Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Gor Mahia’s stellar performance at continental events was largely a result of maintaining a core group of players who played together for several years, built cohesion and built a camaraderie on and off the field. In those days Gor Mahia won the Africa cup in 1987, reached the finals in 1979, semi finals in 1989, quarter-finals in 1988 and reached the quarter-finals of the Champions cup in 1992. During this period, Kogalo also won the CECAFA cup in 1980, 1981 and 1985.
The common theme in all these successes was maintaining a core group of players who had played together for a long time and thus knew each others tendencies and could read and anticipate each others moves.
For example, the defensive unit in 1987 had George Otieno Solo (12 years at the club), Bobby Ogolla (10 years), Isaiah Omondi(6 years), Peter Otieno Bassanga (6 years) and Austin Oduor (7 years). Since they knew each other so well, they were able to coordinate their step backs and step forwards and cover for each other effectively.
In midfield, Charles Otieno (4 years on and off), Abbas Magongo (3 years), George Onyango (3 years), George Nyangi (2 years), Peter Ochieng (4 years). Their familiarity with each other enabled them to anticipate each others movements and coordinate effectively with attack which had another experienced player in Sammy Onyango “Jogoo” who had been at the club for 8 years.
These were augmented by the addition of a few new players such as Anthony Odhiambo Ndolo, Tobias Ocholla and Peter Dawo all of whom joined the club in 1986.
It takes experienced players to thrive in continental football especially when playing in hostile arenas away from home. Note that in 1992 and 1993, Kogalo reached the quarter-finals of the Africa Champions league and CAF Confederations cup. In that period, the defense had highly experienced players like Tobias Ocholla, Zedekiah Otieno, Allan Odhiambo, Sammy Omollo and Paul Ochieng.
In those days Gor Mahia players would go on residential training camps either up country or out of the country. These were aimed at sharpening the team before the season and also for the players to bond and create friendships. For example, in 1987, Kogalo embarked on a monthlong tour of Denmark where they trained and played 10 friendly matches.
The club’s recent poor performance at continental level has largely been due to inexperience and constant player turnover. The most extreme case was in 2009 when a team composed of inexperienced recent school leavers who hd not played with each other at all lost 5-0 to a well drilled Rwanda APR side.
In 2012, Gor Mahia completely overhauled their side bringing in nearly new players including Ivo Mapunda George Midenyo, Yusuf Juma, Baldwin Ngwa , Ali Abondo, Wycliffe Kasaya and Hugo Nzangu. There was also a completely new tchnical bench consisting of recently appointed coaches: Anaba Awono, Kennedy Odhiambo, Zablon Otieno, Maurice Ole Tunda and Julius Owino. . And the technical bench was in dissarray with members of the EC interfering and telling Awono whom to field. The net result was a 4-0 aggregate loss to Ferroviario of Angola.
In 2016, Gor Mahia having won the league unbeaten, were a completely unsettled side. The three main leading scorers from the previous year: Olunga, Abondo and Kagere had all left the club while the club’s technical bench was once again in turmoil with the EC trying to force coach Frank Nuttall to take a paycut.
The other key factor is poor preparations. The Champions League typically starts when other teams are already in mid-season while the Kenyan season is only just starting. This means off-season preparations are especially crucial for Kogalo.
Though Gor Mahia have been succesful on the domestic front, they have yet to make any impact at the continental level since the early 1990s.
Will the club learn from past mistakes?
What would Kogalo’s line-up look like if this was the 1980s?
Back then Kogalo held onto their best players for years but the players were mostly local. Thus the current line-up would look like this:
If you included foreign players, the line-up would look something like this
On Wednesday, long serving defender and captain Musa Mohamed put pen to paper on a new contract that will see him stay at Kogalo until 2019. Mohamed is the longest serving player at the club having joined in 2010, soon after finishing form four at Langata high along with Kevin Omondi. The last two years have seen Musa build on his experience and play the best football of his life.
