KPL sides in rude Cup awakening

Published on 03/02/2009

By James Waindi

The harsh reality of the stagnation of Kenyan club football was ruthlessly exposed over the weekend in Lusaka and Nairobi.

After years in the doldrums of continental club football, the optimism that greeted league champions, Mathare United and Cup winners Gor Mahia forays into the CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup turned to despair in a matter of 24 hours.

Mathare United’s midfielder Kepha Aswani contests an ball with Agro Chemical goalkeeper Phinius Odhiambo in a past KPL match at Kasarani. Photo: Robert Gocheru/Standard

On Saturday, Mathare fielded against Zambian champions, Zesco United in Ndola and after holding the hosts for 65 minutes, their rearguard was breached twice. Clifford Chipola bagged a brace in the 65th and 88th.

“Our containment plan almost came off. It is difficult to win away and apart from the two easy goals we gave away, I believe my team stuck to my plan of keeping a compact defence and attacking at every opportunity,” Mathare coach, Francis Kimanzi told FeverPitch on Monday.

“I would have preferred restricting them to at least a lone goal advantage but the two-goal deficit is not impossible to overturn but makes matters a bit difficult for us.

“If we hit them early, we stand a good chance of progressing but we have to be solid at the back,” the tactician added.

He disclosed that the loss of Mathare founder and Tusker FC CEO, Peter Serry, to the Nakumatt supermarket inferno weighed heavily on the players but had no effect on the outcome of the game.

“Serry was our very dear friend and we were shattered by his demise but when we stepped to the pitch, it was time for the football. The best tribute we can pay him is progressing to the next phase.”

Mathare wore black armbands at the start of their match in respect.

A day after Mathare’s away blues, Gor Mahia, the 1987 winners of the Africa Cup Winners’ Cup (Mandela Cup) were welcomed back to the modern age of continental football with a 5-0 home pasting by Rwanda’s APR.

Lacking experience

For a club associated with the mythical powers of a legendary warrior, even the great Gor Mahia himself would be hard pressed to conjure the magic needed for James Sianga’s side to score six times in the return leg in Kigali next weekend.

While Mathare can harbour hopes of overturning the two-goal deficit in their reverse fixture in Nairobi, Gor’s Confederations Cup dreams are all over but in name.

Siang’a was candid enough to rule out possibilities of turning tables against the Rwandese in two weeks time, after seeing his young team capitulate in a one-sided match at the Nyayo Stadium.

He said: “It’s not all about continental football, we still have the league to concentrate on. This is a young team and it’s not easy to reach the peak without taking gradual steps.”

“My boys lacked experience against APR. Our opponents totally dominated us and our chances of proceeding in the competition are very slim, but this is a team for the future.”

Prior to the Sunday’s demolition, the writing was on the wall. APR’s had seven Rwanda national team players who have steered the country to the final phase of the 2010 World Cup/African Nations Cup qualifiers, while K’Ogalo had only Tony Onyango in Harambee Stars’ roster.

The rest were youngsters, most whom featured at the National Schools Championships in Machakos last year.

Lethal Burundi international, Fuadi Ndayisenga, began the rout with a double in the 12th and 54th minutes. Rwanda international Labama Bokota matched him by finding the target in the 29th and 31st minutes. His Amavubi Stars teammate, Elias Nzamukunda, sealed the goal-fest in the 48th.

The results mirrored the widening gulf between the rest of Africa and Kenya, whose game has suffered from a surplus of problems, as far as club football is concerned.

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