We are besieged, Oktay cries as resurgent Bandari come calling

Barely hours to their Kenyan Premier League (KPL) clash against Bandari at the Moi Stadium Kisumu, holders Gor Mahia are besieged from every corner, according to head coach Hassan Oktay.

Still recovering from the CAF Confederations Cup agonizing exit in the hands of little known RS Barkene and the FKF Shield a week ago, Oktay now feels their KPL title defense if not guaranteed owing to “malicious external influence.”

A disgruntled Oktay blames the poor officiating for their two-point loss in their 1-1 draw against Ulinzi on Sunday, underscoring events that preceded the match show there was a plan to influence the result.

“It is very frustrating. First, centre referees were changed thrice before the match.  How can that happen in a professional league? What did you see in the penalty awarded to Ulinzi? It was a very soft tackle, Kahata (Francis) was fouled in their box and there was no call. It was poor officiating big time, I don’t know what happens in Kenya, I don’t know how it is done in Kenya,” fumed the Cypriot, in post match interview.

Oktay says African Cup of Nations bound Dr. Peter Waweru was the first referee appointed to oversee the league match before he was replaced by Felix Ekai for ‘unknown reasons’.

Later, Ekai was also replaced by Moses Simiyu, who initially was to handle the National Super League (NSL) match between Kisumu All-Stars and Wazito FC.

Depleted squad

Gor Mahia FC Head Coach Hassan Octay in action during his first training session with the Kenyan Premier League champions at Camp Toyoyo stadium Jericho in Nairobi on December 07, 2018.. Photo/Kelly Ayodi/Sportpicha.

While Oktay could not understand who was behind the motive he claims to be denying Gor the title, he admits his depleted squad has an uphill task as the race approaches the homestretch.

“There was a clear bias against us but we also missed a lot of chances. In such a circumstance you wish to have every player available. Today (Sunday) we missed Shafiq Batambuze’s class. Philemon Otieno is now also injured; I hope it is not very serious.

Batambuze was out as budding Geoffrey Ochieng took the left-full-back role, and it was from his side that Ulinzi got the penalty.

“At this stage of the league players are tired having been busy at the continental stage all through. You need variety, so that you can be more assured of gaining from the matches in hand,” offered Oktay.

Despite having four matches in hand, the tactician is cautious to brag about them having suffered another draw against Kakamega Homeboyz on Thursday in the same venue.

“We have to fight; we have to see what is happening around. We must use every chance that we get. We can talk about these matches we have in hand once we have played and seen the result, but not before,” he added.

Former Kenyan international Mahmoud Abbas who was following the proceedings at the Moi Stadium warned the first assistant referee failed in his duty as Ulinzi got the penalty, which Enosh Ochieng easily converted to seal the draw.

However, he noted Gor had no enough excuse. “Sometimes referees make mistakes that spoil the game. There was no penalty there; I don’t know what the assistant referee who was at a very open angle saw to make his call.

Ulinzi Stars FC goalkeeper James Saruni reacts during their SportPesa Premier League match against Gor Mahia FC at the Nyayo national stadium on September 14, 2016. Gor Mahia FC won 1-0. Photo/Stafford Ondego/Stafford Ondego/Sportpicha.com

“Gor Mahia should also blame themselves for failing to convert some of those clear chances, although not every chance can be converted. Credit to Ulinzi Stars’ goalkeeper (James Saruni) who rose to the occasion on several instances when opposing strikers had done their job.”

Gor will have another litmus test in Bandari who sunk them 2-1 in the first leg, with Sofapaka already two points clear at the summit. A loss to Bandari will relegate the 17-time winners to the third spot on the table, while a draw will keep K’Ogalo second with 57 points, one behind Sofapaka.