Gor, Leopards derby highlights weekend KPL action

The Kenyan Premier League (KPL) enters round nine this weekend with 15-time champions Gor Mahia locking horns with arch-rivals AFC Leopards on Sunday.

Their rivalry will be rekindled at the Nyayo Stadium, which opens for the first time this season to specifically host the country’s most fiery clash dubbed the Mashemeji Derby.

Nairobi Governor Dr. Evans Kidero on Thursday invited the two teams at the City Hall calling for a ‘friendly derby’ despite the heat it has always stirred up.

“Without these two teams we can’t talk of football in this country. I invite Kenyans to come and watch our best in the city now that Nyayo Stadium has been opened for the match.

“I will personally attend although I will be sitting on the fence, I belong to both. Let fans come and enjoy a peaceful derby,” told Kidero.

He spiced up the derby mood promising Ksh.200,000 to both teams, while pledging to speed up renovation of City Stadium to avoid situations where teams have to play outside Nairobi if Nyayo and Ksarani are unavailable.

Besides, Kidero affirmed his commitment to see the clubs handed letters of land allotment for their parcels in Kasarani, which he says some personalities are hell bent at grabbing.

-Pressure is on-

Tacticians from both sides, Stewart Hall and Jose Marcelo ‘Ze Maria’ Ferreira expect a difficult outing.

“This is a football match and not an event we are preparing for. We are preparing as professionally as we can, reminding our players this is a match just like any other.

“You can’t guarantee people that you will win, but you can promise to fight for the best result,” offered the Hall.

The Briton tactician underscored no team can be guaranteed to command a derby affair, referring to the recent past record between Ingwe and K’Ogalo.

“The record in this derby is pretty even, which is the trend worldwide. You cannot expect any team to dominate all the time.

“That’s why you see players under performing in derbies when they get carried away by the mood. The biggest task we have this week is reminding our players it’s an ordinary match, just like a Sony Sugar or a Bandari match.

“We must also tell them to respect our fans, give them really good football, which the derby will be remembered for,” charged Hall.

The former Azam FC Coach for the first time expressed ambitions of finishing in the top three clubs in the league.

He had previously reserved his target for the season, saying his agenda was to build a team for the future.

“The technical bench and the players are working hard and you can see difference in the team comparing with last season.

“So far we have lost only two matches, and we lost fighting. We want to sustain the spirit even as we go into Gor’s match,” Hall stated.

His opposite number Ferreira says his playing unit is under no pressure, albeit acknowledging it will be the game of the season.

“This is the game, because two big teams with big players are meeting. So far we have played well just like they have done.

“Pressure is in the fans, not players. We go to the game hoping to get three points and the rest is secondary. Anyway there will be always some pressure when you are playing for or coaching Gor, it is normal,” observed the Brazilian.

Ferreira noted the change of venue was a big boost to both teams, observing it will result to a high quality match.

“You see both clubs train in Nairobi, but have always been forced to travel long distances even for home matches.

“For the players, fans and all stakeholders it’s healthy playing in the capital city,” he remarked.

-‘Gor demolition’-

Leopards chairman Dan Mule has invited his club supporters to witness demolition of Gor.

“We cannot say so far we are satisfied 100 percent because we have lost two matches already. We however appreciate an almost entire new team working very well with the coach.

“We have given him all the independence in managing the team which is paying. I believe on Sunday he will lead us to demolish Gor, someone should be ready for it,” Mule advised.

He called on fans to be calm and avoid anything that could cause violence, emphasizing the true meaning of ‘Mashemeji’ (inlaws) should reflect in the match.

While Gor has most of the players they paraded in the last meeting, Ingwe has Joshua Mawira, Bernard Mang’oli, Ian Otieno, Allan Kateregga and Andrew Tololwa as their prominent figures in the first team of last season.

Newcomers Gilbert Fiamenyo, Whyovonne Isuza, Robinson Kamura, Marselus Ingotsi and Marcus Abwao are among the soldiers Hall has trusted most in the current campaign.

Paul Mungai Kiongera, arguably one of Ingwe’s most dangerous striker has been a long absentee with a knee injury, and would be dearly missed should he be out on Sunday.

The technical bench is completely different as well, with Dennis Kitambi (Tanzanian) and Tony Lidonde serving as assistant coaches and Team Managers respectively.

On the Gor’s side, only 2016 KPL Most Valuable Player (MVP) Kenneth Muguna and Rwandese Jean-Baptiste Mugiraneza have been added and actively involved.

The return of former player and coach Zedekiah Otieno as Ferreira’s deputy is a talking point ahead of the Sunday’s duel, being the personality holding most of derby’s experience than all other stakeholders in the equation.

In the 2016 season, Ingwe won the first leg 1-0 courtesy of their then attacker Lamine Diallo, while Gor won the reverse tie 2-0. Medie Kagere and Enoch Agwanda, the latter currently playing for Bandari, were on target.

Gor are perched second on the log with 16 points, while Leopards are two points adrift on fourth.

Action kicks-off on Friday when Mathare United host Bandari, Nakumatt FC visit Nzoia Sugar away to Sudi- Bungoma as Kariobangi Sharks welcome Sony Sugar in Machakos.

On Saturday holders Tusker FC will be at home against Kakamega Homeboyz, Chemilil Sugar host Muhoroni Youth as the current kings Posta Rangers battle against third placed Sofapaka.

Western Stima FC versus Zoo Kericho and Thika United-Ulinzi Stars meetings will conclude the week nine round, with Posta the only team yet to taste defeat.

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