Gor Mahia seal record-extending 21st Kenyan league title in style

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The roar of their energetic fans set an electric atmosphere for Gor Mahia’s coronation, as the club made history by winning a record-extending 21st Football Kenya Federation Premier League (FKF-PL) title.

Tusker FC are a distant second with 13 titles, while Gor’s arch-rivals, AFC Leopards, boast 12 titles.

On Sunday, thousands of Gor’s fans clad in the club’s green and white colours travelled to Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos to witness their favourite team again treat them to treasured moments in Kenyan football. Were it not for ongoing repairs at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, and Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi, Gor’s coronation as the 2023/2024 Kenyan league champions would have taken place at either of the two venues.

Gor lifted this season’s FKF-PL title on May 19 with three matches to go, when they took their points tally at the top of the 18-team league to an unassailable 67. K’Ogalo then hammered Muhoroni Youth 3-0 at SportPesa Arena in Murang’a.

As such, the result of Sunday’s match against home team Bidco United was inconsequential in the title race. But the Kenyan giants were still chasing two important goals on this season finale - surpass the 70-point mark they set last season, and help their 22-year-old striker Benson Omala clinch his first Golden Boot award in the FKF-PL.

Several minutes into the match’s kick-off, the atmosphere at the 10,000-seater stadium was already electric, as the enthusiastic fans engaged in song and dance. They occasionally set off fireworks, creating a spectacular view from the stands.

Cabinet Secretary for Information, Communication and Digital Economy Eliud Owalo, FKF president Nick Mwendwa and Gor’s chairman Ambrose Rachier are among the dignitaries who attended the match.

Departing Gor’s coach Johnathan McKinstry set the ball rolling by bidding the club goodbye, amidst a round of applause from the jubilant fans. The 38-year-old Irishman is the new head coach of the Gambia national football men’s team.

Former Kenya international and Gor’s player Matthew Ottamax then moved around the pitch, showing the jubilant fans the glittering trophy their team would be awarded after the match.

And as per the tradition when a team wins the title with a match to go, Bidco’s players mounted a guard of honour for Gor’s players, who wore t-shirts inscribed  ‘21XKPL Champions’ at the front

Gor took their points tally at the top to an impressive 73 points following their 4-3 win over Bidco. Omalla netted a brace to clinch the Golden Boot award with 19 goals. The red-hot striker set K’Ogalo on the path to a strong finish of the campaign when he scored in the second and sixth minute of an entertaining match.

Bidco’s John Kelwish set the match for a nervy finish when he struck on 35 and 67 minutes. Gor’s two other goals were scored by Mark Shabana and Rooney Onyango while Bid-co’s other goal was netted by Yono. Security was tight in the match, as FKF moved to avoid a repeat of last season’s incident where fans stormed the pitch at MISC before the coronation event.

“I’m pleased with the players for finishing on a high. The supporters here have made it a very entertaining match and for me, this is what football is all about and I will miss it,” said McKinstry.

On the other hand, Omala said he is thrilled to have won the Golden Boot award.

“The competition was stiff. I’m so proud to have won it,” he said.

He missed the gong last season after finishing second with 26 goals behind leader Elvis Rupia who notched 27 goals.

Sunday was also a historic day for experienced midfielder Ernest Wendo as he won his seventh FKF-PL title with Gor since he joined the club in 2015.

Perhaps the first sign that the young K’Ogalo squad would again rule the FKF-PL was when it became an uphill task for the other teams to beat them.

The average age of the team is 22 years.

After battling to a 1-1 draw with 2009 champions Sofapaka in their opening match of the campaign on August 26 last year, Gor stretched their unbeaten run to an impressive 19 matches – winning 12 and drawing seven times.

It was hosts Kenya Police, who ended Gor’s brilliant run with a 3-1 win at Police Sacco Stadium in Nairobi on February 3. Out of the 18 teams in the league, Gor scored the most goals at 48, one more than second-placed Tusker. K’Ogalo also conceded the least number of goals at 20.

Gor’s defenders led by assistant captain Geoffrey ‘Simiti’ Ochieng and goalkeeper Kevin Omondi have been instrumental in the team’s impressive run. Goalkeeper Omondi clinched the Golden Glove award with 22 clean sheets.