Sunday’s Mashemeji derby is not just like any other derby. It will have decisive consequences and could dramatically change the fortunes of either club as they pursue the league title. A win for Kogalo will give them a commanding lead and move them closer to winning the league title that has eluded them for 18 years. A win for AFC will put them in prime position to catch the league leaders. AFC striker Allan Wanga recently described his team as being in the overtaking lane. Whether Kogalo will allow themselves to be overtaken is a different story. We are ready for them.” said Gor Mahia Deputy coach, Bobby Ogolla, himself a veteran of several derbies and who usually had the tall order of marking legendary AFC striker JJ Masiga.
Both teams have been in convincing form of late despite a few hiccups. But both teams have also had to deal with distractions. Gor Mahia had to deal with the departure of dependable striker Rama Salim top Qatar. There was also Sserunkuma’s beef with the club’s officials whom he accuse of betrayal. He however appears to have been welcomed and integrated back to the team. Leopards for their part have had to deal with the restless Luc Eymael who had been demanding a higher salary and better training facilities.
The derby is usually unpredictable but with both teams playing well, it is even harder to predict this time. During the last game, AFC outplayed Gor Mahia. Mike Baraza and Noah Wafula in particular were a handful to deal with. Had it not been for the outstanding play of defenders Mosoti, Emuge and keeper Jerim Onyango, AFC might have won. Gor Mahia actually scored against the run of play. Kogalo will be depending on the trio along with Owino “Jashirati” and Solomon Nasio to once again hold off the Ingwe attackers
A well executed breakway by Lavatsa and Rama Salim enabled Sserunkuma to score. Speaking of Ssserunkuma, he has been the bane of the Leopards defence in the past few games and is a key reason Gor Mahia have won 3 of the last four derbies. Lavatsa too has been a handful for AFC defenders in past games while Kiongera will be looking to score his first derby goal.
In midfield, Gor Mahia will be hoping that Moses Odhiambo can replicate the form he displayed last weekend against Muhoroni. If he can control the middle of the park, he will free up Kevin Omondi and or Innocent Mutiso to make the menacing runs into the AFC penalty area that have been wreaking havoc to other KPL teams of late.
All in all, Kogalo have the psychological edge, having won most of the recent derbies and also due to the fact they are leading the league by seven points. Peter Dawo , the Kogalo legend concurs with this view. “Gor have had a remarkable run in the recent past. This, coupled with the fact that they are leading in the league standings, will work to their advantage. I see a slim win though, perhaps 1-0 or 2-1,” says Dawo.
Sometime in 1987, Gor Mahia faced off with AFC in the second leg of the league. The match was evenly balanced and scoreless. AFC fans were always heard bragging that Dawo could score many goals against other teams but he could never score against AFC. And with the game tied scoreless that prediction seemed to be coming to fruition. In the 70th minute, coach Jack Johnson introduced Ben Oloo “Breakdance” , perhaps the best the best dribbler ever to play for Kogalo. “Breakdance” completely changed the direction of the game. He excited fans with his mazy dribbles that confused and befuddled the AFC defence especially Wycliff Anyangu who had a torrid time defending against Breakdance. It was a left wing cross from Breakdance in the 85th minute that was headed home by Dawo for the winning goal. And just like that, Dawo had scored his first goal ever against AFC. It had been a stroke of genius by Jack Johnson to introduece breakdance into the game. he is now one of the officials of Bandari FC.
Let the Fans be peaceful
This column urges Kogalo fans to show up in large numbers and cheer the team. And most importantly, show patience even when matters are not going to their liking. No matter what happens in this derby, Gor Mahia still has an excellent chance to secure the title. The move by the club to finally address bhang smoking at the stadium is a good one.