NAIROBI, Kenya, November 7 – A cracking grand finale to the 2014 Kenyan Premier League (KPL) season is on Saturday with 90 minutes plus added time deciding who will reign supreme between champions Gor Mahia and 2009 winners Sofapaka FC.
On the other reaches of the table, six teams are battling to punch their tickets for the 2015 KPL Top 8 knockout tournament while seasoned campaigners, Nairobi City Stars will certainly bid the top flight goodbye barring the mother of all football miracles to join the already doomed first timers Top Fry Nakuru in the scrapheap.
Two trophies, the real big eared cup and its replica, are firmly in place in readiness for any outcome from Moi Stadium in Kisumu where Gor host Ushuru FC and Nairobi’s Ruaraka where closest challengers Sofapaka visit local titans Tusker FC for the final sprint of the campaign that took off in February.
Only a point separates the top-two with victory for Gor finally ending what has been a roaring charge for glory from Sofapaka who hang on to in the title race by beating the champions 3-2 in the run in a fortnight ago before mowing another giant, AFC Leopards 2-1 last weekend.
Should Gor slip as they famously did in 2012 when victory against Thika United would have sealed the crown; then Sofapaka it will be while a draw for both sides will hand K’Ogalo the honours by the skin of their teeth.
All final day matches kick-off at 2pm (+3GMT) local time with the Kisumu and Ruaraka deciders being aired live on terrestrial pay television SuperSport while national broadcaster KBC will beam the Gor game.
-Kisumu pressure cooker-
Kisumu’s Moi Stadium will be boiling cauldron as Gor seek to exorcise the ghosts of 2012 when the trophy slipped from their hands when Thika United held them to a 1-1 draw to enable Tusker FC retain it after hammering City Stars 3-0.
With that in mind Gor have kept their cards close to their chests with minimal hype from their adoring Green Army even on social media as it was in 2012 when the side was accused of being over confident.
Having played in Kisumu twice this season, K’Ogalo return to the lake side City just a week after bouncing back from the Sofapaka loss to thump Muhoroni Youth 3-1 to remain on pole of winning a record 14th league crown.
The build up has not gone on silently with Ushuru head coach, Ken Kenyatta, threatening to boycott the match if Amos Wanjala who has been picked to officiate the decider is not replaced decrying the centre referee is not competent to preside such a high stakes games besides claiming bias against the champions.
“My boys are ready to play anywhere even if they take the match to Uganda because both teams are from Nairobi and I’m sure we will win. But I have an issue with the referee who has been selected because he has been unfair in our past two matches. The match will be live and the world will witness,” Kenyatta who has promised to spoil Gor’s party declared.
Besides the taxmen, K’Ogalo are battling against history since they have not won their final fixtures since 2009, another statistic that’s rocking the Green Army barracks with fear despite facing a side who appear to have stopped playing at the end of the first leg where they were among the early title challengers.
Frank Nuttall charges will be without influential suspended midfielder Geoffrey Kizito who scored the second goal against Muhoroni with Eric Ochieng most likely to take his place to partner with Collins Okoth, Godfrey Walusimbi and George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo in midfield.
Dan Sserunkuma and Timothy Otieno bear the goal scoring burden with the Ugandan looking to add to his leading 15 goals as he closes in on another Golden Boot.
– Rumble in Ruaraka-
On the surface, a run in that pit Sofapaka against Gor, AFC and Tusker would appear designed to crush any title ambitions Batoto ba Mungu had to secure a second title since 2009 when they won promotion before sealing the glory.
However, victories over Gor and AFC have maintained their charge to the 11th hour against the odds and against a team that has nothing to play for but pride besides the good football they are playing at the moment, victory at Ruaraka is highly likely.
Sofapaka will be without suspended defenders Collins Shivachi and Eugine Asike against a side who they have not lost to in their last 11 matches.
Sam Timbe’s charges will be buoyed by his in form striking force led by Burundian international Fiston Abdul Razak and Enock Agwanda who is second on the top scoring charts on 11 goals.
“We are concentrating on winning the game against Tusker. That is what we have control over. If we win the title then it will be great, but we do not have much control over that so we have to play our part and see how things pan out,” Sofapaka skipper Felly Mulumba said.
-Top eight rush-
Leopards, Sony Sugar, Thika United, Mathare United, Muhoroni Youth and Western Stima are in the scramble to secure berths in next season’s Top 8 that has Sh1m at stake.
Only three slots are available and if either Ingwe or Sony who on 38 points apiece beat Bandari and Ulinzi Stars, they will confirm qualification pending the final verdict of their controversial abandoned match in August.
After ending Tuskers title hopes by holding them to a 2-2 draw, Thika United who are also on 38 will be looking to maximize home advantage to overcome fifth placed Chemeli Sugar to nail a place.
Mathare United who travel to relegation bound City Stars will sail through if they sink the Kawangware based side and Thika lose.
Western Stima and Muhorini lock horns in another top -eight decider but with a point separating them; victory is not guaranteed passage depending on other outcomes.
-Adios City Stars?-
Saturday will be last rites for City Stars who have graced the KPL for nine seasons unless the astonishing eight-goal swing against direct rivals KCB favours them. The Bankers sit on 26 points, three above the Kawangware based side with a +7 advantage on goal difference.
KCB face Top Fry Nakuru, the woeful side whose drop was confirmed almost a month ago and barring the unlikely, luck has finally ran out for cash-strapped City Stars who have escaped the axe by the thickness of a vest in the past three seasons.