NAIROBI, (Xinhua) --
Excitement, anticipation, anxiety and a bit of
skepticism has been building as Kenyan league champions, Gor
Mahia FC prepare to leave on Friday to Britain to play Everton
On Nov. 6, Gor Mahia
will become the first club side from East Africa to play an
English Premier League club at the iconic Goodison Park.
Gor Mahia, who
wrapped a record-extending 17th domestic crown in the
just-concluded season won the chance to play the Toffees when
they defeated Tanzanian giants, Simba SC 2-0 in the final of an
eight-team regional invitational tournament dubbed the SportPesa
Cup on June 10.
Last year, the two
clubs met at the National Stadium in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania
where the EPL side prevailed 2-1 in a game remembered as the
first outing for former England captain Wayne Rooney since his
return to Everton after 12 trophy-laden years at Manchester
Rooney, who has
since left for DC United in the Major League Soccer of America,
opened the scoring with a scorcher from range before Gor Mahia’s
record signing Jacques Tuyisenge, levelled for 1-1 at half time.
A late Kieran McDowell strike, also from range sealed victory
against such a big side inspired us to come back home and win
the league. I told my players they had the qualities to play
against the best and from there it was easy for them to find the
motivation,” remarked Dylan Kerr who took charge of Gor for the
first time in that match remarked.
international, Jose Marcelo ‘Ze Maria’ Ferreira took over Gor
Mahia at the start of July 2017 and subsequently led the side to
reclaim the domestic title they had lost to local rivals, Tusker
FC in 2016.
In the past season,
Gor Mahia defended their crown with six games to spare,
finishing third in the regional Cecafa Club Championships in
Tanzania and above all, qualifying them for the first time in
the group stages of the second tier continental competition, the
CAF Confederations Cup.
Amid a chocking
fixture list that saw the team tail off towards the end of the
campaign, Gor Mahia also retained their Super Cup crown before a
crippling player’s strike over delayed salaries and allowance
saw their season end in a whimper, losing six of their last
“The playing unit,
both young and experienced, played a significant role in
delivering the 17th trophy home despite the tight
season that also saw us engage in CECAFA, Super Cup and CAF
competitions,” Ferreira said.
Ahead of the
showdown, opinion has varied between those who see the fixture
as a positive step towards exposing East African football to the
world as others label the match as a public relations gimmick.
Gor Mahia and
Everton share a shirt and title sponsor in SportPesa, the
African gaming giants with roots in Kenya who have since
expanded to open their business in the UK, Italy, South Africa
The company has
thrown its weight behind a huge promotional campaign that has
managed to capture the attention of the Kenyan audiences on
local television, radio, newsprint, on-line and social media.
Besides the Gor
players and staff, a group of local journalists, a number of Gor
fans led by the most famous of all, Jared Otieno, also known as
‘Jaro Soja’ the self-styled Commander-in-Chief of the Green Army
supporters and other guests will make the Everton trip.
Last year, the two
sides played to a jam-packed National Stadium in Dar and in May
this year, Gor Mahia took on visiting English second division
side Hull City FC in Nairobi where the 60,000-seater Moi
International Sports Centre, Kasarani filled to its brim.
hoping the story of a Kenyan side playing a team from the
most-followed league in the world will be a big international
draw to serve the dual purpose of exposing talent from East
Africa as well as leveraging their product in this age where
football is one of the biggest commercial drivers.
“Everton is one of
the most established clubs in the UK being the only one to play
over 100 seasons in the Premier League. The friendly will be
good exposure for the Gor who have given their best to put Kenya
on the global and regional map in matters football,” company CEO,
Captain Ronald Karauri said when the game was confirmed in
Regardless of the
purpose of the fixture, Gor players are relishing the prospect
of what the opportunity offers to their careers.
“I’m very grateful
to our partners and coach for making this trip possible. Most of
us have never been to the UK and this is a once in a lifetime
opportunity for us to showcase our talent,” the 20-year-old
Edward Lokuwam said ahead of the trip.
Raphael Asudi, who
grew up in Donholm, a settlement east of the Kenyan capital
Nairobi, is another youngster keen on making an impression at
Goodison Park as his promising career continues to take shape.
“It will be great to
meet the entire Everton team and especially (Theo) Walcott. I
have always admired him and it will be amazing to show them that
we can handle the challenge they pose,” Asudi, who is a devout
Arsenal fan where Walcott spent a decade before signing for the