Hassan Oktay exit should be major concern for Gor Mahia fans

Goal Kenya.
The Cypriot coach's recent exit represents a familiar and unhappy story for K'Ogalo fans, and risks setting the club further

“Dennis I will give you a very good story when we return to Kenya, maybe in two weeks,” Gor Mahia coach Hassan Oktay told Goal's Dennis Mabuka after the club had just been bundled out of the Cecafa Kagame Cup in Kigali, Rwanda last month.

The Kenyan champions had failed to get past Green Eagles of Zambia, losing 2-1 in the quarter-final to miss out on winning the regional trophy.

What left a particular mark on this reporter is how the Cypriot coach walked straight towards him after addressing the media, looking like a disturbed man battling many troubles.

“I have a lot to tell you Dennis," he added, "but maybe not today.

"You can write first on what I have said in the press conference, and for the rest, I will call you when we reach Nairobi.”

Gor Mahia coach Hassan Oktay.

True to his words, and after the two weeks elapsed, Oktay confirmed exclusively to Goal that he was heading home to Turkey to attend to pressing ‘personal issues’. He wasn't sure either whether he would return to handle the Kenyan Premier League champions in the 2019/20 season which kicks off on August 31, or whether his time with the club was over.

“Gor Mahia are a big club in East Africa and Kenya, and you need to put your brain and your all into handling such a great team,” said Oktay, "but for now I am faced with some family issues which have affected me and I cannot concentrate.

"I am struggling to concentrate and I must go home to sort out the issues first before I know my next move.”

If Oktay fails to return for his role, then he will become the fourth coach in recent years to have walked out on the club.

Frank Nuttall was in charge as Gor Mahia drew 1-1 against Posta Rangers

First, it was Scottish coach Frank Nutall, who was successful with Gor Mahia in the 2015 season, guiding the side to a league title with an unbeaten run before resigning ahead of the second season.

Exit Nuttall, and in came Brazilian coach Ze Maria, who only managed to stay for a season. Despite going home to attend to ‘personal matters’, he was later unveiled as the head coach of KF Tirana in Albania.

It was the same case for Dylan Kerr, despite winning the 2017 title with the club, he requested for a few days off, but never came back and ended up joining Black Leopards of South Africa as Gor Mahia waited for his return in vain.

So why are coaches leaving Gor Mahia even before they see out their contracts?

For instance, when he tendered his resignation, coach Nutall told Goal that his departure was inevitable.

Gor Mahia coach Ze Maria.

“As a director of football, I am not involved in hiring, releasing and disciplinary of players and assistant staff," he began. "This has affected the performance of the club.

“Lastly, the executive committee have continued to make negative and undermining comments in the media, including those relating to team selection," he continued. "In the circumstances, I believe the club is no longer able to make my work and performance possible at the club.”

Gor Mahia CEO Omondi Aduda says they always give their best to support the foreign coaches discharge their duties.

“We don’t interfere with their work, we give them a free hand to do their job,” Aduda told Goal. “We have respect to the coaches we hire and I can simply not explain the reason why others opt to resign or walk away.”

However, another top Gor Mahia official, who did not want to be named, says frustration from the management sometimes contributes to the decision by the coaches to resign.

Dylan Kerr of Gor Mahia v Yanga of Tanzania.

“I am very close to these coaches and sometimes I know what they go through," said the source. "You cannot work in conditions where you feel frustrated. They are frustrated and that is the truth of the matter.

“Even the signing of players is not part of their job. Most of them give a list of players they want to be signed but the players they find in training are very different from what they have asked for, even if you are the [coach] for the club, can you stay?”

It was a similar story for Oktay.

“I am tired of asking the clubs to sign for me players, I only have a team of kids with me here," he acknowledge. "It's difficult to win trophies with kids. I don’t know if we can win Cecafa, we will just try our best.”

Will Oktay ever come back, or have Gor seen the last of the coach?

“I am not running away from duty," he told Goal. "I only have a few problems which I must sort back home, they have unsettled me and I cannot think.

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“I am not discharging my duties the way I would love to and until I sort out the mess back home, then I will have to stay away."

Given the track record of previous Gor coaches, however, it remains to be seen whether Oktay will return, even after he won a record 18th KPL title last season and helped K'Ogalo reach the quarter-finals of the Caf Confederation Cup.

Unless he does confirm that he's sticking around, Gor supporters find themselves once again in the midst of more managerial upheaval, and left picking up the pieces following another coach whose untimely exit prevented him from truly realising his promise.