NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 30 – Gor Mahia have been simply unplayable for the last six Kenyan Premier League seasons, winning the title in each of the years from 2013 apart from 2016 when they lost it to Tusker after being docked points due to crowd trouble.
The record Kenyan champions start the journey for title number 20 on Saturday afternoon at their traditional home turf in Kisumu and all eyes will be on whether K’Ogalo will be able to dominate the league once again or a new force will come to knock them off their feet.
-New coach, new captain
Gor have once again turned to English magic to keep their hunt alive with the appointment of Steven Polack who took charge after the exit of former boss Hassan Oktay after just one season.
Polack is unbeaten so far having led Gor to victory over Burundi’s Aigle Noir in the Champions League and won the first trophy after hitting Bandari 1-0 to win the season opening KPL Super Cup.
The former Asante Kotoko man is said to be a strict disciplinarian and his decision to make do without striker Dennis Oliech who has not yet reported to training went a mile to show he doesn’t condone cheap indiscipline.
The club will also be led by a new man in the field, Kenneth Muguna having been appointed captain after the exit of Harun Shakava.
Not the loudest on the pitch and obviously not the most combative, Muguna lets his football do the talking on the pitch and so far he has been sensational. His leadership qualities have however come into question due to his soft spoken nature, but this is a role he says he is ready to grow in.
-Exit of players, entry of new men
Gor lost three key players from the just concluded campaign. Skipper Shakava left for Zambian side Nkana, striker Jacques Tuyisenge joined Angola’s Petro Atletico while midfielder Francis Kahata crossed the border to join Tanzanian outfit Simba SC.
The three were lock and key to Gor’s success last term, each playing a crucial role in their campaign with Kahata being named midfielder of the year.
While most fear that the exit of the three men would prove detrimental to Gor’s campaign, the players they have brought on board look set to ensure the team remains a force to reckon with.
One standout figure so far is former Sony Sugar midfielder Tobias Otieno who has been pulling the strings in the middle of the pack and his combative, hard working nature added on to some good passing range give the club some sense of calm.
His ability to sweep all through midfield has given Muguna some freedom to operate and it is no wonder he has started the season well. Add this to the notable improvement of Lawrence Juma and Gor will be smiling.
The team has also improved the goalkeeping department with the arrival of Tanzanian David Mapigano from Singida United and the shot stopper looks all set to be the number one choice this term having started in all the competitive games.
Mapigano has only conceded once in the three games and behind him, he has some serious competition with former Kenyan international Boniface Oluoch and Fredrick Odhiambo breathing on his neck.
It is only in attack that they seem not to have landed a replacement for Tuyisenge. Ivorian Gislein Yikpe is yet to start a competitive match due to injury while Ghanaian Francis Afriyie was far from convincing when he played against Bandari.
-Season opener against Tusker
The reigning champions have a tough task in their opening game in Kisumu against the brewers. It will be a homecoming for the Kenyan Premier League Most valuable Player Joash Onyango and their skipper Muguna, but this will be far from a party in the lakeside.
Tusker have quietly assembled a strong team and with two former Gor players in George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo and Humphrey Mieno in their ranks, Robert Matano and his alemen will be out to spoil the party and begin their own charge to the league crown.
The bookmakers hugely favor Gor to pick victory in Kisumu as in 23 meetings between the two, they have lost only five, winning 10 and drawing eight. Their last loss against the brewers was last October when they went down 1-0.
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