How Gor Mahia hijacked Austin Odhiambo transfer to Bandari

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AFC Leopards's Austin Odhiambo (left) and Kevin Wafula of Nzoia FC during FKF Premier League match at Ruaraka grounds. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Without a doubt, Austin Odhiambo’s recent move to Gor Mahia from their arch-rivals AFC Leopards was nothing short of a well-written thriller movie.

Just when Bandari thought they were nearly getting the highly-prized midfielder, who was a free agent, the record Kenyan champions hijacked Odhiambo’s transfer on Tuesday.

The former AFC Leopards Youth team midfielder had trained with the dockers for almost two weeks and both parties were still negotiating only for K’Ogalo to pull out a rabbit from the hat and sign the Harambee Stars trialist on a two-year deal for a fee in the region of Sh700,000.

But Odhiambo’s move to the Green Army was not that surprising to many as the Ambira Boys High School alumni had been linked with the club since last season.

Though the transfer of top players from AFC Leopards to Gor Mahia and vice versa caused uproars among rival fans in the yester years, this could not prevent Odhiambo from ditching Ingwe to join K’Ogalo.

Of course Gor Mahia are not financially stable if the recent incidents at the club are anything to go by, but there might be other factors that made the deal possible. It appears Odhiambo was motivated by the fact that he’s going to Gor Mahia as Kenneth Muguna’s (who joined Azam in Tanzania in July) replacement as well as play in the CAF Confederations Cup.

Gor Mahia are set to clash with Sudan’s Al-Ahly Merowe in their Conf. Cup first leg match on October 15 in Suez, Egypt.

Money seems to have also played a key role in the move as he cashed on the sign-on fees at K’Ogalo after Bandari reportedly failed to commit themselves on paying him the transfer fees.

On the flip side, Gor Mahia were in desperate need of an attacking midfielder and when they realised that Bandari was taking time in finalising the deal, they jumped in and signed their man.

And by doing so, Odhiambo has reunited with defender Yusuf Mainge who crossed over to K’Ogalo from AFC Leopards a few days ago.  Mainge was offered a two-year deal and a reportedly sign-on fee of Sh450,000.

The duo has now joined the likes of legendary James Ogola , John ‘Zangi’ Okello, Paul Ochieng’, Deo Odhiambo, Dan Shikanda, Steve Okumu, Matthew Owino Ottomax, George Sunguti and Tom Juma in the ever growing list of players to play for the two rivals.

But Gor Mahia Sporting Director Lordvick Aduda was quick to deny claims that they have raided AFC Leopards to weaken them.

“We have not weakened AFC Leopards. At the time we were engaging Mainge and Odhiambo they had release letters from AFC Leopards. For your information, our latest acquisition (Odhiambo) has basically been training with Bandari for almost two weeks,” Aduda told Standard Sports.

“We have not engaged any contracted players. When Odhiambo failed to agree terms with Bandari, we called him, met, talked and he agreed to join us. If anything, there is a need for AFC and Gor to look at ways they can sustain their players so that there is continuity in respect to the contracts.

He added: “But there is nothing peculiar about signing a player from AFC. This is football and we must use it to break some of these traditional barriers. In the past it was difficult for players to switch between the two clubs but the barrier was eventually broken.”

Other players who have been brave enough to cross the rivalry divide and play for both Gor and AFC in the recent years include Demonde Selenga, Eric Masika, Wycliffe Kasaya , Humphrey Mieno, Timonah Wanyonyi, Ezekiel Odera, Jacob Keli, Jackson Saleh, Peter Opiyo, Paul Kiongera, Clifton Miheso, John Ndirangu and Collins Okoth.

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