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SPORTS

Rivals play for pride as Tusker drink to CAF Champions League slot

FOOTBALL By Washington Onyango | July 2nd 2021
Tusker FC players celebrate after clinching the Caf Champions League slot. [Courtesy-Tusker FC]

Tusker FC on Wednesday qualified for the CAFChampions League as per the deadline set by Football Kenya Federation after topping the FKF Premier League standings.

FKF had in May said that the team that will be topping the 18-team Premier League table by the end of June 30, will get a direct ticket for the inter-club competition.

So, what does it mean then at the end of the season in August, that is, if a different team wins the league?

The federation insists that there is still a lot to be won by the eventual winners despite the team not landing the chance to play in any continental club competition next season.

“The winner of the league will be crowned champions with the awards which include trophy and cash award totaling to Sh5million,” said FKF. However, with Tusker claiming the Caf Champions League ticket, it has elicited mixed reactions from football clubs.

While defending champions Gor Mahia have vowed to fight for the title, their perennial rivals AFC Leopards are saying lack of motivation will kill the competitiveness of the league. Speaking to the Standard Sports, Gor assistant coach Sammy Omollo said they will be playing for their pride and of course, win the prize money.

“It is disappointing to play knowing that even if you win the league by the end of August, you are not guaranteed of continental football. However, we want it to be noted that in the 2021 season, Gor Mahia won the FKF Premier League for a record 20th time,” said Omollo.

“Our players are focused like never before and the recent draws will not deter our goal of winning the league. We will play for pride, history and the badge. Winning the Sh5million too won’t be bad.”

AFC Leopards assistant coach Tom Juma disagreed with FKF’s stand, terming Tusker’s qualification as illegal and unlawful.

“The law requires winner of the league to be determined after either 75% or 50% matches have been played. I have never heard of a date deadline used to award clubs qualifications,” he said.

For Tusker captain Hashim Sempala, the season is not yet over for them despite qualifying with 10 matches to play.

Sempala said he was happy the club qualified for the Champions League despite having faced several hurdles thanks to Covid-19 pandemic, a big moment for the players which he described as only one of their season’s targets.

“Qualifying was one of our agenda. We still have a long way to go to achieve other goals and we are going to fight hard because our mission is not yet over.”

“Unity, love, passion and belief have been the key for the team,” he said.

 

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