What you need to know:
- Sports Ministry has allowed the Cup final to be staged behind closed doors on Sunday
Giants Gor Mahia and their arch-rivals AFC Leopards have stepped up their preparations for Sunday’s Betway Cup final which will offer fans another serving of “Mashemeji derby.”
At the same time, the Ministry of Sports has given green light for the tough encounter to be staged behind closed doors at the Nyayo National Stadium.
The two sworn rivals meet in the Betway Cup final, with Caf Confederation Cup slot at stake after missing out on the Caf Champions League over the weekend which went to Football Kenya Federation Premier League leaders Tusker.
Earlier, the venue for the highly anticipated clash was clouded with controversy after FKF Secretary General Barry Otieno said that the game would be hosted at Utalii grounds in Nairobi since the federation was yet to receive communication from the Ministry of Sports, and Sports Kenya with regard to a request to use either Nyayo National Stadium or Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani for the match.
However, Otieno later backtracked after it became evident Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards had been informed about the change of the venue directly by the relevant authorities.
“If they have said we will be playing at Nyayo Stadium then we shall adhere to that decision. However, we as the federation planning for the match have not received any letter to that effect given that we had also made a request to use the said venue or Kasarani before,” Otieno told Nation Sport.
Interestingly, Gor Mahia Team Manager Jolawi Obondo and AFC Leopards assistant coach Tom Juma confirmed to Nation Sport that the game would be played at the 30,000 capacity facility.
While the two sides played out to a barren draw at Moi Sports International Centre Kasarani on February 7, Sunday’s match will not only earn the winner the bragging rights but also a Caf Confederation Cup slot.
Both sides have intensified their training session at Camp Toyoyo grounds ahead of the match with the final sessions expected today. This will be the first derby for Belgium Coach Patrick Aussems who oversaw the February tie from the stands since he had just been appointed to the coaching role at the club.
Leopards, who boast of a record 10 Betway Cup trophies, will be seeking a return to continental football after three years in the cold.
The Big Cats who last won the cup in 2017, took part in the Caf Confederation Cup in 2018 but were knocked out by Fosa Juniors from Madagascar on away goal rule after 1-1 draw at Bukhungu stadium in Kakamega.
On the other hand, the game holds key to Gor Mahia participation in Caf for a fifth consecutive year though in a less prestigious competition compared to the past four years where they have been regular participants in the Caf Champions League.
A win for Leopards will see them end a five-year wait to beat Gor in all matches.
Ingwe’s last win over K’Ogalo came on March 16, then Ivory Coast striker Lamine Diallo scoring late in 1-0 triumph over their arch rivals.
Juma confirmed that Congolese Fabrice Mugheni and winger Jaffer Owiti will miss the derby due to injury.
For K’Ogalo, Portuguese tactician Carlos Manuel Vaz Pinto who will be in charge of his second derby clash will miss out the services youngster Alpha Onyango who is out with a knee injury.