Also penning a two year deal is Ugandan midfielder Godfrey Walusimbi. He has been instrumental as both a playmaker and occasional goal-scorer. His excellent form has seen him become a regular for the Ugandan national team.
Coach Dylan Kerr is happy as he plots an assault on the 2018 Africa champions league where Kogalo’s record has been below par.
“The expectation for us to go to the Champions League and win is high and the players want this platform to market themselves. It’s not good when you have players’ contracts running out because everybody will come for them,” said Kerr.
“I don’t want my players to fall for deals from some unscrupulous agents with empty promises. I want them all to stay. I don’t want the team to be messed up by so many new recruits.”
“One of Sir Alex Ferguson’s biggest strengths was that he didn’t change his squad time and again. Look at his tally of premier league titles in England. If we want to be the best, we must copy the best.” said Kerr to the Nation.
Resurgent George Odhiambo Blackberry has capped a succesful comeback when he was voted Kenyan Premier League (KPL) Player of the Month Award for August.
Blackberry was KPL player of the year back in 2010 and his career looked very promising. None other than the legendary Joe Kadenge was full of praise for Blackberry after seeing him play for the national team as a second half substitute against Uganda in 2010.
He then went to Denmark to play for Randers FC but got very little playing time. The whole episode ruined his confidence. Subsequent stints in Finland, Armenia and Tanzania did little to restore his confidence. He would return to Kogalo in 2014 and it was under Frank Nuttall that his career begun its resurgence.
Since 2015, he has been playing as a withdrawn striker, operating on the flanks where he has become the best supplier for the club. This season he leads the club in assists. But he has also found the back of the net 10 times this season. So good has his performance been that he has been recalled to the national team
His displays for K’Ogalo in August saw assured wins over Nakumatt, Muhoroni Youth twice, Posta Rangers and came from behind to earn a crucial point against fierce rivals AFC Leopards.
Blackberry scored in two matches and provided three assists in the rest of the games hence putting himself in contention for the month’s gong. Gor Mahia created a clear path to the title in August with Blackberry combining with imports Tuyisenge and Meddie Kagere to take center stage.
Having garnered 18 votes, he edged teammate Jacques Tuyisenge by a single vote in a winner-takes-it-all affair while the third contestant Umaru Kasumba of Sofapaka collected thirteen votes.
The award comes with a 49 Inch LG television and KSh100,000 to feted players as well as KSh50,000 for the rest of the squad. Blackberry became Kogalo’s 2nd player to win it in 2017 following previous triumph by midfielder Ernest Wendo who in May.
“I’m glad to be back to my best. A lot had been said by people who don’t really know everything that happened to me but i decided to be patient and work my way back. My focus now is to get even better and raise the levels. In football, a lot can happen and i already have offers from three clubs but patience is a virtue and i cannot rush into anything.” a jubilant Odhiambo said
Blackberry’s contract is ending at the end of the season. He says he has received offers from other clubs but is letting his agent handle the issues.
Kogalo legend, All Thigo, arguably the greatest player ever to play for this club, explained that the name Sirkal came about when President Moi decreed that all tribal clubs must change their names to non-tribal names. The only team given an exception by Moi was Gor Mahia. Hence the name “Sirkal”
Having sealed the 2017 Kenya premier league title, Gor Mahia’s next task is to renew the contracts of six key players whose contract expiry is imminent.
The six are captain Musa Mohammed, whose contract lapses on January 15 next year, on-form striker George “Blackberry” Odhiambo, who will be out of a contract by December 31, defender Harun Shakava, whose contract ends on January 14, Rwandan Jacques Tuyisenge (February 1), Godfrey Walusimbi (January 22) and burly midfielder Ernest Wendo (January 1, 2018)
All six are important players whom Kogalo will need if they want to make an impact on the continental scene in 2018. Chairman Ambrose Rachier told the Nation newspaper that they would like to close out this issue by the end of the year.
“We have learned our lessons and this time round we want to do things differently. We have already started negotiations with the players whose contracts are running out,” he said.
“That is however a great challenge to us because it requires a huge amount of money in terms of sign-on fees and salaries for the players.
