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Zanzibar confident of shocking Kenya to CECAFA title

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Zanzibar head coach Suleiman hemed Morocco applauds before a previous CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup match. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

NAIROBI, Kenya Dec 17- A little bit of history glides in their favor; the last time Zanzibar won the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup in 1995, they beat the hosts (Uganda) and were in the same group with Kenya.

Fast forward to 22 years later, the islanders hope they repeat the same bit of history when they tackle the Harambee Stars in the final of the Senior Challenge Cup at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos.

Coming into the tournament as underdogs, Suleiman Hemed’s charges have proved to everyone that they can be a force to reckon with and have glided past the region’s big sides to make it to their second final in history.

“History can repeat itself. We are determined to go all the way and do this for the hundreds of thousands of people back home. We have gone through so many difficulties even to get here and this is the ultimate prize we can give ourselves,” Suleiman Kassim Selembe, the team captain said.

Kenya’s Ovellah Ochieng attempts to go past Zanzibar’s Hajji Mininya during a CECAFA Senior Challenge Group match at the Kenyatta Stadium in Kakamega. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

To make it to the final, Zanzibar beat highly fancied Uganda who had brought in their ‘A’ squad 2-1 in the semis. In the group stages, they beat the region’s finest in CHAN-bound Rwanda and ‘big brothers’ Tanzania, both convincingly.

They now fold their sleeves to strangle down Kenya, a side with whom they drew 0-0 in the group stage meeting. Head coach Hemed is confident that his side can beat Kenya especially pointing out that in their 0-0 draw, he rested most of his key men.

“We know Kenya and how they play and as much as I think it will be a tough match, I know my boys can match them. Playing against the hosts is not easy but we are prepared to fight to the last drop of sweat and get a good result,” Hemed noted.

Midfielder Abdul Aziz Makame who has been one of the brightest stars for the Zanzibar Heroes has promised they will drown Kenya right infront of their fans and has warned the hosts not to expect anything easy.

“We will beat Kenya, I assure you. We have analyzed them and we know how to tackle them. They are a beatable side. We are confident in ourselves and we will show what we can do in the final,” Makame said.

Zanzibar Heroes midfielder Abdul Aziz Makame drives forward under close watch from Kenya’s Whyvonne Isuza during a CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

Prior to the group stage meeting last week, the last time Kenya met Zanzibar was in the 2015 Senior Challenge Cup in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the islanders came off 3-1 winners.

In 1995 when they won the trophy, Kenya beat them 2-0 in the group stages.

Ahead of the final, Zanzibar will welcome back influential left back Haji Mininya who missed the semi-finals due to suspension while the injured Kassim Suleiman Khamis who has scored two goals off the bench in the tournament should be back from injury.

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