THE Cecafa Kagame Cup Club Championship opens in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on Friday and as the football passionate country looked forward to the famous tournament, the biggest talking point was the possibility of Kenya being unrepresented as their champions and one of the region’s biggest clubs, Gor Mahia appeared set not to take part.
Apart from being a feared club in the Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations (Cecafa) region, Gor Mahia’s recent and current form easily makes them the envy of many. As defending Kenya champions, they are runaway leaders in the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) and are in the Group Stage competition of the CAF (Confederation of African Football) Confederation Cup.
At the Kagame Cup, Gor Mahia were slated to clash with fellow CAF Cup Group Stage opponents, Rayon Sports of Rwanda and Tanzania’s Young Africans. But Yanga, bedevilled by internal wrangles, loss of key players in the Tanzania’s transfer window and poor form in the domestic league pulled out. They sighted preparation of their impending CAF Cup clash with, incidentally, Gor Mahia on July 18 in Nairobi as the main reason of staying way form the Kagame Cup.
Then, just on Wednesday, it was the turn of the Gor Mahia camp to serve fears that they would not be coming to Tanzania. The club was facing a player revolt back in Kenya, a number of them laying down tools and refusing to take part in a KPL match in Kisumu, west of the country on Friday and inferring that travel to Tanzania would also be affected.
But the Kenyan newspaper, the ‘Daily Nation’ in its early editions on Thursday night reported that Gor Mahia would honour the Kagame Cup; the news reaching Dar es Salaam and excitement growing that fans would be able to watch Gor Mahia against the local city favourites Simba — the Tanzania Vodacom Premier League champions — Azam, the reigning Kagame Cup champions and Singida United the latest sensation challenging the Simba-Yanga-Azam hegemony.
From Nairobi, the “Nation’ quoted Gor Mahia chief executive officer Lordvick Aduda saying: “We are flying to Dar es Salaam on Friday night after our [KPL] league match [v Sony Sugar at Moi Stadium, Kisumu].”
He added: “The players’ reported strike was uncalled for. It’s a club policy that [unpaid winning] bonuses [the bone of contention and trigger of threatened strike] are paid on top of salaries. They [players] already pocketed Sh37,000 each for winning the SportPesa Super Cup and will receive the rest in the June pay,” he added.
The possible shape of the Gor Mahia team in Dar, however, was on top of excited discussion. More Gor players are reported Tanzania-bound on lucrative signings, following the sensational move of the Kenya club’s most influential forward, Rwanda international Meddie Kagere, to Simba.
Kagere’s reported demand of Sh5 million in order to sign on a new contract with Gor was met with a lower counter-offer by the club and a dangled Sh8 million by Tanzania champions, Simba that lured him to Dar es Salaam where he signed and is now the talk of town as a starter in Simba’s opening Kagame Cup opening match on Saturday against Dakadaha of Somalia.
Simba have also added to their strength former Yanga and Tanzania international goalie Deogratius ‘Dida’ Munishi from Pretoria University (South Africa) and former Azam, El Merreikh (Sudan) Cote d’Ivoire national, defender Pascal Wawa.
The tournament kicks off with two matches on Friday at the Azam [sports] Complex, Chamazi, JKU (Jeshi la Kujenga Uchumi) of Zanzibar starting at 2pm against Uganda champions Vipers and at 4pm Kagame Cup holders Azam will be on familiar ground entertaining Kator of South Sudan. Then at 7pm at the National Stadium in Dar, Singida United clash with APR, a former Kagame Cup champion.
On Thursday evening at Peacock Hotel at downtown Dar es Salaam all teams that had arrived met for a pre-tournament briefing from the Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) Local Organising Committee and the Cecafa Organising Committee. Leodegar Tenga, a past Cecafa President and TFF boss Wallace Karia were among attendants to an address by the tournament director Ahmed Mgoyi and Cecafa secretary general Nicholas Musonye.
“Everything is set, we’ve received all the funds for the competition and all teams, except Gor Mahia, are here,” said Musonye but before the end of the meeting announcing that Gor Mahia will be arriving in Dar on Friday night.
The tournament is laden with highly rated teams including Azam, Simba, Gor Mahia, Vipers, Rayon Sports and APR (Rwanda) and Singida although there are also ‘dark horses’ include Burundi champions Lydia Ludic.
Below are the fixtures: