Gor Mahia coach, Hassan Oktay has only been at the helm of affairs for barely a month but he is on the verge of writing his name into the history books of K’Ogalo should he avoid defeat to Nigeria’s Lobi Stars on Saturday in the return leg of their first round CAF Champions League tie.
If Oktay avoids losing to the Nigerian champions or at worst lose 1-0, then they will book a historic place in the group stages of the Champions League, following up on their success of a first-ever Confederations Cup group stage spot last season.
The Cypriot tactician who joined Gor Mahia just before their preliminary round game against Nyasa Big Bullets of Malawi is confident his boys have what it takes to achieve the historic feat.
“When I came here, I knew the targets of Gor Mahia are big and my targets are also big.
“My objective is to see this team qualify for the group stages and one day soon, maybe to win the title,” Oktay said
“It is possible because we have a group of hungry players who want to do well and achieve big things.”
K’Ogalo, as the record 17-time Kenyan Premier League champions are known convincingly won the first leg 3-1 in Nairobi last weekend and though Oktay was disappointed that the scoreline wasn’t bigger based on the chances they had, he knows they can achieve another win away from home.
“They are a tough team but we should have won by a bigger margin in the first leg. But we go away and we have to keep working hard.
“We need to improve a bit in the finishing and we will be okay. We have to avoid conceding first because that will put us under pressure,” the coach offered.
His sentiments were shared by captain Harun Shakava who believes the team has what it takes to get into the group stages and has cautioned his teammates not to lower their guard despite what looks like a comfortable first-leg lead.
“They scored an away goal and that is something that will put us on our toes. If we can score first then I think that will calm us down.
“But it will not be easy. They are a very tough team and playing at home, we expect them to be even better,” Shakava said.
“We know that we are on the brink of history. Last year we lost by a very slim margin to Esperance and we learnt our lessons.
“This time, we want to do better and I know we are capable as a team. We have worked hard and gained some very good momentum,” he added.
For the return leg in Enugu, Gor Mahia will miss the services of defensive midfielder Ernest Wendo who is suspended after picking consecutive bookings against Nyasa and Lobi.
Though coach Oktay affirms that it will be a big miss, he opines the squad is big enough to fill up the void and field a strong team in Nigeria.
Gor Mahia, winners of the Mandela Cup in 1987 have never progressed to the group stages of the Champions League since the new format was adopted.
Their qualification to the group stages of the Confederations Cup last season was their first ever in the new era of CAF continental club football