Are Gor Mahia too good?

By Gilbert Wandera: Sunday, June 2nd 2019 at 01:05 GMT +3 | Football
Gor Mahia team celebrates winning the Kenya Premier League title at Kenyatta Stadium Machakos on Saturday, May 25 [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Gor Mahia’s dominance in the SportPesa Premier League (SPL) stood out as the talking point as the league ended mid this week.

Gor Mahia clinched a record 18th league title with two matches to spare raising questions on the competitiveness of the league.

It was their third title in a row and this happened despite having been involved at the continental stage for a better part of the season.

Other title contenders Sofapaka, Tusker, Mathare United and Ulinzi Stars watched in disbelief as Gor Mahia whizzed past them to the top.

Everything looked like it was going to be tough for the Kenyan champions going by a poor start to the season but the decision to keep most of their experienced players and the recruitment of Hassan Oktay as head coach turned around the situation.

Club legend Zedekiah Otieno initially struggled with the team when he was left in charge after the unexpected departure of Dylan Kerr but when Oktay came on board in mid December he stabilised the team.

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Handling Gor Mahia has not always been easy assignment for local coaches with the club’s successes always fueled by foreign tacticians and so Oktay’s presence was almost immediately felt.

Furthermore, Gor Mahia also maintained the core of the team that won the league titles in 2017 and 2018. The addition of fringe players just gave the club more depth as the coach had more options on who to field.

The signing of former Harambee Stars captain Dennis Oliech was also a big boost to the club. Despite having been out of action for close to two years, Oliech’s experience was a big motivation to the squad and it came especially in handy during continental matches.

Will Gor Mahia’s dominance continue in the near future? Tusker coach Robert Matano believes so.

“Gor Mahia were always expected to be champions despite starting poorly. They always have that ability to finish strong fueled by the exposure they have received by playing at the continental stage.

“One of the advantages they have over other teams is the fact that they are used to playing under pressure. They also have players who have been together for a long time and coupled with the exposure at the continental stage, they have what it takes to do well,” he said.

Matano also pointed out that unlike other local teams, Gor Mahia are not afraid to spend on buying talented players and later selling them for a profit.

“Money makes a difference and if you want quality players you must be willing to spend. Gor Mahia are probably the only team in the local league who can spend Sh2-3 million on buying a player. If we want to get to where they are, we must do the same,” he pointed out.

For the first time in more than a decade, three walk-overs were witnessed in the league.

This has been unheard of since the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) started managing the league.

Mount Kenya United handed two walk-overs to Mathare United and Gor Mahia as the team grappled with financial difficulties. Formerly, known as Nakumatt, Mount Kenya United were bought off by politician Francis Mureithi who however failed to pay players salaries leading to a near stand-off.

Nzoia United also handed a walk-over to AFC Leopards after the team insisted on playing at Sudi Stadium instead of the designated Bukhungu Stadium.

Clubs also experienced financial difficulties with their players sometimes going for three months without pay. The KPL is yet to get a broadcast sponsor since the exit of SuperSport three years ago.

There were also some positives to take home. KPL and clubs found more creative ways to broadcast their matches with social media site Facebook helping to popularize the league.

The league will also revert to a new format starting in August and ending in May inline with a new directive from Confederation of African Football (CAF). The new format is expected to help local clubs who take part in continental tournaments. 

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