Gor Rout Of Zamalek Points To Bright Future For Kenyan Football

Feb 04 - by Louis Kalinga for SportPesa News

Roaring performance crowned by emotional Dennis Oliech goal in 4-2 crushing of Egyptian giants fuels optimism amongst long-suffering local fans

Jacques Tuyisenge of Kenya's Gor Mahia (C, below) celebrates with Batambuze Shafik (C, above) after scoring his second goal during their CAF Confederations Cup football match against Egypt's Zamalek at The Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi on February 3, 2019. Kenya's Gor Mahia won by 4-2 against Egypt's Zamalek. PHOTO/AFP

  • While there is a long way to for Gor in a frightening Group D of the second-tier continental showpiece, the roaring performance proved that local football has turned a corner after years of bulking under the challenge of North African teams
  • To put the seismic result into perspective, Zamalek are closing in on a 13th Egyptian league title, leading the standings on 45 points from 18 matches, six clear of second placed Pyramids FC who have played two games more with Cairo sworn enemies and record African champions, Al Ahly (33) lying third
  • From the moment, Oliech joined the fray in the 66th minute for the injured Kipkirui home fans endlessly chanted his name and cheered him on with every touch of the ball- a testament to the enduring love he enjoys among local supporters

NAIROBI, Kenya- Gor Mahia FC’s stirring 4-2 victory over Zamalek FC in the opening round of the 2018/19 CAF Confederations Cup Group D action on Sunday sent shock waves across Africa in continuing the feel-good feeling sweeping across Kenyan football.

Those watching the game at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani were treated to a memorable spectacle, as the SportPesa Premier League (SPL) champions tore the decorated White Knights from Cairo to shreds, attacking them almost at will.

While there is a long way to for Gor in a frightening Group D of the second-tier continental showpiece, the roaring performance proved that local football has turned a corner after years of bulking under the challenge of North African teams.

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Rwanda striker, Jacques Tuyisenge, the record K’Ogalo signing notched a brace and fed both Nicholas Kipkurui and living Kenyan football legend, Dennis Oliech, to add on to the tally as the home side ran rampant.

That the two goals Gor conceded to Ibrahim Hassan in the breathless first half that ended 2-2 resulted from dodgy defending as opposed to the attacking brilliance of the illustrious Egyptian giants told a story of its own.

Having fell short by only a point of making the Confed Cup quarterfinals last season under British head coach Dylan Kerr, Gor gave sent a warning of intent to the rest of the continent they mean business this time around.

“When the draw was made, we cheered when we were put in the same group with Zamalek, Petro Atletico and the side from Algeria (NA Hussein Dey). Gor thrives on winning big matches,” assistant head coach and former club captain, Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno remarked a fortnight ago.

MUST READ: Gor Humble Mighty Zamalek In Six-Goal Confed Cup Thriller

He was speaking when Gor landed in Tanzania for what turned out in the end to be a botched defence of their SportPesa Cup title, falling at the quarters to unheralded Mbao FC of Tanzania and following a patchy run in the SPL, few expected the most-storied side in Kenyan football to run riot against the White Knights.

Screaming fans

To put the seismic result into perspective, Zamalek are closing in on a 13th Egyptian league title, leading the standings on 45 points from 18 matches, six clear of second placed Pyramids FC who have played two games more with Cairo sworn enemies and record African champions, Al Ahly (33) lying third.

Prior to facing Gor, the feared Zamalek had only lost once the whole season in all competition.

Jacques Tuyisenge of Kenya's Gor Mahia (C, below) celebrates with supporters after scoring his first goal during their CAF Confederation Cup football match against Egypt's Zamalek at The Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi on February 3, 2019. Kenya's Gor Mahia won by 4-2 against Egypt's Zamalek. PHOTO/AFP

After the match, K’Ogalo boss, Hassan Oktay, who has felt the heat of the demanding hot seat after an inconsistent run of results, joined the jubilant Green Army in hailing the team that has carried the Kenyan flag with distinction since rediscovering their majesty.

MUST READ: Gor, Zamalek Clash Echoes One Of The Most Scandalous Games In CAF History

Former Prime Minister and Club Patron, Raila Amolo Odinga, who joined thousands of screaming fans at Kasarani that was however, not filled to its 60,000-seater capacity, pledged KSh500,000 to the team following the stunning victory.

