This weekend will see one of the fiercest rivalries in East Africa unfold in front of us when long term rivals AFC Leopards take on Gor Mahia on Sunday 22 July at the Moi International Sports Center, (MISC) Kasarani.
The match, dubbed "Mashemeji Derby" due to the cultural proximity of the two sides’ most ardent followers (the luo and Abaluhya) always sparks fireworks, with either side trying to step out with their best foot forward.
Gor Mahia heads to this match on a good run, sitting comfortably at the helm of the 18 – team standings and yet to taste defeat in the league in the 19 matches they have so far played.
However, this fixture will not be that easy for Gor Mahia; they face one of the most successful clubs in Kenyan history and old time rival AFC Leopards, who may not be on hot form heading into this match, but they may be the loudest at the end of 90 minutes.
Derbies all over Africa and the rest of the world are characterized by exciting matches, it doesn't matter the achievements or form that one may have and most are only determined at the final whistle.
The "wounded” Leopard come into this match with vengeance against their rivals, whom they haven't beaten in the last four meetings. Recently, they met in the Hull City Challenge where Gor won on penalties and earlier Gor beat Leopards in the KPL Super Cup – the season opening game.
Also, Mashemeji Derby bragging rights mean a lot to these teams; AFC Leopards understand perfectly the stakes in this match and will not only be seeking the bragging rights but also the tag of being the first team this season, to beat Gor Mahia in the league, and indeed on Kenyan soil.
Gor Mahia should also be wary of their physical fitness. They have played the most matches this season, most recently being their 4-0 win over Yanga SC on Wednesday, meaning they have had just three days to recover.
Definitely it will be a match no player would want to miss, but Gor will really have to be on the lookout, facing a fully rested Leopard, hungry and the only prey on its path is Gor Mahia.
We all hope for an entertaining match. Football is always meant to unite and despite the outcome, let all fans maintain peace and remain united. Derbies are not really decided by the players only, sometimes fans decide the outcome. May the smartest team win, although I can't wait for the headlines next week after the Leopard roars the loudest.
The match will kick off at 3PM with gate charges going at 200/= for regular tickets and 500/= for VIPs.