What undisputed Kenyan giants Gor must do to excel in Africa

Gor Mahia

Gor Mahia chairman Ambrose Rachier (kneeling, in a white t-shirt) celebrates with the team's playing unit and technical staff after their 3-0 victory over Muhoroni Youths in a KPL match at Sportpesa Arena, Muranga on May 19, 2024.

Photo credit: Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Gor Mahia’s recent best performance in the continental stage was in 2019.
  • Club chairman Ambrose Rachier said they intend to strengthen the squad.

Coach Johnathan McKintrsy’s greatest wish, as he leaves Gor Mahia, is for the club to shine in the Caf Champions League next season.

“I hope that as I go away from here, we have put a foundation in place to make sure K’Ogalo go forward not just one or two years but 10 and not just again dominate Kenyan football but also make a mark on the continental scene,” said McKinstry.

He spoke on Sunday after Gor sealed a berth in next season’s Caf Champions League by clinching the 2023/24 Football Kenya Federation Premier League (FKF-PL) title with three matches to spare.

Gor took their points tally at the top of the standings to an unassailable 67 following their 3-0 win over relegation-threatened Muhoroni Youth at SportPesa Arena in Murang’a. McKinstry, 38, has accepted to be the new coach of the Gambia national football team.

In retaining the FKF-PL title, Gor stamped their authority as the most successful side in the Kenyan league with 21 titles.

21 titles

Tusker are a distant second with 13 titles, while AFC Leopards have lifted the trophy 12 times. “Because winning the league is now common to Gor Mahia, we should go a notch higher and win the continental championship,” said Eliud Owalo, the Cabinet Secretary for Information, Communication and Digital Economy, who is a staunch Gor’s supporter.

Gor’s best performance at the continental stage was in 1987 when they lifted the Mandela Cup (Caf Confederation Cup) after defeating Tunisian giants Esperance on away goals after both teams tied 3-3 on aggregate.

Gor’s recent best performance in the continental stage was in 2019 when they reached the quarter-finals of the Caf Confederation Cup after beating Angola’s Petro Atletico de Luanda 1-0 at Kasarani in their final group game despite being reduced to nine men.

The Kenyan giants were eliminated from the competition after going down 7-1 on aggregate to Morocco's Renaissance Sportive Bekane.

Local dominance

Former Kenya international and K’Ogalo legend Peter Dawo said the team has failed to extend their local dominance to the continental since the FKF-PL is not strong enough. He added that financial struggles have also taken a heavy toll on the team at the continental championships.

“During our time, the league was very competitive. That is no longer the case so when Gor go outside they find very tough sides,” remarked Dawo, who led K’Ogalo to victory in the 1987 Mandela Cup. He scored in both legs of the two-leg final in Tunis and Kasarani.

He said the lack of sponsorship in the FKF-PL has made the competition weak compared to the top-flight leagues in other countries.

“During our time we were playing because of passion but now football is all about money. If our league had money, I believe the competition would have been very stiff thus our teams would be stronger to cause problems to other teams outside,” said Dawo, adding that poor preparations due to lack of funds have also contributed to the team’s dismal performance in the continental scene.

He urged Gor’s leadership to strengthen the squad and organise friendly matches for the team with other top sides in Africa.

Football administrator Lordvick Aduda holds a similar view.

Gor Mahia have only suffered two losses in 31 league matches this season. Police ended Gor's 19-match unbeaten run with a 3-1 win at Police Sacco Stadium in Nairobi on February 3, while Bandari defeated K’Ogalo 1-0 on March 3 at Mbaraki Sports Club.

Gor have kept 21 clean sheets in 31 matches.

Gor’s preparation for the continental matches have often been hampered by lack of funds. In February 2021, K’Ogalo jetted out for the second leg of the Caf Confederation Cup playoffs against Napsa Stars on the match day. The contest ended 2-2. In April 2019, Gor arrived in Morocco only three hours before their Caf quarter-final match against RS Berkane. Gor lost 5-1.

Support Gor

Aduda said Gor should make it a tradition to arrive for the away at least four days earlier. He added that the government should support Gor since they represent the country.

"Other teams and federations are being supported financially and that should also apply to Gor because they are representing the nation. It will also help the players settle and focus on their preparation," said Aduda, a former Gor Mahia CEO.

Gor’s chairman, Ambrose Rachier, said they intend to strengthen the team to perform well in the Caf inter-club competition. He said the team will also participate in various international tournaments, including one in Nigeria and this year’s Cecafa Kagame Cup.

Aduda further wants Gor to bring in a coach with continental football experience as McKinstry’s replacement.

He also said Gor must sign at least six experienced players, saying the current squad is not strong enough for Caf competitions.

"The club needs to beef up the defence, midfield, and attack by signing two players in each department. To succeed in Caf, Gor needs to invest immensely because the returns and benefits reaped from the group stage to finals are also huge," he said.

"Look at what Simba and Yanga have spent in signing players and the kind of salaries they are paying. That is the secret of their success."

Gor failed to grace this season’s Caf Champions League after the club was barred by the continental football governing body after failing to pay money owed to three of their former players. They have since settled the debt.