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Seven reasons why Gor reached Kagame Cup final

For 30 years fans of Gor Mahia have held a distant hope that their beloved club will one day reclaim the Cecafa Club Championships aka Kagame Cup title.

Well the club’s winless streak in this particular tournament has now extended to 31 years after they lost 2-0 to Tanzanian side Azam in the final on July 2, but their good run in the tournament certainly commanded some level of attention.

Here are seven reasons why K’Ogalo, eliminated at the 2014 edition without winning a single match, made it to the final stage this year.

1. Frank Nuttall the pragmatist

Scottish coach Frank Nuttall is a cunning man who plays the game in his mind and with the aim of winning from both sides.

Forget the tales about him flashing a one-finger salute at Yanga fans. Forget also his tendency to utter loud curse words at anyone (and anything) that may have annoyed him in the heat of battle.

Nuttall is focused, pragmatic, unflappable, professional…tactical; a coach who carries out his duty with playful arrogance and a dash of cockiness.

Throughout the tournament, the fitness instructor (for that is his correct title) gave concise and level-headed interviews, insisting that he and his team had come to get past the group stages even when it was clear that was just the least of their ambitions in the tourney.

This turned out to be a strategy directed to the public. He clearly did not want anyone thinking that his team was taking the tournament seriously.

He didn’t want them to appear cocky and in the end, he and his squad walked away with heads held up high. According to their pre-tournament ambitions, they had overachieved. Nobody got hurt. How clever.

2. ‘Engineer’ Michael Olunga

He hasn’t qualified to be called an engineer yet but he is a real engineer of goals. Olunga, an undergraduate geospatial engineering student at a Nairobi university, is a human goal-scoring machine with the requisite skill, ability and physique to score at will on a good day. He managed a brace against Zanzibar’s KMKM and he was the tournament’s top scorer with five goals.

Say what you will about the youngster, but Olunga is a world class striker and to confirm that, you only needed to observe the things that he did with his dangerous left foot.

3. That defense

You don’t concede, you don’t lose.

For any team that thinks of itself as a title contender, defense is a crucial department, and for this year’s Kagame Cup tournament, Gor Mahia had it.

The signing of full backs Abouba Sibomana and Karim Nizigiyimana has proven to be a masterstroke. The duo, together with central defenders Musa Mohammed and Harun Shakava, continue to be the most ideal shield for goalkeeper Boniface Oluoch.

Statistics reveal that Karim provided so many assists that it was difficult to tell that he was a defender.

Well, many will argue that the K’Ogalo defense is porous to a large extent judging by the fact that the team conceded at least a goal a match, but these four players remained influential in Nuttall’s squad.

4. It was time the team made an international statement

The K’Ogalo class of 2015 wanted to win the tournament so badly not just for themselves, but for the role the victory would play in the history of the club.

The team had achieved so much at home and their dominance in the Kenyan Premier League (where they are yet to taste defeat this season) had gotten boring.

They needed to take on a greater challenge in order to feel whole. To prove o themselves that they are good enough. Strong enough to measure up with the best teams in the region. That, together with a profound hunger for continental success, propelled them up until the final stage of the tournament.

5. Witch craft(?)

The story of Gor Mahia players refusing to use the locker rooms and entrances reserved for them in some of the matches in this year’s tournament was retold several times.

In the end, a door was broken for the team to gain entry, but deep sources within the club clarified that this was not to spite the tournament organisers or stadium staff, but only a desperate attempt to evade the “traps” set for them by their enemies.

Whether this fear of witchcraft was real or perceived, avoiding those areas definitely had a psychological effect on the players and it showed in the fearless fashion in which they faced home team Yanga and their screaming fans in the opening match, and won.

6. The opposition’s state

Before anybody castigates a team like Yanga for failing to provide a worthy challenge to the Kenyan champions, they should understand that the Young Africans of Tanzania, and several other teams in the tournament were in preseason.

They may have enjoyed tremendous home support but for many clubs in the region, the tournament had come just before the commencement of their national premier league and smack in the middle of their end of season transfer period.

The result was that many teams struggled with fitness issues, and that formed a great part of the reason why K’Ogalo swept many of them aside with relative ease notwithstanding that Tanzania’s Azam eventually beat them in the final to win the title. Five days before they left for Dar es Salaam, the Kenyan champions had played their 18th unbeaten match in the Kenyan league. Which brings us to the next point.

7. Momentum

An unbeaten run stretching 18 matches plays wonderfully to a team’s mental strength. It invariably shakes up your mindset and provides a strong, external belief that you are a conqueror.

This statistic added a winning mentality to a quality squad, and their performance in the group stages summed up the potential that the team had.

They knew how it felt to win together and with the backing of their numerous, outspoken and partisan fans, they kept pushing for victory match day in, match day out.

By Cellestine Olilo

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Harambee Stars

Stanley Okumbi (C) @KPL
Stanley Okumbi (C) @KPL

2019 AFCON qualifiers: Kenya lose to Sierra Leone

Harambee Stars suffered a 2-1 loss to Sierra Leone on Saturday in Freetown in their opening 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Group F qualifier.

Julius Wuobay and captain Umaru Bangaura scored a goal in each half for Sierra Leone while Michael Olunga pulled a goal back for Kenya who played with 10 men for more than 45 minutes.

The result ended Harambee Stars' 10-match unbeaten run under coach Stanley Okumbi.

Wuobay sent Leone Stars ahead in the 22nd minute when he took advantage of a badly leaking Kenya defence to send the ball past a badly exposed Boniface Oluoch in the visitor's goal.

Stars suffered another major setback 20 minutes later when South Africa-based defender Brian “Niang” Mandela received a straight red card for bringing down goal-bound Alhassan Kamara.

Stars fought on gallantly despite their numerical inferiority and did have their chances to rescue the game. Okumbi effected changes immediately after the breather bringing in defender David “Cheche” Ochieng in place of rookie striker Masoud Juma.

Kenya though fell further behind in the 68th minute as left back Eric “Marcelo” Ouma brought down John Kamara inside the box, and up stepped Bangura to send goalkeeper Boniface Oluoch the wrong way with the resultant penalty kick.

Kenya raised their hopes on 75 minutes when China-based Olunga beautifully guided his free kick from the edge of the danger area into the far corner of the net.

Olunga, had earlier in the first half squandered an excellent opportunity to put Kenya ahead, failing to show composure with a yawning goal staring at him from near point blank range.

A downpour in the second half exacerbated the already poor condition of the pitch affecting the ability of both sets of player to play good football.

Kenya next qualifier fixture is against Ghana's Black Stars in Nairobi on March 23, 2017.

Kenya squad: Boniface Oluoch, Musa Mohammed, Erick Ouma Kolkheti, David Owino, Brian Mandela, Victor Wanyama, Anthony Akumu, Erick Johanna, Ayub Timbe, Masoud Juma, Michael Olunga. Replacements: Patrick Matasi,Simon Mbugua, Joseph Okumu, David Ochieng, Samuel Onyango, Stephen Waruru, Ernest Wendo

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  Team P W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 Ulinzi Stars 16 8 5 3 24 16 8 29
2 Posta Rangers 16 7 8 1 15 9 6 29
3 Gor Mahia 15 8 4 3 20 12 8 28
4 Tusker 16 8 4 4 17 14 3 28
5 Kariobangi Sharks 16 7 5 4 14 9 5 26
6 Sofapaka FC 16 6 6 4 17 11 6 24
7 Kakamega Homeboyz 16 5 8 3 11 9 2 23
8 Bandari FC 16 6 4 6 16 12 4 22


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