Gor Mahia head coach Hassan Oktay insists neither him nor his players are feeling any pressure ahead of today’s Cecafa Kagame Cup quarterfinal against Zambian side Green Eagles at 5 pm, at the Nyamirambo Stadium, Kigali.
The match will be followed by a 7:30 pm clash between hosts and three-time winners APR and DR Congo’s AS Maniema.
The Turkish-Cypriot born tactician travelled with a relatively new-look team including six new signings after some regular players failed to make the trip due to various reasons.
Five players led by goalkeeper Shaban Okeyo, Erisa Ssekisambu and Cercidy Okeyo were dropped by the record Kenyan champions, while their two stars striker Jacques Tuyisenge and midfielder Francis Kahata have joined Angolan giants Petro Atletico and Tanzania’s Simba SC respectively.
Ugandan left-back Shafiq Batambuze and Kenyan international Joash Onyango are both sidelined with injuries, while the duo of Philemon Otieno and Burundian attacking midfielder Francis Mustafa have been given time off after featuring for their respective national teams at the ongoing African Cup of Nations in Egypt.
Despite the quintet of Tobias Otieno, Dennis Oalo, David Mapigano, Dickson Ambundo, Elvis Ronack and Erick Ombija inspiring K’Ogalo to top Group D on their debuts, Oktay is not keen on ending the club’s 34-year regional trophy drought with the current squad.
“To be honest, I’m not taking this tournament very seriously and that’s why we are not feeling any pressure,” Oktay told Standard Sports.
“When you have an intention of winning such tournaments, then you must come with your best squad and not kids. Of course, people’s expectations are high, but the truth of the matter is, we brought kids here to enjoy, gain experience as we prepare for the new season.”
“I don’t have six of my last season’s first-team players, yet we want to win the tournament? For me, it’s more of building our fitness levels and mental strength ahead of the new season, than anything else.”
“But, maybe, who knows, these young players can step in if we fail to get a quality striker on the market. I’m just worried of injuries, that’s why I have been rotating the squad.”
Asked if he knows anything about their Zambian opponents, Oktay said:
“The only thing I know about Green Eagles is that they will also be playing in the Champions League, nothing else. But all the same, it will not be an easy match for both teams.”
Quarterfinals are always games of chances, so whoever makes good use of their chances will carry the day.”
The quarterfinals kicked off yesterday with Azam taking on TP Mazembe, while hosts Rayon Sports entertained Ugandan champions KCCA.