The allure of derby is gone as Leopards can’t rise to the challenge -Abbas
- Gor faithfuls did their ritual around the Tom Mboya statue. ( The late Joseph Tom Mboya was among club founders) as Leopards' followers teased them across the road heading to Kencom House, giving a glimpse of a battle that lay ahead.
- At the match venue, the contest, billed 'as Mashemeji Derby' failed to live to its billing as there was nothing to justify the 'big day' save for more numbers on the stands compared to other KPL matches.
Around 10 am Sunday, Nairobi’s city centre was painted green and blue, courtesy of Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards’ fans rocking the city in anticipation of their Kenyan Premier League (KPL) clash at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.
A first time visitor in the city would wonder what the buzz was all about, with the fans stealing the show by noon as the clock ticked fast towards time the kick 4:15pm kick-off time.
Gor faithfuls did their ritual around the Tom Mboya statue. ( The late Joseph Tom Mboya was among club founders) as Leopards’ followers teased them across the road heading to Kencom House, giving a glimpse of a battle that lay ahead.
At the match venue, the contest, billed ‘as Mashemeji Derby’ failed to live to its billing as there was nothing to justify the ‘big day’ save for more numbers on the stands compared to other KPL matches.
By half-time, Nicholas Kipkirui had put one behind the net for Gor, quite a gift by Ingwe custodian Ezekiel Owade who dropped Samuel Onyango’s shot to his path for an easy tap-in.
Overall, the contest was a one sided affair with only Paul Were and Whyvonne Isuza showing signs of causing danger on the opposite end.
Second half would bear two more goals for K’Ogalo, Kipkirui and Jacques Tuyisenge adding one each as Vincent Oburu pulled one back for Ingwe, also a gift from Harambee Stars centre-back Joash Onyango who played the ball to him with custodian Frederick Odhiambo exposed.
And, like a mirror, statistics don’t lie. AFC Leopards last victory against Gor came in March 16, 2016 under coach Ivan Minnaert and have won just three in the last 19 meetings. In the 19 battles, Gor has won 11 with five draws balancing the equation.
In the same number of matches, K’Ogalo has also scored 27 against Ingwe’s 14.
Arguably Harambee Stars finest goalkeeper of all time, Mahmoud Abbas says his former club Leopards has fallen victim of the now diluted derby, having followed the proceedings from the terraces on Sunday.
“There was nothing like a derby yesterday(Sunday). The fans tried to create that atmosphere but on the field Leopards were not visible. Still on the stands the Leopards fans were clearly outnumbered by Gor.
“Traditionally Leopards and Gor would give the highlight of the season whenever we played. Most of the times a trophy would be at stake from the result of such a match, hence the fighting spirit that both sides would show. It was a show of Kenya’s football might, which is totally different today as Gor has since dominated,” said Abbas, whose first derby in Leopards jersey was in 1979.
According to legend Abbas, an ever present figure in the club’s matches, the difference of quality in players of the two teams is a major contributor to the diminishing value of the derby.
“Lack of quality in Leopards has been giving Gor Mahia advantage in the recent matches. For example the goalkeeper made the same mistake for the first goal, as was with the first leg which Gor won 2-0. It shows you nothing was learnt from it,”Abbas mourned.
“During our time it was not possible for one side to win three or four derbies in a row. That’s the norm now, and it’s a reflection of dying competition in our league,” offered Abbas.
Gor coach Hassan Oktay also turned the knife on the back of Leopards, saying they made the day too easy for his charges despite preparing them for a hard encounter.
“They made it too easy for us, honestly I expected a better challenge. The derby part was maybe on the fans but not on the pitch. Had we used our chances well especially in the last stages of the match it would have been 7-1,” Oktay bragged.
His captain Harun Shakava echoed his sentiments saying Gor needs to look beyond the local success.
“I don’t want to say Leopards cannot offer us a challenge anymore, but everyone can see how seriously we approach such matches. We can do even better on the continental stage if the financial gap between us and our competitors on that stage can be bridged. I think that should be the focus, and I believe it’s possible,” Shakava opined as a mind leap into CAF Champions League next season, as Gor are just one win away from bagging the league title, and with it a ticket to continental football where their fairy-tale run ended at the hands of Moroccan side, RS Berkane, at the quarter final of the CAF Confederations Cup last month.
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