NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 9 – “Nothing surprises me any more in African football.”
These were the words Steve Polack stated just after Wednesday evening’s loss to Mathare United in Machakos when asked whether the off field issues around the team will affect them heading into Sunday’s Mashemeji Derby against arch rivals AFC Leopards at the Kasarani Stadium.
K’Ogalo players did not train before their match against Mathare, one they lost 1-0, as they protested delayed payment of salaries and match winning bonuses, straight after their arrival from their CAF Confederations Cup play-off round loss to DC Motema Pembe in Congo.
“It wasn’t the ideal situation for us before a game. The day before the match is the day I choose to work on tactics and formation, but we couldn’t do that with no players in training. We just came to the match and played, we had new players on the pitch and it was difficult,” stated the tactician.
But, the players have since resumed training and Polack said they have turned their focus straight on their rivals who haven’t beaten them in three years .
Polack says the lure of winning the derby is a motivation in itself and reiterates they will go all out to pick victory and wipe away the disappointment of their Confederations Cup exit and Wednesday’s loss to Mathare.
“We had a meeting with the players on Thursday and ironed out the issues. We had a little training full of fun just to get the smiles back and I can tell you that everyone is focused and happy. We are looking forward to the match and winning it is motivation enough for us,” the tactician noted.
Polack will be taking charge in his first Mashemeji Derby having just joined the record Kenyan champions and he says he is excited ahead of the tie.
“I have taken charge of derbies elsewhere and I know just how intense and important they are especially for the fans. I am excited for this one; excited to see the funs and the joy that comes with such a game. The players are up for it, and I am up for it as well,” Polack noted.
He expects a tough duel against their arch rivals who have an equal number of points and are placed just a spot below them in the standings, separated by goal difference.
AFC have managed to bounce back from a losing start to the campaign and over the last seven games have not lost, a fact that sees them hot in form and a worrying sight for K’Ogalo. But, Polack is unmoved.
“I know they are in good form if you look at their results. But I always prefer to look at my own team and what we can do well and how we can counter their strengths and weaknesses. That is what we are looking at,” Polack opined.
Gor will miss the services of right back Wellington Ochieng for the tie as he is yet to recover from injury while left back Geoffrey Ochieng has returned.
With Philemon Otieno also still out, Polack will be forced to do with a makeshift right back once again and Joachim Oluoch will most likely deputize again.
Leopards last beat Gor in March 2016 and K’Ogalo have won eight of their last nine meetings including both of this year’s ties. Their last derby was in May 2019 with Gor winning 3-1 courtesy of a brace from Nicholas Kipkurui and another from Jacques Tuyisenge.