“I’d like us to settle this matter with the players before the end of this year so that we can have everyone registered for the Caf competition, as opposed to previous years where some of our best players have had to miss the competition due to late registration,” Rachier said
And according to CEO Ludovick Aduda, Tuyisenge is being pursued by Rwanda APR while Walusimbi is being pursued by Orlando Pirates of South Africa.
“This are our valuable players who we cannot afford to lose and are working round the clock to have them agree new contracts,” Aduda said. “We already have had preliminary talks with Tuyisenge and he is showing positive signs of staying with the club and should engage Walusimbi who returns to the country at the weekend and we believes we will convince the two to stay,” he said to the Nation.
Gor Mahia clinched the 2017 Kenya premier league after they beat military side Ulinzi stars 1-0. The goal came via Meddie Kagere in the 14th minute. Gor Mahia have now won the Kenyan top tier league 16 times which is four times more than second placed AFC who have 12 titles and third placed Tusker who have 11 titles.
In a dominant display, Gor Mahia have won the league with five matches to spare while also leading the league in goals scored (47) and goals conceded (18).
Match report from the Standard
Gor Mahia are the new Sportpesa Kenyan Premier League champions.
They achieved the feat for their 16th title victory after they whipped Ulinzi Stars 1-0 at Kericho Green Stadium in a tough encounter on Saturday.
Rwandese international Meddie Kagere scored the lone goal in the 15th minute to lead by the solitary goal at the break.
The victory was warm welcome to the British Coach Dyerr Kerr who succeeded Brazilian Joe Marcelo Ferreira who had served at the club for only 14 months after he took over from Scott Frank Nuttal.
The result left Gor Mahia perched at the top of the log with unassailable 66 points from 30 matches with four matches before they conclude their fixtures.
A jubilated Gor Coach Kerr attributed their victory to high discipline in the team.
ALSO READ: Will Ulinzi Stars delay Gor’s bash? The first leg tie between the two sides ended in a draw
“We have achieved all these due to a high sense of discipline among my players and their determination towards the title in every subsequent match,” he told Standard Sports.
The Gor tactician who said he is not only contented with this victory stated that he is now focused on leading the newly crown champions to a continental title next year and emulate their 1987 performance when they became the first club from East and Central Africa to lift the Mandela Cup (formerly Africa Cup Winners Cup).
“With the kind of quality of my players under me, we are now focused to win a continental title next season,” he explained.
Gor are scheduled to feature in the prestigious Africa Champions League next season.
However, despite the victory, he decried the state of the Kericho pitch, which he stated affected their mode of play.
“We would have won the match with a bigger margin had it not been the state of the pitch that was bumpy and affected our format of play,” he said.
The loss left Ulinzi Stars Head Coach Benjamin Nyangweso boys tongue tied after the comeback of defenders Mohammed ‘Rio’ Hassan, Oliver Ruto and Geoffrey Kokoyo and midfielder Boniface Onyango and winger Samuel Onyango who missed their previous matches due in accumulation of yellow cards.
Gor Mahia are set to take on Ulinzi Stars at Kericho Green stadium on Saturday. They need only one point to seal their record 16th title. This puts Kogalo four titles ahead of second placed AFC who have won 12 titles and Tusker who have won 11 titles.
Since Dylan Kerr took over as coach, Gor Mahia have gone on a winning spree that has left them 14 points ahead of their closest challengers. And they have done this while playing brilliant attacking football that has seen them score 46 goals. It is for this reason that Kerr is unlikely to be looking for a draw. He will be going for an all out win.
“Most clubs opt to play a very defensive game, especially when they are playing against us but I tell my players to always enjoy themselves on the pitch,” said Kerr to the Nation.
And aside from the disappointing match against Mathare United, Kerr has found ways to keep his side motivated where other teams would have taken their foot off the accelerator pedal.
“I like the spirit I see during training and I tell them to maintain as much of it as possible on the pitch. We attack as a unit and also defend as a unit because every player knows when it is time to advance and when it is time to retreat.” he continued.
