Is the Mashemeji Derby losing its flavour?

Monday May 20 2019

A child blows a vuvuzela along Tom Mboya Street in Nairobi on May 19, 2019 before the Mashemeji derby. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO |


There were days when the Mashemeji Derby meant everything to fans of the two sides, and to the vast majority of local football supporters.

Back when many league matches were aired live on SuperSport, more so those involving the Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards, Mashemeji Derbies were highly anticipated fixtures.

Television stations and newspapers commodified the heated rivalry between the two sides and sold it to their audiences, further fuelling the captivating derby atmosphere in the run up to the games.

A keen look at the numbers and statistics coming from recent derbies, however suggests that this fixture is fast losing its flavour.

Correct figures on stadium attendance are difficult to come by, but it is clear that stadium attendance during Mashemeji derbies has dwindled awfully.

Sunday’s derby, where K’Ogalo won 3-1, was one of the very well attended derbies in the last three years, but still the Kasarani Stadium venue was nowhere near full.


Gor coach Hassan Oktay and his Leopards counterpart Cassa Mbungo are both united in agreement of the fact that the derby is regressing, and Oktay openly criticised his opponents for not offering his team a good challenge.

“This did not look like a derby. I can’t believe it. Apart from the numbers it is impossible to know that this was a derby. We dominated the game, we created and missed many chances, were able to play great football. They (Leopards) didn’t give us the expected completion.

Indeed Ingwe’s overall performance has been degenerating steadily since March 2016 when they beat Gor 1-0 to record their last win in the Mashemeji Derby.

In the seven games that have been played since then, Gor has won six of them and drawn one. And the wins have come in convincing margins, with K’Ogalo scoring 13 goals in seven games and Ingwe managing just three within that same period.

It means that Gor has enjoyed the schadenfreude for much longer than is competitively healthy. They have had the last laugh many times over, after goading their supporters both on the pitch and off it that it is beginning to look like a routine.

The fact that Gor paly regular continental football, while Ingwe have over the years been reduced to mere league participants, has greatly eroded the edge between the two teams.

And coach Mbungo’s diagnosis is that Ingwe club managers must be ready to level the play field, and this they should do by opening the purses and purchasing top quality players.

“They caught us. We had come to give them a challenge but they were better than us today. I will ask the office to provide a good budget so that we can make good signings at the end of the season. That is the only way we can compete favourably against Gor,” he said.

Nevertheless, Gor’s triumph came with an added incentive, as it meant that the Green Army are now just one point away from putting the title race to bed.

A draw in their next match against Vihiga United in Machakos on Wednesday will see them get crowned SportPesa Premier League champions for an unprecedented 18th time, and with two games still left to play.