NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 19 – Sofapaka head coach John Baraza will walk into the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani on Saturday afternoon with the hand of history on his back as he looks to win the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Shield for the first time as a coach having won it three times before as a player.
The soft-spoken youthful tactician says he wants to emulate former Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane who won the UEFA Champions League both as a player and a coach with the same team.
“I am happy to be in the final for the first time as a coach. Of course I want to win some medals as a coach just like did as a player. My ambition in this final is to get the title. I want to be part of history like the other guys all over the world. I want to be like Zidane who won the Champions League as a player and a coach too with the same team,” Baraza told Capital Sport.
The former striker reached five finals with the side and led Batoto ba Mungu to victories in 2007, 2010 and their last conquest in 2014. He lost the 2011 and 2012 finals both against Gor Mahia.
The tactician now says he wants to use the experience he has acquired from playing the five finals to help calm his boys down as they look to quench a four-year trophy drought.
“That experience comes so much in handy because I have talked to the boys and told them what to expect as well as calming down. A final is anyone’s game and the slightest mistake means you are out,” further stated the tactician.
The three-time champions come into the final with confidence having dispatched defending champions AFC Leopards 1-0 in the semi-finals courtesy of Elly Asieche’s late goal at the Kasarani stadium.
Baraza has admitted there is pressure on the team to deliver a title having missed out on the league to Gor Mahia and he says that is their biggest motivation heading into the game against last year’s losing finalists Kariobangi Sharks.
“We missed getting the KPL title and this is now what we have left. The players are serious about it and they want to win and represent the country in CAF Competitions next year,” Baraza said.
He admitted; “There’s pressure of course because for a team used to winning, it doesn’t auger well when you go four years without winning anything. As a team we want to win the title, the management and sponsors also want to be associated with champions.”
Baraza knows it will not be all smiles and hugs against Sharks, a side also eager to make history on their own having lost last year’s final.
As a team, the tactician knows it will be tough with Sharks gifted with tactically and technically apt players.
“Sharks is a very good team with good players. They have reached the final and that goes to show you that they deserve to even win this title. We expect a very tough game but I expect our experience to take us through,” he added.
Sofapaka will have a full squad at their disposal without injuries. Their only absentee will be keeper Mathias Kigonya who according to Baraza asked to leave the side with word on the street suggesting he is headed to AFC Leopards.
It was an absurd decision for the shot stopper to leave the side just barely two weeks to the Shield final, but Baraza said they saw it wise to let him go as his mindset was not on the match.
“Sometimes what goes on in the mind of the players nobody knows. He requested to leave and when a player comes and asks to leave, you never know the reasons and we granted his wish. You have to be a worried man when a player asks to leave before such a game. It shows he is not focused for it and you never know what he might do,” Baraza said.
The side will be skippered by striker Stephen Waruru for the final.