By Otieno Otieno
In less than two weeks, Kenyan clubs will face real opposition in their quest for glory at the continental level.
Tusker will face Al-Ahly in the first round match of their Caf Champions League on March 16 with the first leg to be played in Nairobi.
Gor, on the other hand take on another Egyptian side ENNPI in the first round match of their Confederations Cup fixture. The first leg will be played in Cairo.
As the two Kenyan clubs get back to the continental level, they will be doing so with a understanding that local teams have been performing poorly at this stage in the last five years.
The fact is that no Kenyan club has gone beyond the first round in the Champions League. Sofapaka remains the only club which has gone past the first round when they reached the pre-quarters of the Confederations Cup two years ago.
Since then, Kenyan clubs have always fallen at the first stage of the competitions and failed to benefit from the advantages that come with progressing further.
The most obvious reason for the poor performance by local clubs is poor preparations. Kenyan clubs simply do not invest to get positive results and somehow imagine that they can still do well at the continental level with the same personel and resources they had when winning local titles.
The continental stage is a different ball game and calls for thorough preparations as well as investment.
While Tusker coach Robert Matano is believed to have prepared his team well by taking part in a regional tournament in Zanzibar, the same cannot be said of Gor Mahia who resumed training just three weeks before their first match against Anse Re Union of Seychelles.
However, even the friendlies Tusker was involved in during pre-season may not be enough to prepare them well for the continental engagement given the level and quality of opposition that awaits them.
Al-Ahly go into the match with a rich history of positive results to back them and the fact that they have won the Champions League several times means they will be a hard nut to crack for Tusker.
Al-Ahly coach Hossam El-Badry was in Nairobi to watch Tusker dismiss St.Michel of Seychelles 3-0 in the return match of the preliminary round at Kasarani and this shows the kind of seriousness the Egyptian side are taking this match.
Tusker coach Robert Matano insists they are capable of making history by stopping Al-Ahly. "When we got into this competition, our desire was to do better than last season and reaching the second round is our minimum target. This time we have the experience and the players to do it," said Matano.
His Gor Mahia counterpart Zradvko Logarusic insists they will try and do better than last year but is realistic to admit that their opponents who enjoy a budget of close to Sh200million per year have an edge.
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