Zanzibar out to deny Stars’ Cecafa home run

Zanzibar striker Muh'dissa Juma (R) celebrates with teammates Feisal Salum (L) and Mudathir Yahya after ...
Zanzibar striker Muh'dissa Juma (R) celebrates with teammates Feisal Salum (L) and Mudathir Yahya after scoring against Uganda during their Cecafa Senior challenge cup 2017 semi-finals match at Moi stadium in Kisumu on December 15, 2017.Zanzibar won 2-1. Photo/Stafford Ondego/

After 22 years without tasting Cecafa glory, Zanzibar have vowed to silence Kenya on their home turf when the two clash in Sunday’s final at the Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos.

Zanzibar swam against the tide to knock out holders and 14-time champions Uganda 2-1 in Friday’s semi-final held at the Moi Stadium in Kisumu to underline the magnitude of their intent.

Zanzibar head coach Suleiman Hemedi ‘Morocco’ Ali declared he has great respect for home team Harambee Stars but warned his Heroes will settle for no less than the regional tournament trophy.

“We came here to play and win, the focus cannot be emphasized more as we head to the final. Kenya has a good team; I cannot single out a one or two players to target in the match. All I can assure we shall fight to the last drop of sweat to make sure we take the trophy home,” Morocco charged.

The Heroes forced Stars to 0-0 draw when the two sides met in the group stages and Morocco believes he gathered enough take-aways from the match to help his team go a step better.

“We knew little about the team before we met in the group match, but we now boldly approach the final with a proper strategy because we have seen how they play. It is a big calling because we are flying the flag of Zanzibar and Tanzania at large, we cannot afford to fail at the business end,” he averred.

Interestingly, the coach had rested six of his first team players in the match against Kenya but still managed to stifle Paul Put’s charges.

Zanzibar’s impressive run has been fueled by some sleek, eye-catching play and boast arguably the quickest forwards in their ranks.

Man of the match in their semi against Uganda Abdul-Aziz Makame has been the pivot of the islanders midfield, a master in killing opponents’ moves with quick interceptions.

Zanzibar also boasts of Mudathir Yahya and Issa Juma whose power and sharpness around the area will need maximum concentration from Kenya’s midfield and defense.

Dents on the Stars

History is on the verge of repeating itself, if Paul Put guides Kenya to another title at home as it was in 2013. Coincidentally, it was a fellow Belgian Adel Amrouche who was in charge of Stars, when they sunk Sudan 2-0 at the Nyayo National Stadium to lift the gong.

However, dents on the Stars line up courtesy of injuries leaves Put in a tight corner as he plans for the clash. His lead striker Masoud Juma , who has missed three matches in a row, will have a late fitness test while another attacker Vincent Oburu is chasing fast recovery after suffering a knock in their semi final 1-0 win over Burundi on Thursday.

Captain Musa Mohammed is doubtful too after he was stretchered out in the match, with a groin injury. How Put will line up against Zanzibar remains uncertain given the injuries list.

In the affirmative, Kenya has not conceded a goal this far, with goalkeeper Patrick Matasi and his formidable defense proving the most effective department.

It will not be easy for the Morocco-coached men to cut the record in the finale, and Put is equally optimistic.

“I have no favorite between Zanzibar and Uganda. Whoever wins will be our worthy opponent in the final, because finalists are always good teams.
“We have done well to avoid goals far, but we are yet to break out as it should be when it comes scoring goals. Hopefully we can keep the positive and improve where we need to,” Put said immediately after guiding stars into the final, before the Zanzibar-Uganda match.

A Stars win will mark an incredible career start for the former Burkina Faso coach, who took charge of the team barely a week to the competition with the unfarmiliar squad (to him) assembled by assistant coach Stanley Okumbi.

Meanwhile, Cecafa Secretary General Nicholas Musonye has called on fans to come out in large number and cheer their teams in the final.

“We want to see the spirit of competition that is always ignited by fans in the final. A final has its special significance, and went more people to be part of it by attending the match,” he offered.

Tickets at the VIP stand will go for Ksh.500, while at the teracces fans will access at a cost of Ksh200.

The match kicks off at 3:30pm (EAT) preceded by the 1:00pm third-place play-off between Uganda and Burundi.

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Story By Jacob Icia
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