Gor prove mettle with 9 players in Afcon action
Kenyan Premier League (KPL) champions, Gor Mahia proved their mettle when nine of their players featured for their countries in last weekend’s 2017 Afcon qualifiers, the highest number from the domestic top flight.
It will be a surprise if K’Ogalo who are lying third after the first leg of the KPL on 26 points, three adrift of leaders Tuesker FC, do not defend their crown for a record fourth year running owing to the sheer talent within their ranks when the second leg kicks-off next month.
The international pedigree they possess also implies they should once again challenge for the regional Cecafa Kagame Cup honours after losing last year’s final to Tanzania giants, Azam FC.
K’Ogalo quartet of Boniface Oluoch, midfielder Francis Kahata, defender Musa Mohammed and rising sensational left-back Eric ‘Marcello’ Ouma were instrumental in Harambee Stars 2-1 win against fancied Congo Brazzaville on Sunday.
It was already-eliminated Kenya’s first Group E victory in five games that put Congo out of the Gabon 2017 finals at the expense of minnows Guinea Bissau who made history by qualifying for their first continental showdown.
The K’Ogalo men also helped ease the heat on Stars first coach, Stanley Okumbi who celebrated a first win since taking charge in February in a result that will elevate Kenya from their dire 129th position in the Fifa rankings.
Khalid Aucho scored for Uganda Cranes in their 2-1 away win over Botswana with Gor teammate Godfrey Walusimbi alongside in midfield. Another former Gor favourite, Baba Kizito who plays in Vietnam also featured.
The win lifted Cranes to 10 points and a possible qualification from Group D alongside 2013 losing finalists Burkina Faso based on ranking if they beat Comoros Islands in the last qualifier as expected in September.
Talismanic Rwanda international striker, Jaques Tuyisenge grabbed a brace as the Amavubi Stars lost to Mozambique 3-2 but just like Kenya, their team was eliminated from Group H with African giants Ghana clinching the solo ticket with an assailable 13 points against six.
Karim Nizigiyamana and Abouba Sibomana played for Burundi who were also knocked out in Group K with Senegal making the finals.
Only Zesco United of Zambia was represented by more than one player in the Stars team that played Congo with former Gor trio of striker Michael Olunga, midfielder Anthony Akumu and defender David ‘Calabar’ Owino also featuring in Okumbi’s line-up.
Jesse Were formerly of Tusker who was on the bench and Owino play for the Zambian side.
Gor assistant coach Tom Ogweno hailed the players saying their international involvement was testament to their prowess.
“It is not a coincidence that most of our first team is playing in their national teams. It is about quality, that’s why somebody saw them.
“Gor is also a celebrity club, it tells much about how we do our things. Kenyans must also appreciate the professional approach in our league that will give the best out of our players,” told the former Ulinzi Stars and Harambee Stars striker said.
He tipped Ouma as a force to reckon in future.
“He has everything, the fighting spirit, ball control and the crosses must be some of the technicalities that coach Okumbi saw when trusting him for a first team position. With advice and mentorship we are giving him, he will go far.
“Having four players from one club gives the national team advantage in that they transfer their homogeneity to the team. The basic logic here is they are good at club level, which should be replicated in the national team,” he explained.
He also backed Oluoch to cement his place as the first choice keeper with Norway-based Arnold Origi’s future in the team in doubt.
“I think a good coach will give him the number one jersey. He has been consistent in the club and the coach has the opportunity to watch him every time he plays here. These foreign players must be scrutinized thoroughly before they are called to the first eleven,” the official added.
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