There will be no love lost when Harambee Stars battle Zanzibar in the final of the 39th edition of the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on Sunday.
The gutsy islanders, who have beaten all odds to reach only their second final in the history of the competition, will be hoping to become the first team to beat Kenya in a Cecafa final they have hosted.
Kenya has reached the regional tourney final seven times, winning six at home. Their only loss in a final was in 2012 in Kampala against hosts Uganda while Zanzibar’s only Cecafa success dates back 22 years ago.
Zanzibar came close to clinching the cup in 2005, 2009 and 2012 but finished third in the editions held in Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda respectively.
Sunday’s final will be the 44th meeting between the two sides. In the previous 43 meetings, Kenya has won 30, lost five with eight matches ending even.
Zanzibar last beat Kenya 1-0 at Mombasa Municipal Stadium in 1999 thanks to Haji Mwinyi’s 25th minute strike. Kenya finished with ten men in that match following George Waweru’s dismissal.
Stars players and the technical bench had been under-fire from fans following a spate of poor performances before Belgian tactician Paul Put took charge a month ago, and under his guidance, the hosts are yet to concede a goal in five matches.
The two finalists battled to a barren draw in a Group A match in Machakos last Saturday, making Sunday’s final a tough one to predict.
“I have to believe and all Kenyans have to believe by getting behind the team in the final. We will try to do our best. I have told the boys, ‘look, this is the occasion to show the whole world their worth,’” said Put, who led Burkina Faso to the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations final.
“It’s a tournament being broadcasted now it’s up to them to replicate what we’ve been doing in training in the final. Zanzibar is a good team so it’s not going to be easy.”
After eliminating 14-time champions and holders Uganda in the semi-final, coach Hemed ‘Morocco’ Suleiman knows only the hosts now stands between his way their second trophy.
“We came here with an underdog tag but slowly we are gaining respect with our performances. It's been a long time since we reached the final and we aim to win the cup because I believe we’ve competed well so far,” said Suleiman, who also doubles up as Taifa Jang’ombe coach.
“We are ready for the final against Kenya, a team we respect because they have a good squad in this region and boast of superb teamwork.”
Put will miss the services of suspended midfielder Ernest Wendo with Duncan Otieno expected to replace the Gor Mahia man while Zanzibar will welcome back left back Haji Mngwali, who missed their 2-1 win over Uganda through suspension.
The tie will be preceded by the third place playoff pitting Uganda against Burundi. Tickets go on sale on the match day at the venue at Sh500 and Sh200 for VIP and terraces respectively.
The winner will pocket Sh3 million while runners up and third finishers go home with Sh2million and Sh1 million respectively.
Harambee Stars: Patrick Matasi (GK), Musa Mohammed (C), Jockins Atudo, Dennis Sikhai, Wesley Onguso, Duncan Otieno, Patillah Omoto, Ovellah Ochieng’, George Odhiambo, Whyvonne Isuza, Kepha Aswani
Reserves: Gabriel Andika, Boniface Oluoch, Said Tsuma, Bernard Ochieng, Samuel Onyango, Masud Juma, Wellington Ochieng, Charles Momanyi, Vincent Oburu, Chris Oduor, Kipyegon Isaac
Zanzibar Heroes: Mohamed Abdurahman (GK), Ibrahim Mohamed, Haji Mwinyi, Abdalla Salum, Issa Haidar Dau, Abdul-Aziz Makame, Issa Juma, Mudathir Yahya, Ibrahim Hamad, Feisal Salum and Suleiman Kassim (C).
Reserves: Ahmed Ali (GK), Mrisho Salim, Ibrahim Abdalla, Adeyum Seif, Abdalla Haji, Seif Abdalla, Khamis Mussa, Amour Suleiman, Hamad Mshamata and Abdul Kassim.
Burundi v Uganda (Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos 1pm)
Kenya v Zanzibar (Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos 3pm)