Don’t flinch as ‘Ingwe’ clash with Gor

Friday February 27 2009

Charles Onyango of AFC Leopards  in action during their premier league match against Bandari at the Coca Cola national stadium last Saturday. Leopards play Gor Mahia at the Moi international sports centre Karani on Saturday. Photo /MOHAMMED AMIN.

Charles Onyango of AFC Leopards in action during their premier league match against Bandari at the Coca Cola national stadium last Saturday. Leopards play Gor Mahia at the Moi international sports centre Karani on Saturday. Photo /MOHAMMED AMIN. 

By CHARLES NYENDE

Gor Mahia versus AFC Leopards on Saturday from 3pm at Moi International Sports Centre.

This should be the talk of town, the match of the season, the clash of the titans, the top of the bill encounter, double bracketed the moment the fixtures were released.

It still is, in a way. Gor and Leopards have admittedly fallen from grace. Gone are the days when the country literally came to a stand still when the two former giants met. Days when many a grown man behaved peculiarly in the hope his actions would give advantage to his favoured team.

Gor and Leopards are undergoing lean times as they struggle to reinvent themselves in a changed sporting world that has embraced full professional status. While it was every Kenyan footballers’ dream to one day play for either club, young players now use the two as a springboard to greener pastures.

Sacked coach

But, admitting Saturday’s clash may not be featuring the best players in the 16-team league, tradition dictates it will still attract the largest crowd for any KPL tie.

AFC Leopards go into the match as the underdogs this afternoon. Promoted this year, they have yet to win a match this season and only this week sacked their coach Gilbert Selebwa.

The man in charge now, Edward Manoah, has the difficult task of steadying the ship and getting the prized scalp – in sentimental terms you feel – of Gor Mahia.

Old Boy Francis Xavier will bring experience to the young Leopards side featuring Farid Ali, Sebastian Muchera and Zimbabwean Tafadza Dondo in attack.

Gor enter the match the calmer side buoyed by their season opening 1-0 victory against Chemelil Sugar last weekend.

They are also more familiar with top-flight football having avoided relegations even at their lowest ebb.

Large following

Gor coach James Sianga, still under pressure from their glory-hungry fans, can look to the experience of international Julius Owino and goal poaching Habil Otieno.

In their last meeting on December 12 the two teams battled to a thrilling 2-2 draw at Coca Cola Stadium.

The match is one of four that will be shown live by KPL sponsors SuperSport at MISC.

The others have Sofapaka clashing with Chemelil Sugar from 1 pm on Saturday.

On Sunday, resurgent KCB entertain tough Ulinzi Stars from 1pm before league champions Mathare United face Agro Chemicals from 3pm.

The matches were originally scheduled for Coca Cola National Stadium but were moved because of its unavailability.

The large following that Leopards and Gor command and the attraction by Sofapaka, in their short time at the top level, of a well organised, colourful band of supporters, promises an electrical atmosphere at Kasarani on Saturday.

Fixtures:

Saturday – Sofapaka v Chemelil Sugar (1 pm, MISC), Gor Mahia v AFC Leopards (3 pm, MISC) live on SS Select, Red Berets v Western Stima (Mombasa Municipal Stadium).

Sunday – KCB v Ulinzi Stars (1 pm, MISC), Mathare United v Agro Chemical (3pm, MISC) live on SS Select, Sony Sugar v Nairobi City Stars (Awendo). Wednesday – Sher Karuturi v Tusker (Naivasha).