OPINION: After conquering Kenya, Gor Mahia should set sights on continental glory

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OPINION: After conquering Kenya, Gor Mahia should set sights on continental glory

Gor Mahia are champions of Kenya for the 21st time
Gor Mahia are champions of Kenya for the 21st timeSportPicha
Unparalleled, unprecedented, and unsurpassed! That is the current status of the mighty Gor Mahia after they conjured a record-breaking 21st Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Premier League title with three rounds of matches of the 2023/24 season to spare on Sunday, May 19th.

K’Ogalo, dubbed the ‘husband of teams’, achieved the greatest fete following their 3-0 demolition of relegation-threatened Muhoroni Youth at the SportPesa Arena to reach an unassailable 67 points at the summit of the 18-team table though they have three matches - against Sofapaka, FC Talanta, and Bidco United - to conclude the campaign.

Gor Mahia pop celebratory champagne

In a cagey affair, Gor Mahia had to wait until the 38th minute to break the deadlock when lead striker Benson Omalla, made amends from an early missed penalty to put them ahead before Boniface Omondi doubled their lead in the 48th minute. Rising midfielder Austin Odhiambo ensured the title was in safe hands with a beautifully taken goal in the 68th minute.

Gor Mahia’s closest challengers Tusker, who are sitting second, eleven points behind, have yet to play three matches - against Bandari FC, Posta Rangers, and Kakamega Homeboyz - and can reach 65 points if they collect the maximum points, which will be two less than the reigning champions.

Third-placed Kenya Police saw their push for a maiden title go up in smoke after losing two consecutive matches including their 1-0 outcome against the Brewers on Saturday, May 18th. From the beginning of the campaign, Gor Mahia never slept on their laurels. Led by head coach Johnathan McKinstry they embarked on a squad reinforcement exercise.

At first, they announced the release of players led by George 'Blackberry' Odhiambo, John 'Champe' Ochieng, centre-back Dennis Nganga and Ugandan attacker Peter Lwasa. The Green Army then confirmed new arrivals such as goalkeeper Kevin Omondi, midfielders Kevin Juma, and Lawrence Juma, and defenders Kennedy Onyango, Rooney Onyango, and Alvin Ochieng.

Gor Mahia then managed to keep their striker Omalla, who is currently topping the scorers’ chart with 16 goals and was being touted with a move abroad, kept influential captain Philemon Otieno, Austin Odhiambo, Geoffrey Ochieng, and long-serving club disciple Earnest Wendo.

Gor Mahia head coach Johnathan McKinstry oversaw many squad changes
Gor Mahia head coach Johnathan McKinstry oversaw many squad changesProfimedia

By doing so, Gor Mahia were good to go and when the season kicked off, they were already the team to beat. After only 10 matches to the season, K’Ogalo had already opened up a six-point lead and were unstoppable. They kept exchanging the top spot with Posta Rangers, who looked as if they could spring a surprise and beat them to the title, but by the end of the first round, Gor Mahia were seven points clear and the only unbeaten side in the division.

During the mid-season transfer window, Gor Mahia went for more quality signings, with Shariff Musa arriving from Bidco United, Enock Wanyama from Taiwan Leopards Cat FC in China, Mark Shaban from Green Commandoes and Musa Masuka from KCB, while Alvin Ochieng and Tyson Muyonga were loaned out to Shabana FC and Ugandan Rogers Mugisha secured a loan switch to AC Horsens in Denmark.

It was an easy run for K’Ogalo in the second round of fixtures, only Kenya Police producing an outstanding display to end their unbeaten run with a 3-1 defeat on February 3rd. However, the defeat did not dampen their spirit, as they recovered to draw against Ulinzi Stars and went on to bag two straight wins before losing their second game 1-0 against Bandari FC on May 9th.

To put the icing on the cake, K’Ogalo sealed a double over their rivals AFC Leopards, beating them 2-0 in the first round of the Mashemeji derby, before edging them out 1-0 in the reverse fixture, despite playing most of the game with 10-men after goalkeeper Kevin Omondi had been sent off.

Unlike this season, the previous campaign saw K’Ogalo fight Tusker for the title until the final day with Gor Mahia emerging winners after beating Nairobi City Stars 4-0 to reach 70 points, one more than the Brewers.

Gor Mahia can't be caught at the top
Gor Mahia can't be caught at the topFlashscore

Gor Mahia’s trophy success since inception

Founded 56 years, to be precise, on February 17th, 1968, Gor Mahia commonly known as 'K’Ogalo' (Dholuo for ‘descendant of Ogalo’), lifted their first title in their inaugural season (in 1968) with legendary Kenyan striker William 'Chege' Ouma scoring 19 goals to take Golden Boot award.

They have since won the title in 1974, 1976, 1979, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1995, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2023, and 2024. In 1976, Gor Mahia became the first club in Kenyan history to win the league unbeaten, thanks to the exploits of playmaker Allan Thigo, who also acted as a coach.

In 2015, under Frank Nutall, Gor Mahia repeated the fete; winning the league unbeaten and setting new league records for scoring goals, points, and wins.

In 1987, Gor Mahia became the first team from Kenya to win an African continental title to date - the African Cup Winners' Cup - after reaching the final in 1979 where they lost to Canon Yaounde of Cameroon. Apart from league success, they have also won the FKF President's Cup a record 11 times.

Gor Mahia players celebrate with the FKF league trophy in the 2022 season.
Gor Mahia players celebrate with the FKF league trophy in the 2022 season.SportPicha

Time for Gor Mahia to regain African glory

While Gor Mahia's domestic dominance has been written in the books of history, and most of their rivals acknowledge their success to the point of conceding defeat, it is time K’Ogalo shifted their focus to trying to conquer Africa.

Their recent performances at the CAF Champions League or Confederation Cup competitions have not been eye-catching. Just like other Kenyan teams, they have always exited the tournaments at group stages.

However, in the 2018/19 campaign, Gor Mahia made huge strides as they reached the quarter-finals of the Confederation Cup. Last season, Gor Mahia could not take part in the Champions League despite winning the league after they were barred by CAF from competing due to money they owed their former players.

According to former Gor Mahia official Sally Bolo, the Green Army must rise above the local league and shine on the grandest stages. “Imagine Zamalek of Egypt, whom our very own Gor Mahia beat in Kenya in 2019 are the new champions of the Confederation Cup. What if Gor Mahia had maintained their 2019 performance to date or even elevated their standards further?” Bolo posed a question to Flashscore.

“Gor Mahia thrashed Zamalek 4-2 at Kasarani Stadium, showing their true potential. If they had kept that momentum, we would be competing on an equal footing with these top-tier teams. Gor Mahia deserves to shine on the grandest stages, playing against our true peers, not these local teams.”

Bolo concluded: “Now that Gor Mahia have won the league and are back on the continental stage, they must rise and shine beyond the borders.”

Former Harambee Stars striker Dennis Oliech, who played and scored in the 4-2 victory against Zamalek, believes K’Ogalo management should work on their logistical and financial preparations if they are ready to dine with the best in Africa.

“Gor (Mahia) have for the past years had challenges when it comes to participation in the continental assignments, issues with air tickets, allowances, and many more should not arise this time round if they are to be taken seriously,” said Oliech as quoted by Citizen TV.

“It is very demoralising for the players, and I hope the club leadership has put their house to make sure such things don’t happen this time round.”

Extreme Sports CEO Hussein Mohammed told Flashscore: “I want to send massive congratulations to Gor Mahia for securing their historic 21st league title, it’s now time to focus on early preparations for the CAF competition and showcase Kenya’s excellence on the African stage.”

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AuthorFlashscore

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