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Kenyan clubs still suffer continental blues

Gor Mahia striker, Michael Olunga, in action against Azam during the Cecafa Kagame Cup final in Dar on Sunday. PHOTO/Citizen TV

Gor Mahia striker, Michael Olunga, in action against Azam during the Cecafa Kagame Cup final in Dar on Sunday. PHOTO/Citizen TV

NAIROBI, December 23- In what is becoming a hallmark of Kenyan football, the country’s best sides of the 2014 season failed to make an impact in the table of continental club football.

Simply, what we crown as the best in the land cannot hold candle when faced with the challenge from outside the borders in another indictment of the plummeting standards of the local game.

League champions, Gor Mahia and Sofapaka FC who lifted the 2014 GOtv Shield carried Kenya’s torch in the CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup but made little head way after they were tossed out of competition before reaching the second phase.

Gor narrowly edged out Madagascar side CNaPS Sport in the first stage to progress on the away goal rule courtesy of George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo’s 88th minute strike in the return leg after the tie ended 3-3 on aggregate.

K’Ogalo’s dreams of reaching the lucrative group stages for the first time since 1992 were cut short by Congolese side, AC Leopards who beat them 2-0 on aggregate in the first round.

Sofapaka, who made the play-off round of the 2011 Confederation Cup bowed out in the preliminary round 4-2 on aggregate to Zimbabwe’s FC platinum.

Local clubs have cited financial constraints as the chief reason they cannot compete with their well heeled counterparts in the continent with Gor and Sofapaka cash woes in the past season well documented.

Others have argued lack of quality in the SportPesa Premier League is to blame with monies generated from their television deal and other sponsors being diverted more to administration than the clubs.

On the regional front, Gor returned to the Cecafa Kagame Cup Club championships after a humiliating first round exit in 2014 and for the first time since 1985, they reached the final where they were vanquished by monied home team, Azam FC 2-0.

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Their journey to Tanzania saw K’Ogalo and Football Kenya Federation (FKF) bicker over who was to cater for air tickets with Gor management threatening to withdraw from the annual affair.

“The federation had agreed to pay air tickets for us to travel on Thursday but they have told us they don’t have money. It’s impossible for us to travel since had they told us earlier, we would have conducted a fundraising,” Gor chairman, Ambrose Rachier said on July 8.

The club organised a fundraiser before they eventually took their place and announced their arrival with a bang, beating home favourites Yanga FC 2-1 in the opener before beating Zanzibar’s KMKM 3-1 and drawing 1-1 with Al Khartoum to top Group A with 10 points.

Gor beat Al Malakia of South Sudan 2-1 in the quarters before silencing Al Khartoum 3-1 in the semi where Michael Olunga rose to be the tournament top scorer with five, sparking intense speculation on his future.

At the last hurdle though, Azam dominated Frank Nutall’s side in all departments to end Gor’s storming run.

Gor will return to the CAF Champions League next season hoping to fare better than 2015 with coast based side, Bandari FC who won the Shield making a maiden splash to continental football in the CAF Confederation Cup.

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