Gor Mahia's Stunning CAF Qualification A Beacon Of Hope For Kenyan Football

Mar 18 - by Louis Kalinga for SportPesa News

The record Kenyan league winners have not tasted continental success for 32 years, tracing back to 1987 when they were crowned Mandela Cup champions after a stunning two-legged victory over Esperance de Tunis

Gor Mahia FC striker Jacques Tuyisenge in action against Petro Atletico de Luanda at the Kasarani Stadium on Sunday, March 17, 2019. Gor Mahia won the game 1-0 to qualify for the CAF Confederations Cup quarterfinals. PHOTO/KellyAyodi

  • Gor Mahia FC’s 1-0 victory over Petro Atletico de Luanda that saw them qualify for the quarterfinals of the CAF Confederations Cup for the first time, was not only a huge win for the club but for the entire country
  • In addition to becoming the first Kenyan team to make the quarters of the continental club competition, Gor also broke new boundaries, as they became the first club to ever win a CAF match with nine players
  • Oktay, who took over from British tactician Dylan Kerr at the start of the season, has definitely rekindled the fire every Gor fan and player could only dream of from their continental hey days which now seem like a lifetime ago

NAIROBI, Kenya- Gor Mahia FC’s 1-0 victory over Petro Atletico de Luanda that saw them qualify for the quarterfinals of the CAF Confederations Cup for the first time, was not only a huge win for the club but for the entire country.

Nine-man Gor battled to a slim win at the Kasarani Stadium on Sunday to see them finish as runners-up of Group D, level on points with winners Zamalek SC, but with an inferior goal difference.

The losers on the day, Petro, finished bottom of arguably the most competitive group with seven, one less than Algerian outfit NA Hussein Dey.

Rwandese forward Jacques Tuyisenge stepped up to convert a penalty in the 58th after Boniface Omondi was brought down in the box and there was really never any doubt where the ball would end up, right at the back of the net.

In addition to becoming the first Kenyan team to make the quarters of the continental club competition, Gor also broke new boundaries, as they became the first club to ever win a CAF match with nine players, a fete that may have seemed impossible to a majority of fans across the continent.

Aside from the commendable quarterfinal berth, Gor will also receive a handsome KSHs 38 million for their stellar efforts.

READ ALSO: Nine-Man Gor Mahia Claw Atletico To Qualify For CAF Confed Cup Quarters

Reliable midfielder Ernest Wendo was shown a straight red card in the first half and Ugandan defender Shafik Batambuze followed him to the locker room in the second half after receiving two yellow cards.

Gor head coach Hassan Oktay was also sent to the stands by Moroccan referee Redouane Jiyed for dissent, leaving the touchline duties to his trusted tactician and veteran Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno.

“I have never been as proud of my players as I am today.

“We were disadvantaged but we played our hearts out and we are grateful that we came out on top. We played like warriors,” Oktay stated after the tense encounter.

Oktay, who took over from British tactician Dylan Kerr at the start of the season, has definitely rekindled the fire every Gor fan and player could only dream of from their continental hey days which now seem like a lifetime ago.

Kerr came agonizingly close to qualifying for the quarters last season but finished in third place, a point behind Rayon Sports SC and three behind group winners USM Alger.

“My team today showed me and the entire country something extra-ordinary.

“I knew they had the fight but the extent they pushed it to today was nothing short of amazing,” Oktay explained.

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“I want to thank the thousands of passionate fans who heeded my call and came out to show their support. We couldn’t have done it without you guys,” he added.

The record Kenyan league winners have not tasted continental success for 32 years, tracing back to 1987 when they were crowned Mandela Cup champions after a stunning two-legged victory over Esperance de Tunis.

That year, Gor were returning to continental football after serving a two-year ban following a debacle with Egyptian giants Zamalek SC in 1984.

Gor rewrote history then by displaying great perseverance despite rough antics from their opponents to win via the away goal rule after forcing a 2-2 draw away in Tunis, before playing out to a 1-1 draw in Nairobi.

The legendary Peter Dawo scored in both legs and his header at home in front of former president Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi, threw the football cathedral of Kasarani into delirium and was enough to seal one of the most famous victories in K’Ogalo’s history.

The victory on Sunday rolled back the years and instilled hope into a generation of Kenyan football that had slowly began to forget the feeling of achieving anything outside their domestic leagues.

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The year 2019 is looking to be one to remember for Kenyan football, as it is one where even the national football team, Harambee Stars, also qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations to break a 15-year duck.

With similar successes for the entire nation, the off-field drama that affects many local teams and is a sad state of affairs for Kenyan football, should not take precedence and if Gor can do it, we all can!

The recent developments in the beautiful game locally should serve as enough of a call, to the state, fans from all walks of life and the entire football fraternity to stand behind our teams if we are to make such achievements constant and not a one off. 

The Kenyan champions will be without a number of first-team players, including midfielder Ernest Wendo and defender Shafik Batambuze who were red-carded during the fiery clash in Kasarani, for the first leg of the quarter-finals.

Skipper Haroun Shakava and vice-captain Jacques Tuyisenge, who slotted home the 58th-minute penalty that put Gor into the knockout phase of the second-tier African competition for the first time, are also banned after accumulating too many yellow cards.