Two players who will be especially motivated are Meddie Kagere and Jacque Tuyisenge, both of whom are in the running to be the league top scorer. Yet both are completely uneselfish and often pass the ball to a more open player who is in a better scoring position.
The last time these two sides met was in Kisumu soon after Ze Maria had quit. Gor Mahia relinquished a two goal lead to settle for a 2-2 draw. Ulinzi will be hoping for another good performance.
“We missed many players in our midweek match and that had a very bad impact on our performance against Leopards. That was a game we could have easily won but we had to do with fringe players.
“This time we have a full strength squad. Geoffrey Kokoyo, Oliver Rutto and Samuel Onyango are all back from suspension and I am confident of a good result on Saturday,” said coach Benjamin Nyangweso to the Nation.
Gor Mahia’s Rwandese striker Jacque Tuyisenge, found the back of the net three times (in the 12th , 20th and 36th minutes) as Gor Mahia recovered from their weekend loss to Mathare to beat Kariobangi Sharks 3-1.
Additional reporting from sportpesa news
Stung by losing their fourth game of the campaign last weekend to Mathare United FC, Gor wasted little time in shifting through the gears in a devastating first half that saw Tuyisenge notch his treble in the 11th, 20th and 36th minutes.
Masoud Juma scored the consolation for Sharks from the spot in the second half but the damage had already been done as the two sides reproduced the exact result from the first leg.
The record K’Ogalo signing thus became the first player to notch a hat-trick for the record 15-time SPL winners since LaLiga side Girona FC forward; Michael Olunga, went home with the match ball in their 4-1 demolition of Chemelil Sugar on June 27, 2015.
The league leaders now have 63 points, 18 ahead of second placed Sofapaka FC and still have a game in hand over Ulinzi Stars FC as they closed in on their 16th crown.
In Kisumu, both sides came into this match on the back of underwhelming results in their last outings.
Gor coach, Dylan Kerr rung changes to his team, resting keeper Boniface Oluoch, the injured Karim Nizigiyimana and Jean Baptiste Mugiraneza.
In their place came in Peter Odhiambo, Innocent Wafula and Philemon Otieno.
His opposite number William Muluya, with one eye on the GOtv Shield final against Leopards on Friday, made wholesale changes.
Francis Manoah, Sanneh and Wycliffe Otieno who came in as skipper took their place in the starting XI that had Geoffrey Shiveka leading the list of absentees.
It did not take long before K’Ogalo proved their credentials as title holders in waiting with the trio of Kenneth Muguna, Francis Kahata and Otieno dictating the pace from the middle of the park.
Tuyisenge made their early dominance count with the opener when he mopped up a well constructed move.
Even before the decibel levels could go down in a city that has been rocked by the stench of death following a violent clampdown on political protests, the Rwandese forward notched his double when he gave John Oyemba, in the Sharks goal, no chance with an exquisite finish.
Tuyisenge was not done yet as he claimed the match ball inside 23 minutes for his first SPL hat-trick since he joined K’Ogalo in January 2016 to leave Sharks reeling five minutes to the break and staring at a good old hiding.
And it should have been four for the Rwandese seconds before the breather but on this occasion, his canon shot came off the bar with Oyemba soundly beaten.
With the sizeable Green Army supporters baying for more goals, Gor picked off from where they left after they switched sides, forcing Muluya to resort to damage control in a bid to prevent the rout.
Elly Asieche, Juma and midfielder Ovella Ochieng’ who rejoined the Sharks from what the club stated was an ‘exchange programme’ with Swedish top tier side, Djurgardens where Olunga made his name last season, came off the bench.
Their introduction had the desired effect, stemming the one way traffic and Sharks improvement was rewarded 15 minutes from full time when they earned a spot kick after Wafula was adjudged to have handled inside the box.
Juma made no mistake from 12 yards, sending Odhiambo the wrong way to pull one back and embellish the scoreline but Gor comfortably saw out the rest of the match to inch another step closer to glory.