After failing to honour last season’s return leg of the Mashemeji derby in Thika in July, AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia come face to face today in another unique FKF Premier League encounter behind closed doors at Kasarani Stadium.
The two biggest clubs in the country boycotted the previous match after Football Kenya Federation (FKF) delayed to release their FKF Cup winner’s and runners’ up money. Gor Mahia who had beaten AFC Leopards 4-1 on penalties in the domestic cup final were demanding Sh2m, while Ingwe were to be given Sh1m.
Though the 3pm fixture will be played on a rare mid-week coinciding with the Mashujaa Day, the bragging rights and the three points will still be at stake.
Unlike Gor Mahia, most of AFC Leopards players will be making their debut in what is considered as the highlight of this season’s round three fixtures.
Having lost a number of their regular players in the on-going transfer window, captain Isaac Kipyegon, Eugene Mukangula, Marvin Nabwire, Lewis Bandi and Peter Thiong’o are some of Ingwe players who tasted the Mashemeji derby.
Despite their troubles, Leopards are still unbeaten in the league after upsetting champions Tusker 1-0 and frustrating last season’s runners up KCB to a barren draw in the opening two matches of the season.
K’Ogalo are equally enjoying a good run of form after seeing off KCB 2-1 in their season opener before thrashing South Sudan’s Al-Ahly Merowe 3-1 in the first leg of the CAF Confederations Cup first round match in Egypt.
But Gor Mahia captain Harun Shakava is still wary of the threat posed by the youthful AFC Leopards.
“This is going to be one of the most unpredictable and tricky Mashemeji derbies I ever played. It is unpredictable because AFC Leopards have a young team and unknown players. I actually don’t know most of those players, but interestingly they have performed well in their last two matches,” Shakava, who has been heavily linked with a move to Police FC told Standard Sports.
“It’s not going to be walk in the park. We must remain focused throughout the match.”
AFC Leopards Team Manager Tom Juma, who played for both teams before retiring, said they are trying to rebuild a team after the mass exodus of players.
“We lost almost 15 first team players. It’s been quite frustrating but we have tried our best to motivate the boys and I’m pretty sure they will be out to prove a point in the derby,” said Juma.
“Of course most of them will making their derby, being a special game for all of us we know the tactics to employ and prepare the boys. We might be referred to as underdogs, but I believe the boys can pull an upset.”