Kenyan international David ‘Calabar’ Owino and goalkeeper Shaban Odhoji are relishing the prospect of playing against their former side Gor Mahia in today’s 3 pm CAF Confederation Cup first leg play-off tie with Zambian side Napsa Stars at Nyayo Stadium.
The pair has not crossed paths with the record Kenyan champions since leaving them for Zambia a few years ago.
Owino won back-to-back FKF Premier League titles with K’Ogalo (2013-2014) before joining Zambian giants Zesco United in 2014. He recently signed for Napsa after six seasons with Zesco.
On the other hand, Odhoji lifted three consecutive league titles with K’Ogalo between 2017 and 2019 before crossing over to Napsa last year.
While there will be no room for sentiment in today’s encounter, both Owino and Odhoji are braced for a difficult first leg tie.
The winner on aggregate after next Sunday’s (Feb 21) return leg in Lusaka will progress to the lucrative group stages.
Gor Mahia, who last featured in the group stages of second tier competition of African football in 2019, were relegated to the play-off of the same competition this season after a suffering a humiliating 8-1 defeat on aggregate to Algerian side CR Belouizdad in the Champions League.
Napsa qualified courtesy of an away goal rule in the 1-1 draw with UD Songo of Mozambique.
Though Owino is excited on playing in front of Harambee Stars coach Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee, he acknowledges the challenge that the Green Army will pose.
“For me, I think we are in business; this is work. I played for Gor Mahia for three years before but I moved on and now I’m at Napsa Stars. This is an opportunity to represent them, but I think as a player what matters is to give your best for your current team,” said Owino.
“It is always a pleasure going back home and playing on the pitches where the journey started from and where people know you much better. But there is a lot at stake coming into this game; yes we want to qualify as Napsa but the other thing is that the national team coach will be there to see what I can do. I just need to focus and give my best.”
He continued: “Gor Mahia is not a pushover. Though they are struggling financially, it is a strong team with a good number of national team players. In addition, they have been playing in the continental tournaments for some time now and they know what it takes to play in this competition. We just need to be mentally strong and fight as a team for us to come out with positive results.”
Asked if he will celebrate if he scores against Gor Mahia, the former Sher Karuturi defender said: “I don’t think I will celebrate if I score. I’ve got a lot of respect for Gor Mahia because they made me who I’m today. They gave me the blessing to join Zesco United when the opportunity came and the rest is history.”
But for Odhoji, there are no big and small teams in modern football.
“Gor Mahia have a lot of experience in the tournament, but I feel there are no power houses or big teams in modern football. It is a pleasure coming back home to the environment and the pitches I was used to. However, it is challenging because of pressure and expectations from both the team and people back at home,” said Odhoji.
9, 000 fans are expected to watch the match at Nyayo Stadium after the government gave a go ahead yesterday.