Will Gor Mahia finally end the over two-decade wait for a Kenyan club to break into the Caf club competitions money bracket?
This is the big question as the Kenyan champions, carrying a 1-0 advantage from the first leg, confront SuperSport United on Wednesday at the iconic Lucas Moripe Stadium in the return match of their Caf Confederation Cup playoffs.
The team was forced to postpone their trip to South Africa by a day due to the absence of travel documents as well as unavailability of air tickets.
It took the intervention of club patron Raila Odinga, Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ababu Namwamba and Kenyan ambassador to South Africa Jean Kamau to ensure that a good number of players secured visas, as Nairobi governor Gideon Mbuvi provided 30 air tickets to facilitate their travel.
Still, coach Dylan Kerr will be forced to travel without strikers Jacques Tuyisenge and Ivorian Ephrem Guikan due to lack of travel documents.
Apart from Tuyisenge and Guikan, Kerr is also missing utility Godfrey Walusimbi and long-term absentees Wellington Ochieng and Karim Nizigiyimana.
Tuyisenge’s absence is particularly a big blow to the team, as the Rwandan scored the only goal in the opening leg and was named man of the match in the tie.
KAGERE TO LEAD ATTACK
In his absence, Meddie Kagere will lead the hunt for goals with George Odhiambo and Kevin Omondi.
Gor Mahia, who only need a draw of any kind to progress, will be seeking to advance to the group stages of the competition where Sh27 million awaits the teams that make it that far.
The last time a Kenyan club made it to the money league of the Caf Club competitions was in 1994, when Tusker – then named Kenya Breweries - lost in the final of the same competition to DC Motema Pembe. While Gor Mahia had made it to the quarters two years earlier. All other outings by Kenyan clubs in the continental scene have ended in frustrations.
With history weighing down on the Kenyan champions in Pretoria, coach Dylan Kerr is still confident his charges can complete the job.
“I always tell my players they are the best. A lot has been said about our trip to South Africa, and we’ve endured certain challenges, but my challenge to the players is to do their talking on the pitch,” Kerr said.
While Gor Mahia are unbeaten in the local league this year, the Matsatsantsa are just above the drop zone in the Premier Soccer League, and are winless in seven matches.
The match starts at 9pm Kenyan time and will be presided over by Gabonese referees Castane Otogo, Montel Moussounda and Theophile Vinga and should they finish the job in Pretoria, Gor will be among the 16 teams that will be drawn into four groups of four.