By: ISAAC SWILA
From the early days of the Gossage Cup in the 1920s, no fixture has excited the region more than a Kenya versus Uganda clash, more so to their respective set of fans.
The rivalry has been intense, matches fought and won in tears and sweat, and warnings issued for next time.
Take the 1982 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup final in Kampala finals for example. No Kenyan old enough to have lived through Harambee Stars’ unlikely victory over Uganda Cranes to lift the trophy that year will want to forget. Every Ugandan old enough will want to erase the memory.
Uganda though will feel they had the last laugh with 13 titles under their belt compared to Kenya’s six. Cranes have also had the better of Stars particularly in recent years, beating Kenya in the Group stages in 2012, in the quarter-finals of 2009 and the final of 2008.
Harambee Stars will no doubt have this in mind when they launch their quest for a second successive title this afternoon when they confront their familiar neighbours in a Group B match at the Addis Ababa National Stadium.
The Bobby Williamson-coached side landed here on Saturday shortly before noon and headed straight to their hotel for a rest before having a light work-out in the evening ahead of today’s game.
The clash will be special to head coach Williamson, who guided the Cranes to successive Cecafa titles in 2011 and 2012.
Beating the Cranes will be a sweet revenge for Williamson to the side which sacked him in 2012 before he crossed over to Kenya to take over the reins at SportPesa Premier League champions Gor Mahia. He later took up the Harambee Stars job.
Uganda, buoyed by a storming performance in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers where they crushed fancied Togo 4-0 on aggregate to earn a ticket to the group stages of the competition, are understandably the overwhelming favourites. Their history against Kenya underlines that tag.
Kenya custodian Boniface Oluoch, who has recently featured prominently for the Stars, is expected to retain his position in goal while impressive left back Omar Mbongi should secure a starting position.
Striker Allan Wanga missed Tuesday’s 2-0 defeat to Cape Verde in Praia but is fresh and could be picked to lead the attack line against a physical Ugandan defence.
Getting a win in their first match will be key for Stars as they bid to retain their title. Kenya’s other group opponents are Burundi and Zanzibar.
“We are heading there (Cecafa) to do well. It is a competitive tournament and we face a good side in Uganda and it will give the boys the necessary test but the aim is always to win,” Williamson told reporters on Thursday after their arrival from Cape Verde.
Uganda Cranes head coach Sredojevic Milutin “Micho” could chose to unleash Godfrey Walusimbi.
SOURCE: DAILY NATION