Kenyan Premier League side Gor Mahia ‘s hopes of reaching the 2018/19 CAF Confederations Cup semifinals were perfunctorily extinguished following a humiliating 5-1 defeat in the quarter finals to relative newcomers, Moroccan side RS Berkane on Sunday at the Stade Municipal de Berkane, to crash out 7-1 on aggregate.
K’Ogallo’s trip Morocco outing was characterized by a series of delays in air ticket bookings and logistical travel preparations. The club’s chairman, Ambrose Rachier, has been quoted by Nation Sport saying that his office is blameless in the logistical and preparation challenges, instead pointing the accusing finger at Kenya’s Ministry of Sports, allegations echoed by Gor Mahia’s Chief Executive Officer, Lordvick Aduda.
As early as Friday and Saturday 13th April, debilitating pictures of Gor Mahia players such as midfielder Francis Kahata and defender Philemon Otieno sleeping on the floors of connecting airport hubs were floated on social media, showing the state of disarray in which Kenya’s Premier League champions were, ahead of such a crucial tie. The club’s chairman said they would ‘deal with the situation’ when the players got back to Nairobi, terming them as being spread by troublemakers. The players are reported to have even reached out to Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, who promptly wired about $5,000 to the team, as shown on his social media.
This left the players with little to no time to warm up or practice, let alone the jet lag experienced through flights that last for over 20 hours. A batch of the players even had to endure a 6-hour drive to the venue.
On the Government’s part, Sports Ministry Principal Secretary Kirimi Kaberia reiterated that the institution is not responsible for funding Gor Mahia, and that they had even ‘gone out of their way’ to provide tickets for the team. By law, the government is only obligated to handle logistical preparations for the National team, Harambee Stars, or Federations.
On the pitch, signs of cracking were clear, as Gor Mahia were 2-0 down by the first half. Lawrence Juma managed to salvage some grace for Gor, only for the opposing team’s captain Mohammed Aziz to all but relegate the KPL champions’ hopes. Youssef Essaidy capped the horrifying night for his team, as the final scoreline convincingly read 5-1.
RS Berkane will face Tunisian side CS Sfaxien, while Egyptian giants Zamalek will face Tunisia’s Etoile Sahel or Sudan’s Al-Hilal Omdurman whose second leg fixture was pushed to 22nd April 2019 due to civilian uncertainities in the Sudan.
An immediate shift in gears and tact will be expected of the KPL champions as they look to preserve their their league title hopes, going into the weekend leading the table with 44 points, the same as Sofapaka FC, albeit better on goal difference and with four games in hand.