Bandari, Gor eye first leg wins against North African opponents in CAF assignments this weekend
By James Magayi and Rodgers Ndegwa
The compelling affairs between Kenyan teams and North African bogeys that have generated nostalgic folklore for decades will prime again this weekend as Gor Mahia and Bandari respectively face USM Alger of Algeria and Tunisian outfit US Ben Guerdane in crucial CAF fixtures.
K’Ogalo first play on the road before hosting the second leg in two weeks while Bandari are at Kasarani on Saturday before finding their way to Tunisia for return leg in a fortnight.
The script has been same for most Kenyan teams; drubbing and elimination in the hands of Carthage teams every time they collide.
However, the tide is changing and Gor and other teams from Sub Saharan Africa are fast closing the gap. K’Ogalo bowed out of CAF Confederation Cup at the hands of RS Berkane of Morocco following a 7-1 aggregate mauling last season. The huge score line was, however, largely occasioned by a debilitating player go slow in Gor’s camp.
Gor had beaten Zamalek and NA Hussein Dey in the group stage to set up the fateful last eight fixture. K’Ogalo had also fell narrowly to Esperance of Tunisia in the previous season’s Champions League.
The Tunisian giants employed shocking levels of intimidation to squeeze a lone goal past Gor in Tunis. They went on to win the Champions League while a dejected K’Ogalo had to contend with the second tier Confederation Cup.
Gor, for the first time in a long while will play the first leg away from home then host USM Alger in Nairobi a fortnight later. A result on the road and a big performance at home is all K’Ogalo need to break into the coveted Champions League group stage.
The team has just 16 players available on the rooster due to injuries and late registrations.
Meanwhile, Bandari coach Bernard Mwalala will have a fully-fit squad, having declared lethal forward Yema Mwama and speedy winger Abdallah Hassan ready for the clash.
There were fears that Mwama and Hassan, who had suffered back and jaw injuries respectively, would not feature but having returned to training on Tuesday, the duo will now be included.
“We know what is at stake and we have been training hard to ensure that this time round, we score as many goals as possible while at home to ensure we have an easy time in the return match,” said Mwalala during the team’s training at Nairobi’s Utalii grounds yesterday.
“Morale is high in camp, the players are ready both mentally and physically and we want to make sure we do not repeat the same mistakes we made against Al Ahli Shandy in the preliminary round,” he added.
“The return of Abdallah and Mwama is a boost to the team because with their set of skills, it will be easy to poach goals.
I have been reminding my players that this competition is very important because scouts from most parts of the world come to watch the matches,” said Mwalala.