IN DAR ES SALAAM
Defending champions Azam battle compatriots Simba in the Cecafa Kagame Cup final on Friday at the National stadium here in Dar es Salaam.
Kenyan giants Gor Mahia will be hoping to nick the third place and the Sh1 million that comes with it when they tackle Zanzibar champions Jeshi la Kujenga Uchumi (JKU) in the third-place playoff at the same venue from 3pm.
The champions take home Sh3 million while the runners up pocket Sh2 million courtesy of sponsor, Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
“I would’ve wished we skip the match to allow us enough time to recover ahead of a tight schedule back home but we shall play in respect of this competition and go into the game with a winning mentality despite the setback,” a disappointed Gor coach Dylan Kerr said after defending champions Azam vanquished their hopes of ending a 33-year wait for the regional crown in a 2-0 semi-final loss after extra time on Wednesday.
It's 10 years since a Kenyan club claimed the regional championship when the Jacob “Ghost” Mulee-led Tusker beat Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) 2-1 in the final in 2008. The wait will continue for at least another year after Gor failed to make the final on Wednesday.
K’Ogalo will once again miss Ernest Wendo in midfield while George “Blackberry” Odhiambo, who limped off in the semi-final and Francis Kahata, remain doubtful.
JKU coach Hassan Ramadhan wants to avenge their 2-0 loss to Gor in the SportPesa Super Cup last month in Nakuru with victory.
“We’ll fight to win because we’ve a better squad compared to the one we fielded in Nakuru,” said Ramadhan, whose team fell to Simba 1-0 in the second semi-final thanks to Meddie Kagere’s solitary strike at the stroke of halftime.
Simba remain the most successful club in the regional competition with six titles and have never lost a final hosted in Tanzania, and will be hoping to end a 16-year wait for the crown. Simba's last success in the regional tourney came in 2002 when they beat Prince Louis of Burundi 1-0.
Interestingly, both Simba and Azam have won four games and drawn once scoring nine goals though Simba has conceded less (two) compared to Azam’s five in the 2018 edition.
Previously, they’ve met 18 times in the domestic competitions with Simba winning eight while four of the matches have ended in draws.
Simba coach Masudi Juma skipped post-match interviews after their semi-final tie but spoke to a local radio station, where he remained optimistic of delivering the title to the Wekundu wa Msimbazi fans.
Azam coach Hans Van der Pluijm said he is not under pressure to retain the Cup they clinched three years ago when this tourney was last held.
“What happens to my players if I put myself under pressure? My job is to keep them calm, prepare them mentally and tactically for the final which I hope that we can win,” said the Dutchman.
Azam’s sensational striker Shaban Iddi Chilunda has scored seven of the 65 goals scored in this tourney so far.
Azam v Simba (National stadium, 5pm)
Gor Mahia v JKU (National stadium, 3pm)