Former Gor Mahia captain Jerim Onyango is confident that the Kenyan champions will advance to the semi-finals of the Caf Confederation Cup.
Gor Mahia will take on Renaissance Sportive Berkane of Morocco in a two-legged quarter-final, starting on Sunday at the Kasarani Stadium.
Onyango, who retired from active football two years ago, has urged the players to make history once again and the reach the semis of the competition for the first time.
“They have come from far, really very far and as a former player and now a big fan I can only say I am proud of them. The fan optimism is now very high and they have to understand that they carry expectations of millions of them going into that match,” Onyango told Goal in an exclusive interview.
Gor Mahia players celebrate reaching quarters.
“If we can manage a win at home or say, score two goals and avoid conceding, then I can say that we will be ready to go and frustrate RS Berkane at their own turf.
“We all know how it can be tough to play away after failing to pick a win and goals at home, so I urge the team to make sure that they get a good result in the first leg.”
The former Gor Mahia goalkeeper, who now coaches the club's youth team, reminded the current squad that it is up to them to make sure that they progress further and emulate the 1987 team that won the Nelson Mandela Cup at the expense of Tunisian giants Esperance.
“Every Gor Mahia supporter will surely tell you that they want to see the team perform like the 1987 team that won the Mandela Cup," he added.
"The current team is also on the verge of making history and writing their names in the club's history books. I urge them to grab the chance and progress further because they will be remembered forever.”
Gor Mahia coach Hassan Oktay is suspended.
The club will miss a number of key players in the first leg fixture but Onyango is adamant the available players can take the moment and show why they are Gor Mahia players.
Coach Hassan Oktay captain Harun Shakava, striker Jacques Tuyisenge, defender Shafik Batambuze, and midfielder Ernest Wendo are all suspended for the match and goalkeeper Boniface Oluoch is out with shoulder injury.
“On suspension, I feel that can be a blessing in disguise because the players who will play instead, can grab the opportunity and show what they can offer," Onyango continued.
“Yes, the team can miss the services of the suspended players but the ones who will get the coaches greenlight to play have to prove themselves that they can deliver on the biggest stage.”
“It is a sense of pride to don the Gor Mahia jersey and the players know better about that. So let them use that as a source of motivation going into the game.
Tuyisenge will also miss the match.
“It is always a dream for many players to play for big clubs and play on bigger stages and the current squad have been given just that so it is upon them to play a good game when the moment finally arrives.
“This is an opportunity that comes in a lifetime. And let that not affect the players’ mentality this is what I tell them, go there, play as always, play your game and the result will shift your way.”
The retired footballer has promised to be among the fans drumming support for the team as they look to continue their run in the competition on Sunday.
“For sure I will be there at Kasarani to support them and I know the fans will fill the stadium as they watch Gor Mahia make history once more. As I said, it is a moment to savor in a lifetime,” he concluded.