The game renewed old rivalry between the two titans, with Gor coming out victorious only for the second time in 12 matches against Egyptian opposition, the first being a 1-0 home triumph over Zamalek in 1998.

On that occasion, Steve Okumu- the late elder brother of Oliech- was the match winner and 21 years later, Kenya’s record international goal scorer reprised the celebration routine of his sibling when he put the cherry on the cake.

“The win did not surprise me. We did our homework on Zamalek and watched their last league game, so we were prepared.

MUST READ: Gor Land Zamalek, Atletico In CAF Confed Cup Group Of Giants

“It’s a great way to mark the beginning of the group stages but we will not dwell on the result, there is still a lot to be done if we are to achieve the goals we have set as a club,” Oktay stated after the game, perhaps in attempting to quell the wave of excitement that erupted in the stands.

That Oliech goal, taken with the calmness and panache only great strikers can conjure, was the ideal seal to the best football played by a Kenyan team in ages.

Having dedicated it to his brother, Oliech later turned to social media to post an emotionally shaking tribute.

The forward who made his name in French top-flight clubs Nantes Atlantique, Auxerre and Ajaccio put up two separate pictures; one of Okumu celebrating in 1998 and the other of his celebration after Sunday’s match. 

Moving caption

“Brothers are like streetlights along the road; they don’t make the distance any shorter but they light up the path and make the walk worthwhile.

“I dedicate this goal to my hero, my big brother. Steve Okumu, this was for you,” he added in a moving caption.

Oliech, who joined Gor, last month after ending a two-year break from the game, has now scored four goals in seven outings as he embarks on proving his critics wrong at every turn.

From the moment, Oliech joined the fray in the 66th minute for the injured Kipkirui home fans endlessly chanted his name and cheered him on with every touch of the ball- a testament to the enduring love he enjoys among local supporters.

“There is no Kenyan football fan who does not know and love Dennis Oliech. We are all glad that he is a Gor player now and there is no doubt that he will inspire us and lead us to glory this season and the one after that,” the self-styled ‘Commander’ of the K’Ogalo Defence Forces, Jared ‘Jaro Soja’ Otieno gushed.

MUST READ: Plucky Mbao Depose Mighty Gor From SportPesa Cup Throne

The SPL champions’ super fan captured the sentiments of the Green Army faithful who can now dream of a second continental title since the club lifted the 1987 Africa Cup Winners Cup (Mandela Cup).

Besides Oliech, Kipkurui, the young forward making his continental football debut on Sunday, played his lungs out, terrorising the Zamalek defence with the aid of the uncontrollable Tuyisenge who was also withdrawn injured in time added on.

The Rwanda forward, who took his tally to eight in CAF competitions for Gor, is only behind club legend Peter Dawo (10) in the all-time Gor continental scoring charts and will unfortunately miss the Petro Atletico game after he was booked late on.

With Kenya preparing to play in the Egypt 2019 CAF Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals in June, optimism abounds the country can force its way out of the group stages of the now 24-nation competition for the first time in her history at the competition it last graced in 2004 when it was held in neighbouring Tunisia.

The clamour to include Oliech, the former Harambee Stars captain, in the team is gathering momentum already with most of the heroes that disembowelled Zamalek on Sunday home grown.

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All around, these are fine days for long-suffering Kenyan football fans.

Jacques Tuyisenge of Kenya's Gor Mahia (C, below) celebrates with supporters after scoring his first goal during their CAF Confereration cup football match against Egypt's Zamalek at The Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi on February 3, 2019. Kenya's Gor Mahia won by 4-2 against Egypt's Zamalek. PHOTO/AFP


SportPesa Shield winners, Kariobangi Sharks FC went on to lift the SportPesa Cup crown vacated by Gor after giving Ghanaian titans and former African champions, Kumasi Asante Kotoko FC an almighty scare before they bowed out of the Confed Cup in the first round 2-1 on aggregate.

Gor return to domestic duty when they take on Vihiga United FC in a midweek SPL fixture before their next CAF Confed Cup assignment away to Petro Atletico in Angola in 10 days with the wind in their sails, having given local football another reason to be optimistic about the future.