelt for victory in their remaining fixture to ward off an unthinkable drop from the big league besides nailing qualification for next season’s KPL Top 8 knock-out tournament
However, All Stars who are trailing the league on 16 have sent a warning to Ingwe who beat them 1-0 in the first leg with head coach Peter Okidi saying Leopards should expect a tough encounter.
Both sides have no injury worries with Ingwe entering the clash motivated from bundling Tusker out of the GOtv Shield at the quarters when they staged a stirring comeback from 2-0 down to run out 3-2 winners.
The other fixtures will see Muhoroni Youth welcome KRA while Western Stima squares it out with KCB at Kisumu Stadium as Thika United host Bandari on Sunday.