James Magayi @magayijim
Kenya’s representatives in this year’s Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League Gor Mahia will host their home games at Bukhungu and Machakos stadiums.
The team has also scheduled a 14-day high altitude pre-season training at Egerton University staring today and hoping to stock up sufficient oxygen for the gruelling continental campaigns, which start early February.
Gor earned the rights to play in the CAF Champions League after emerging as the league winners of 2017 season but unavailability of Kasarani and Nyayo stadiums forced K’Ogalo to find alternative venues and the use of the only available that remotely attain CAF’s approval threshold for international games.
Kisumu’s Moi stadium, which is Gor’s favourite, equally failed the CAF test while Nyayo and Kasarani remain closed for renovations. Gor face Equatorial Guinea champions Vegetarianos on February 10 before travelling away to the West African state for the second leg on February 17.
The club has not picked which venue between Machakos and Bukhungu for their first CAF game with slightly over a month left to their date with destiny. After a near total dominance of the local scene last season, anything short of group stage appearance by Gor will be dimmed a failure.
K’Ogalo are expected to pass the Vegetarianos test but a giant in Esperance of Tunisia awaits in the next level before group stages. K’Ogalo will be without three players who played key roles in the team’s 2017 success.
Skipper Musa Mohamed and midfielder Kenneth Muguna are making their way to Albania’s FK Tirana while right back Karim Nzigiyimana is recuperating following a recent knee surgery. Oliver Maloba who played a bit part role last season will also miss the Champions League ties as he is away in Germany for trials. Head coach Dylan Kerr jetted back in the country on December 27 to steer the team’s pre-season training.
“The task ahead is really huge and we must be at our very best to make a mark. Luckily the boys are very motivated and everyone is doing their duty to ensure we succeed.
There are challengers which everyone including our opponents face but we want to face our with courage,” Kerr said Recent acquisitions Wesley Onguso, Charles Momanyi, Humphrey Mieno, Lawrence Juma, Kevin Omondi and Ivorian Ephraim Guikan have all been registered for the CAF assignments. Former AFC Leopards first choice custodian Ian Otieno has been drafted into Gor Youth team from where he will be monitored for a chance to join the senior ranks.
Ulinzi Stars’ Samuel Onyango is conspicuously absent from the K’Ogalo CAF list but the midfielder could play a role in the league. “Competition for places is very stiff in the squad so every player is working hard to impress the technical bench and earn a berth in the team.
Muguna’s exit and Musa’s vacuum at the back gives Mieno a chance to grab a place at the centre while Josh Onyango could finally nail his place alongside Haron Shakava,” a senior Gor official said.