Character, grit and strong mental fortitude will be demanded of Gor Mahia players as they take on Moroccan side RS Berkane in the Caf Confederation Cup quarter-final first leg on Sunday at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani from 4pm.
The players will need to put behind them the distractions they have endured in the days and hours leading up to Sunday’s fixture, and focus on getting a foot in the tournament’s semi-finals.
A lot has happened in the days preceding the tie, the climax of which was Gor players refusing to show up for their final training session at Camp Toyoyo grounds Saturday morning, leaving coach Hassan Oktay and his technical bench idling at the venue for about two hours.
The players are demanding accrued salaries and allowances, and had vowed not to train until the matter is resolved.
An alternative training session had been fixed for 7pm Saturday at Moi International Sports Centre at Kasarani, but at the time of going to press it was unclear whether the players would show up or not.
MISC meanwhile remained unfit to host a match of this stature.
Huge tents were standing inside the pitch and on the running track Saturday morning forcing Gor management to shift their ill-fated training to Camp Toyoyo.
The tents had been erected last weekend ahead of a weeklong event organised by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers.
Workers could be seen hastily removing them late in the evening even as the Moroccan team arrived for their mandatory feel-the-pitch session at 4pm.
Broadcast partners SuperSport, who are normally meant to set up at the match venue 24 hours before any Caf game, had yet to do so by the time of going to press.
Nevertheless, K’Ogalo players will need to do the job against RS Berkane who are hungry for success. Berkane have never reached this stage of the competition in their 81 years of existence.
Berkane is a middle table team that currently stands at position nine in the Moroccan top flight league (Botola Pro league) having won just six times in 22 games so far this season.
On the local front, the team is enduring a four-match winless run, and succumbed to a 7-3 thrashing two weeks ago at home against Raja Casablanca.
This means that on paper, K’Ogalo should start as favourites ahead of the return leg that will be held on April 14.
Coach Oktay will follow proceedings from the terraces as he serves his one-match ban for misconduct in their last Confed assignment against Angolan side Petro Atletico. Unperturbed, he said his boys would cope well even without him.
He will be without key players Harun Shakava, Shaffik Batambuze, Jacques Tuyisenge and burly midfielder Ernest Wendo who are also suspended.
First choice goalkeeper Boniface Oluoch is yet to recover from injury, meaning Frederick Odhiambo will once again start in goal.
Veteran striker Dennis Oliech is set to lead the team’s strike force together with Nicholas Kipkurui.
“Apart from those small, small distractions we have prepared for a win and we will go all out for it. I don’t think the players will suffer much from missing the morning session because we have been preparing all week and they are fit and ready to do their job," said Gor team manager Jolawi Abondo.
Batswana referee Joshua Bondo will be in charge of the match, with Arsenio Chadreque from Mozambique and Souru Phasoane from Lesotho the assistant referees.
RS Berkane Fact file:
Full name: Renaissance Sportive de Berkane
Nickname: The Oranges
Ground: Stade Municipal de Berkane (capacity: 18,000)
Chairman: Morocco Faouzi Lekjaa
Coach: Mounir Jaouani