Gor Mahia, AFC Leopards eye positive CAF campaign start

Kenya will be represented by two of its oldest and famous clubs in this year's African Club Championships, Gor Mahia flying the flag in the Champions League while AFC Leopards will be doing duty in the Confederation Cup.

The duo is determined to break an old duck that has seen Kenyan clubs fail to get past the group stages of any CAF competition since Tusker FC in 1994. Sofapaka came closest, reaching the play-off round of the Confederation Cup in 2011.

We know that there has been some history with Kenyan clubs but that is something that I am determined as a coach to see that we break. I know it is very tough but we have prepared well for it and everyone is looking ready, Gor Mahia's British coach Dylan Kerr said looking on to the preliminary round ties this weekend.

'K'Ogalo' as the 16-time Kenyan league champions are popularly known begin their campaign on Saturday, 10 February 2018 at the Machakos Stadium against Equatorial Guinean champions, Leones Vegeteranios who won their local league title for the first time last year.

I have tried to do some research about them (Leones Vegeteranios) but I haven't found much. However, we have to prepare to win and do that in the best way possible. The players have that hunger to do well and that's what is driving us, Kerr added.

Captain Harun Shakava who is taking over the mantle after the departure of Musa Mohammed who left for a professional stint in Albania is confident of becoming the first new age skipper to lead the 1987 CAF Cup Winners' Cup champions.

It is very tough because all teams are well prepared. However, we are determined to make history and qualify to the group stages. That is our minimum goal. Everyone is focused and I am hopeful we can do well, the skipper said.

Kerr has strengthened his side adding on several experienced faces including midfielders Humphrey Mieno and Cersidy Okeyo who played continental football with rivals Tusker last year.

The coach has also enlisted the services of Ivorian forward Ephraim Guikan who scored three goals for Mauritian side AS Port Louis on their way to eliminating Tusker from the preliminary round.

We have a good depth and every player in the team is capable of coming in and playing well. That is one thing we need to succeed in continental football. The new players have been working very hard and I am confident we have a very strong team, Kerr said.

Their arch rivals AFC Leopards kick off their campaign against Madagascan side Fosa Juniors in the Western Kenya town of Kakamega. The Bukhungu Stadium only opened last December and hosted the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup is set to host its first ever CAF recognized match.

Kakamega carries some bit of ancestral luck for Leopards as it is considered their 'spiritual home' and the Leopards are hoping that piece of history comes with good luck.

Head coach Robert Matano has underscored his minimum target, just like Gor is to get into the group stages.

Having analyzed our path, I think it is very possible to get to the group stages. We need to keep working hard and so far I am impressed with how we have prepared. The players have to rise to the occasion and starting at home, it would be best if we kept a clean sheet and picked a win, the experienced coach said.

Leopards have won two high profile friendly matches, against Ugandan Champions Kampala City Council Authority and against Sudanese giants Al Hilal, but they have not won a domestic competitive fixture this year. They started off with a 1-0 loss to Gor Mahia in the Super Cup and last weekend drew 1-1 with Posta Rangers in their opening league match.

However, Matano has credited this to a new team with most of the first team regulars from last season having left.

The team has been gelling together very well and I am happy with the progress. We have been learning lessons with each match and I am optimistic we will show good results on Sunday, the coach offered.

Leopards' last sojourn in the Confederation Cup was in 2014 when they were eliminated in the first round after a 4-2 aggregate loss to South African side, SuperSport United.

Source: Confederation Africaine de Football

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