Kenya’s most explosive football encounter between record league champions Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards will be played in an empty Kasarani Stadium tomorrow due to Covid-19 restrictions.
For the first time, in the history of the country’s club football, the charged atmosphere, always created by the zealous fans of the two clubs, will not be witnessed and the players of the two teams will have to draw their motivation from the what is at stake – three points and derby bragging rights.
Both teams are coming off impressive wins and are only separated by three points. Fourth-placed AFC Leopards boasts of a superior point tally of 18, having registered a 2-1 victory over Posta Rangers while sixth-ranked Gor Mahia thumped Bandari 3-1 to register 15 points in the log.
If recent derby performance is anything to go by, football pundits would say K’Ogalo have an upper hand even though they have so far lost three matches, one more than Ingwe this season.
AFC Leopards win against Gor Mahia came in 2016 when they registered 1:0 against their arch rivals. That is close to five years ago.
While AFC Leopards will be seeking to end a five-year winless derby drought, Gor Mahia will be out to reassert their authority in the league as they aim to narrow the gap on the leading pack.
Even as AFC Leopards captain Robinson Kamura was quick to term tomorrow’s match as a ‘party’ for the fan, the skipper knows how important it is in their bid to win the title they last won 22 years ago.
“As you all know, a derby is always a party for the fans, but for us players we take it just like any other league match.
“We are going to fight hard for the maximum points as usual but this will be historical because I have never played a derby without fans. So, we will try and win it for our fans,” Kamura said.
Gor Mahia captain Kenneth Muguna on the other hand is wary of the threat posed by wounded Leopards, and they must fight to win the fixture if they have to move up the table.
“Of course it is another match for us to fight for three points and go top of the table. We want to reclaim our deserved position as soon as possible because at Gor Mahia, we are used to the number one position,” said Muguna.
“Winning the derby is big for the fans and everybody around the club, but one match cannot determine if we are going to defend the title. But it is a match with a special meaning because of the history behind it and the hype that comes with it.”
He added: “Though it will be a weird derby because as a player we enjoy such matches more when the fans are around, we are determined to extend our dominance over AFC Leopards. But we know it will not be easy because they are wounded and have been feeling the pain for the last four years.
“They will be coming for revenge but we are calm and we know what it takes to win these kinds of matches.”
“Both teams will definitely miss their fans but there is nothing we can do because this is the new normal. The atmosphere in the pitch will remain the same but it will be quiet in the stands.
“But in matches like this, the motivation is always there whether the fans are present or not. It will be weird because players enjoy such matches more when fans are around.”