NAIROBI, Kenya, May 13 – On Sunday, Scotland’s Rangers FC refused to give their sworn rivals Celtic the traditional ‘guard of honor’ when they clashed in the Old Firm Derby with The Bhoys having clinched the Scottish League title.
The decision was simple, a vote was taken in the Rangers dressing room and the result was a resounding NO; one that was criticized across the football divide in Scotland and beyond. They went on to win 2-0 and take the bragging rights off the derby.
Well, 11,366km away, Kenya’s AFC Leopards might find themselves in a similar situation when they take on arch-rivals Gor Mahia in the Mashemeji Derby on Sunday at the Kasarani Stadium.
Gor beat their closest rivals Sofapaka 2-0 in Kisumu on Sunday to open up a 10-point gap on top of the Kenyan Premier League standings and that means they can be crowned champions by Sunday before they play AFC if they beat Nzoia Sugar in Mumias on Wednesday.
AFC will need favors from not only their ‘small brothers’ Nzoia FC but Bandari to save them from the discomfort and pain of giving their arch rivals a guard of honor on Sunday.
Bandari are 14 points behind and mathematically, still stand a chance to win the league title as they have played two games less. But, that can be taken care of early enough if Bandari lose against Chemelil Sugar on Tuesday and Tusker on Thursday in Mombasa.
Gor need five points to mathematically make it impossible for anyone to crash their party.
Even worse now is that Gor might actually confirm themselves as champions if they win the derby, that is if Bandari wins one of its two midweek matches.
“We are very close. We are very close now and at least I can say that we might be champions,” Gor Mahia boss Hassan Oktay told Capital Sport in Kisumu on Sunday.
“We have worked hard as a team and we deserve this. Today (against Sofapaka) we did our best, we commanded the game and took our chances. I am pleased with the players. It has been a long season for us with the many matches and injuries taking toll on the team, but we have made it,” the tactician stated.
Just like last season, Gor have won the league title way before the season ends, and this is despite having one of the most clogged calendars of any of the rest of the 17 KPL teams.
Oktay has praised his players for their resilience and never say die attitude and believes they should now translate that same form and dominance in continental football, making the huge claim that he wants his side to be in the Champions League final next year.
“Look at Esperance and Berkane. They are playing in the final. We have faced them and proved tough opposition. Why not us? Next year, that is the target,” Oktay declared.