Pride, a chance to play continental football and a title for the season will be at stake when Kenya’s two most supported teams, Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards clash in the final of the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Cup on Sunday evening at the Nyayo National Stadium.
Both teams have a chance to go into continental football and play in the CAF Confederation Cup with the Champions League slot already gone with Tusker FC.
Apart from that, the bragging rights that comes with derby day victory will be at stake for the two sides.
AFC Leopards have not won a title in the last four years, their last piece of silverware coming in 2017 when they won this same trophy. Against their eternal rivals, they will be out to quench this trophy thirst.
“We know it is a tough game and we also know what is required of us. It is a massive game being the derby but we want to remain calm and try to get the best out of the match,” AFC Leopards coach Patrick Aussems said.
The Belgian tactician has been preserving his team’s energies, rotating his squad for the last four matches in order to ensure that his best players are sharp and fresh heading into the big final.
“We have had four games in less than 10 days and definitely I had to make choices. We had to ensure that the core players in the team get rested and I made sure I told them that. We need to have a very fresh team heading into the final,” said the coach.
Leopards have had a fairly better season this year and are placed third in the Premier League standings with 40 points.
In their road to the final, Leopards were made to work by third tier side Equity Bank before beating them on penalties to book a slot in the final. They were held to a 1-1 draw in regulation time, but sed their experience in spit kicks to win.
In the quarters, AFC Leopards had beaten Tusker FC 1-0 courtesy of an Isaac Kipyegon penalty. In the round of 16, they had survived another scare before beating third tier side Bungoma Superstars 4-2.
Meanwhile, Gor Mahia are keen to avoid a trophy-less season as well as break the hoodoo in a competition they have neither won nor reached the final of since their last conquest in 2012. In that year, Gor beat Sofapaka 1-0. But since then, they have always faced early exits.
But, with the league title seemingly slipping away from their fingers, Gor who have won the league title seven times in the last eight seasons are looking to salvage something for their cabinet.
“It is going to be a tough final, no question about that. We want to win, Leopards also want to win and above all this is a Cup final. We have to be at our best, we have to concentrate and get the job done. I know people have expectations but for us, we don’t want to put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We will just go there and play our game,” said the coach.
To get to the final Gor also had to go through the nerves of penalties, but held their own to beat fellow Premier League side after a 1-1 draw in regulation time.
Prior, Gor had seen off Kariobangi Sharks 2-0 in the quarter finals, having earlier beaten Division One Leaders Transmara Sugar 2-1 in the Round of 16.
Players to watch:
Midfielder Kenneth Muguna has been Gor Mahia’s conductor of the orchestra especially moving forward. Muguna’s passing and intricate play in midfield has enabled Gor open up teams especially in tough outings and it is no wonder he has 10 assists in the league so far.
Muguna’s prowess in dead balls is also an asset that will be key for Gor Mahia heading into the final. Another player to watch is winger Clifton Miheso.
Miheso, who has also played for AFC Leopards has been vital for Gor moving forward and he might just come back to haunt his former employers if he clicks into rhythm on Sunday.
In AFC Leopards’ stable, the man to watch is definitely Elvis Rupia.
The forward is on 14 goals in the league this season and will be Ingwe’s main man in the derby. Rupia is the kind of striker who can make a scoring chance from nothing at all and is one man Gor Mahia’s forward line should be keen on.
Goalkeeper Benjamin Ochan has also been a key man for the Leopards, keeping them in games when they were totally subdued. Against Gor, he needs to have an A day again to ensure his side battles for the title.