CAF CL: Can K’Ogalo break the jinx?

With time fast approaching towards the CAF Champions League first-round pitting Gor Mahia FC and CR Belouizdad, followers are divided on whether this will be the year for the club to turn around the table and qualify for the prestigious African League group stages for the first time after decades.

K’Ogalo have had 13 appearances in the CAF CL reaching quarter-finals in two occasions (1969 and 1992) when the prestigious League was under African Cup of Champions Clubs title.

In recent years and since 2014, Gor Mahia has qualified for the same, but have never made it to the group stage, mostly losing to teams from Northern Africa.

K’Ogalo lost against African giant Esperance in 2014 in the first round, AC Leopards of Congo in 2015 after eliminating in the preliminary stages CNaPS Sport Madagascar before losing to the same team (CNaPS), in 2016 at the preliminary stage,

K’Ogalo tried to pull a surprise in 2018 against Esperance against the Tunisian giants Esperance with a barren draw at home before a 1-0 loss in a controversial return leg played in Tunisia.

Part of the incident witnessed was the match being stopped for over five minutes after K’Ogalo’s reserves bench and officials sought refuge in the field to keep a safe distance from the rowdy Tunisian fans, who were throwing objects onto the pitch.

In 2019 and after eliminating Nyasa Big Bullets of Malawi in the preliminary stage, K’Ogalo was once again unfortunate to sail through group stages, losing to Nigerian side Lobi Stars after a thrilling encounter away from home. K’Ogalo had a 3-1 advantage at home and any draw would have made them sail through to the CAF CL group stages. They lost 2-0 with Lobi Stars stepping to Group stage with away goal advantage (3-3 aggregate).

But with perceived shacky preparation in this year’s tournament, Gor Mahia pulled a surprise win against well-organized APR FC of Rwanda in the preliminary stage with 4-3 aggregate, booking another first-round battle in Algeria with the first game to be played on 22nd December 2020 in Algeria.

Flashback to APR match

With an away goal advantage, Gor Mahia required a 1-0 win at home, but the visitors would not allow for easy sail at Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi.

The match was 1-1 in regular time (90 minutes) with visitors’ celebration at the apex. The celebration ended prematurely after K’Ogalo’s 2 quick goals in the stoppage time saw off Rwanda’s APR in CAF Champions League.

Substitutes Sydney Ochieng’ and Nicholas Kipkirui were on the hero ensuring Gor proceeded to the first round on a 4-3.

From Struggling to have a qualified head coach for the tournament to poor logistical approach due to financial problems facing the club, Gor Mahia hopes to reach the group stage will depend on the players’ self-motivation and unique tactical approach.

The team acquired the services of Posta Rangers head coach Sammy ‘Pamzo’ Omollo after the Brazilian Roberto Oliveira Goncalves required CAF documents were lacking. Omollo saw the team win the preliminary round after beating Rwandan side APR FC in a come-back encounter never seen before in recent history.

The team has also struggled in the local scene losing, 1-2 to Tusker FC in a midweek FKF Premier league played at Kasarani.

Ranked 36 in the continental rating, CR Belouizdad the Algerians beat Al-Nasr from Libya 2-0 away in their preliminary return leg match on Sunday to advance 4-0 on aggregate.

A trip to Algeria and a show of great performance by K’Ogalo is what the passionate followers are looking for. A win or a draw in the African northern side will be a motivator to the team’s hope to qualify for the CAF Champions League group stages.

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