DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, Jan 25 – The prospect of playing English Premier League side Everton FC in July is motivation enough for Kariobangi Sharks to win the SportPesa Cup here in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, head coach William Muluya says.
Sharks showed their title credentials when they shocked Tanzanian giants Dar Young Africans (Yanga) 3-2 in the first round match on Tuesday and are now labeled as the tournament’s dark horses as they prepare to face Tanzanian side Mbao in Friday’s semi-final.
But it is the prospect of facing an EPL side that motivates the young team which was only promoted to top tier football in Kenya in 2017.
“It is a motivation to play Everton because everyone wants to test himself against the biggest teams at the biggest stage. Everyone is looking for it and the fact that we have an opportunity is driving force enough for us,” Muluya told Capital Sport during his team’s training session on Thursday.
With a crop of players ranging from as young as 18 years, Sharks will be motivated to earn that chance to face Everton as it will give them an opportunity to be scouted as the friendly match to be played in July will be screened all over the world and watched by a myriad of scouts.
But even before they can think of facing Everton, Sharks have a semi-final against Mbao to think about, the very same side that dumped out the defending champions Gor Mahia.
Muluya is cautious of his approach against the side having watched them beat Gor on penalties and believes the Tanzanians are even way better than them.
“It is a very good side. In this tournament there is no weak or strong opponent. We saw them against Gor and looking at its history, they are a side that loves beating the so called big teams. In the league they picked points from Simba and Yanga and as a matter of fact it’s a side much stronger than us,” Muluya chided.
The tactician has at the same time stated that his side is not under pressure despite being labeled us one of the team’s to watch in the tournament and says all four side in the semi-finals have a chance of lifting the title.
Sharks were a relaxed lot during their pre-semi finals training session at the Uhuru Stadium with laughter and banter being served in equal proportion.
Muluya looked calm throughout and even played in a small five-aside game as he looked to build the strong bond he has with his players.
His sentiments are echoed by skipper Eric Juma who notes that the boys are calm and relaxed and will only be going in to play their own brand of football and enjoy the opportunity that comes with it.
“This is a tournament and of course we want to win it, but we are under no pressure. The fact that people are labeling us as favorites is good because it shows they appreciate that we are a good team. That is a motivation enough for us,” the defender who came on as a sub against Yanga said.
Sharks has been on steady progress since 2016 when they had their first hugely successful year, reaching the semi finals of the Football Kenya Federation Shield and earning promotion to the top tier.
In 2017, they reached the finals of the shield and finished within the top eight while last year, they finally won their first major silverware and represented Kenya in the CAF Confederations Cup.
Muluya says the confidence they have picked up from the Confederations Cup has made them a more solid side and expects bigger improvement and more achievements from the team this season.
“Playing Continental football was a big positive for us because it gave us so much psychological boost. We played under different atmosphere away from home and the players’ mental strength was built up and now, we believe there’s nothing we can’t face; small or big,” the coach also pointed out.
Last year, the Kenyan side exited the tournament in the first round after losing to Simba on post-match penalties.