Gor Mahia players will step into the Kasarani pitch oozing with confidence when they take on arch-rivals AFC Leopards in the Mashemeji Derby on Saturday.
On the flip side, the buoyancy of Ingwe players is at its lower ebb, having lost the last three league matches ahead of the 85th Mashemeji Derby, the biggest soccer bonanza in Kenyan football.
This is not just a match. It is a game of life and death for some fans, with both historical as well as political taste. A win for Gor Mahia is always welcomed by colorful celebrations that culminate at the foot of Tom Mboya statue at the heart of Nairobi Central Business District.
Fans at Kasarani during a past derby
A win for Ingwe, on the other hand, is punctuated by the rhythms of Isikuti beats as the Mulembe Nation dance their way to Jeevanjee Garden, the traditional meeting and dispatch point.
Having lost to Zoo Kericho, Bandari and bottom-placed Mount Kenya United in their last outings, the Casa Mbungo men will come out of the tunnels as the clear underdogs in search for a first win against perennial adversary since March 2016.
But history puts both sides at par with each other-27 wins apiece, while 31 matches ended in draws though Ingwe current form doesn’t favor them. But Dan Shikanda, a former striker, who won the Kenyan Premier League title with both Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards, has warned the form of a team cannot be used to gauge who wins the derby.
“This will be an interesting match because if AFC Leopards win, the fans will forget about the recent defeats, but if they lose then they are buried.
New AFC Leopards coach Casa Mbungo
“Gor Mahia is having a good form currently while AFC Leopards having been losing left, right and center, but in a game like this form doesn’t matter. I remember in 1984 Gor Mahia had up to seven players serving a Caf ban, but they still went ahead to beat AFC Leopards.
Shikanda admitted that Gor Mahia is a clear favorite but Ingwe fans can make the work extremely hard if they turn out in large numbers.
“As I said, a derby is not determined by the form. Such games are won on the stands. Gor Mahia is the favorites considering that they are currently having a good form and their fans will turn up in large number, but a good attendance by AFC Leopards’ fans can really push players to give their best on the pitch,” Shikanda told Goal in an interview.
But away from the pitch and the stands, it will be interesting to watch the tactical approaches both coaches; Hassan Oktay and Mbungo, who will be playing their first Mashemeji Derby, will employ on Saturday.