Did Gor's Nicholas Kipkirui Present Strong Case For AFCON Inclusion?

May 20 - by Mutwiri Mutuota for SportPesa News

Striker notched a brace and set up a third to inspire the SportPesa Premier League champions to a 3-1 victory over the old enemy Leopards in front of Harambee Stars boss Migne

Gor Mahia FC striker Nicholas Kipkurui is hoisted by teammate Kenneth Muguna (number 21) after scoring during their 3-1 victory over AFC Leopards SC during their SportPesa Premier League Mashemeji Derby clash at the MISC Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi on Sunday, May 19, 2019. PHOTO/Brian Kinyanjui/SPN

  • As SportPesa News reported it, the win left Gor with one hand on the SPL title and a record-extending 18th crown as they put further distance between them and their fiercest rivals in the all-time domestic honours list that reads 17-12 in favour of the champions
  • The Cypriot-born Turkish national’s remarks resonated with many who wondered how Kipkurui, who has come of age in Gor colours, was omitted from the AFCON squad
  • Another, Naftali Shitoka, writing in the Sheng slang, suggested Kipkurui should be involved in the qualifiers of the next AFCON finals in 2021 and prove himself before nailing a berth in the senior side

NAIROBI, Kenya- The virtuoso performance by Nicholas Kipkirui in Sunday’s Mashemeji Derby where his double inspired SportPesa Premier League (SPL) champions, Gor Mahia FC to a 3-1 victory over AFC Leopards SC was the talk of town in the immediate aftermath of Kenya’s biggest game.

As SportPesa News reported it, the win left Gor with one hand on the SPL title and a record-extending 18th crown as they put further distance between them and their fiercest rivals in the all-time domestic honours list that reads 17-12 in favour of the champions.

The all-round attacking performance of Kipkirui, 23, caught the eye with both sets of fans leaving many scratching the heads over his omission from the CAF Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON)-bound Harambee Stars senior national team.

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A goal in either half, midway through the first and on the hour set his side on their way to a comprehensive victory before setting strike-partner, Jacques Tuyisenge for 3-0 to seal the points.

Vincent Oburu’s fine strike in the final minutes only served to salvage some pride for wounded Leopards with the game already set and won as Gor (69) restored an eight-point advantage at the summit of the SPL with three games to go.

It was an echo to his dazzling display in February against five-time African club champions, Zamalek FC where he notched a brace and created another in a stunning 4-2 victory for Gor in a CAF Confederations Cup group stage clash. 

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Stars head coach, Frenchman Sebastien Migne, included the Gor forward in his probable squad of 32 for the second tier CAF Africa Home Nations Championships (CHAN) qualifiers on the same day he unveiled his select 30 for the AFCON last Monday.

Strong case

However, in dominating the biggest team in the land in front of the watching Stars boss at MISC Kasarani, Kipkirui put forward a strong case of why he should be heading to France for the three-week AFCON training camp and even making the final 23 that will travel to Cairo for Kenya’s return to the continental showpiece in 15 years.

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“He’s proving himself and slowly growing into a player who will not leave my first 11. I’m proud of him for two goals and hopefully his consistency can make him be considered for the national team inclusion,” Gor head coach, Hassan Oktay, said after the derby victory in hailing the forward who joined the champions from SPL strugglers, Zoo Kericho FC. 

Gor Mahia FC players led by captain Harun Shakava (centre) applaud fans following their 3-1 victory over AFC Leopards SC during their SportPesa Premier League Mashemeji Derby clash at the MISC Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi on Sunday, May 19, 2019. PHOTO/Brian Kinyanjui/SPN

The Cypriot-born Turkish national’s remarks resonated with many who wondered how Kipkirui, who has come of age in Gor colours, was omitted from the AFCON squad.

Even some Leopards fans –smarting from watching an 11th derby pass without victory- joined in the chorus of praises for Kipkirui, especially after watching their winger, Paul Were, who made Migne’s preliminary squad fluff his lines when he screwed an open chance wide in the final exchanges.  

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“Now ladies and gentlemen, please explain to me as a two-year old kid why Nicholas Kipkirui didn’t make the AFCON squad,” Gor fan Zax Oguda questioned on Facebook.

“Congratulations to "The Kapsoit Lion" Nicholas Kipkirui for netting a brace for Gor Mahia during the Mashemeji Derby! Ended 3-1! #Kipkirui anatosha #AFCON2019 squad?” Kass TV and Radio journalist, Josphat Kebut added on the same platform.

“AFC leopards had been skinned 3-0! 2 is from Nicholas Kipkirui once again am yet asking myself rhetoric quiz! Who was picking that squad that are going to represent HARAMBEE STARS @AFCON?” another user, Kimutai Koros chipped in.

Selectors slammed

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“I think Nicholas Kipkirui should be in the AFCON team not CHAN bound team,” BBC journalist and Leopards fan Michelle Katami remarked.

K.P.L Chat, the popular local football Facebook fan page was ablaze with the Kipkirui affair, where many contributors slammed selectors for omitting the Gor forward although some expressed support for Migne’s decision to consider him for CHAN.

“Seby (Migne) is not done yet with his provisional squads. There is still room to do one or two.

“That is why he keeps on attending the remaining KPL and NSL fixtures. On Wednesday and Thursday, he will be attending matches. He wants the best for this country. The best as far as soccer is concerned in this continent,” part of Denis Hamisi’s post read.

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Another, Naftali Shitoka, writing in the Sheng slang, suggested Kipkirui should be involved in the qualifiers of the next AFCON finals in 2021 and prove himself before nailing a berth in the senior side.

He blamed the poor Leopards defense, singling out Abdallah Shittu for the ease in which the Gor striker terrorized their opponents as opposed to the brilliance of Kipkirui’s play.

What is not in doubt however, is the showing of the Gor striker gave the watching Migne a lot to ponder ahead of naming his final squad and there would be no surprises if he tweaks his team before it heads out to Cairo.

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After all, during the press conference where he named his squad, the Frenchman insisted the door was not closed on anyone.

Gor Mahia FC's Samuel Onyango (right) tries to evade the attention of Soter Kayumba of AFC Leopards SC during their SportPesa Premier League Mashemeji Derby clash at the MISC Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi on Sunday, May 19, 2019. PHOTO/Brian Kinyanjui/SPN