Flashback 2016: Gor’s poor campaign start comes to bite
The 2016 Kenyan Premier League (KPL) season saw Gor Mahia’s three-year dominance brought to an end as Tusker FC reclaimed the title they last won in 2012.
So accustomed to success are K’Ogalo that finishing second best is never far off from shambolic especially for their ever-demanding fans.
Gor started their title defense without their 2015 star striker Michael Olunga who moved to Swedish top-flight side Djurgårdens IF and later losing midfield lynchpin Khalid Aucho and winger Ali Abondo (both moving to South African Premier League Soccer sides) en route to a disappointing trophyless campaign.
The exit of striker Meddie Kagere – another key figure in their historic ubeaten league run – was another major blow as they suffered an aggregate 3-1 defeat to Madagascan champions CNaPS in the preliminary stages of the CAF Champions League.
Early into their season, the 15-time champions fired former Head coach Frank Nutall for allegedly refusing to take a 50 percent pay-cut with the Scottish insisting he in fact deserved a 10 percent raise on his initial deal as per the terms of his contract.
He was however reinstated following the intervention of fans who widely expressed their displeasure at his sacking before Aucho was reported to be absconding duty over a simmering pay dispute between the Ugandan international and the club. It was a scandalous start in its very sense.
After drawing both of their opening two fixtures, Gor brought in new Head coach José ‘Ze Maria’ Marcelo Ferreira with the former Brazilian international charged with the task to get them back and firing.
His impact was however not as immediate as would have been anticipated, as the retired right back who earned 25 caps for the Selecao between 1996 and 2001slowly put his methods across.
“I took the job because this team are the champions. I’m here to do my best and try to win again, the championship this is my target for the year. They are a good team and my first task will be changing the players’ mentality.
“I believe they are in this situation because maybe they have lost trust in themselves. I trust in my job and I always trust my players. For me, this is very important,” Ze Maria who’s last coaching job was at Romanian side Fotball Club Ceahlăul Piatra Neamț said on his arrival.
Ze Maria ultimately failed to meet his own target as Tusker consistently built a stronger title challenge.
Gor dramatically improved under his stewardship, embarking on a storming April run that saw them overturn their fortunes to move to within five points off the top of the KPL log despite a controversial 1-0 defeat to Paul Nkata’s Tusker.
From then, Gor were never far off the top but Olunga remained a glaring miss as the club struggled to find a consistent match-winner in their Ksh4m Rwandese striker Jacques Tuyisenge.
With four rounds left before the close of their season, Gor claimed a 2-0 win over archrivals AFC Leopards to cut Tusker’s lead at the summit of the log to four points with the Brewers being held to a shock 1-1 draw by the now relegated Nairobi City Stars.
Gor remained hopeful for an almighty stumble that would have put the league’s fate in their hands but it never happened and just when it was thought Tusker would crumble under the pressure, Nkata’s men remained calm to win the title with a seven points lead margin.
In the KPL Top 8, Muhoroni Youth claimed a stunning 1-0 victory over titleholders Gor in a final marred by crowd trouble. Chaos descended when irate K’Ogalo fans set their ire on assistant referee Gilbert Cheruiyot accusing him of not being fair to the two-time winners of the knock-out tournament.
K’Ogalo have reportedly completed the signing of Rwandan international Jean-Baptiste Mugiraneza with KPL Player of the Year Kenneth Muguna of Western Stima FC set to follow as they look to build a side that would glory back to Kenya’s most successful club.
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