With just days before the start of the 2019/20 CAF Champions League, Kenya flag bearers Gor Mahia are facing an uncertain future playing Burundi champions Aigle Noir CS in the preliminary round.
After making it to the quarterfinals of the CAF Confederations Cup and clinching a record 17th domestic league crown last season, Gor are piled upon with expectations from the continental scene.
However, the local glamour club is set to announce a new head coach this week and a slew of exits have left the team facing the race against time to get ready for the upcoming season.
Cypriot-born Turkish Hassan Oktay who led Gor to a third successive Kenyan Premier League (KPL) crown as well as their quarterfinal run in the Confed Cup was given permission to fly home to take care of his ailing parents last week and reports indicated he will not be returning to lead the team.
Having spent a season at the club, Oktay is the third foreign coach in as many years to leave Gor in the footsteps of former Brazil international, Jose Marcelo ‘Ze Maria’ Ferreira and Briton Dylan Kerr who are now coaching in Albania and South Africa.
“I have coached in Turkey and won the league title there, also coached in Saudi Arabia and now Kenya with Gor Mahia, I will always respect Gor Mahia of all the teams I have handled in my career,” Oktay said in an interview before his departure for Turkey.
Earlier, his former assistant and ex-club captain Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno left the club to take charge of local rivals KCB FC in a head coach role.
In the close season, the KPL champions have seen Kenya internationals- defender and Captain Harun Shakava and midfielder Francis Kahata leave for Zambia’s Nkana FC and Tanzanian giants Simba SC respectively.
Top scorer and Rwanda international, Jacques Tuyisenge, who has led the scoring charts for Gor in the past three title winning seasons as well as netting five in the 2019/20 Confed Cup had long confirmed his departure to Angolan titans, Petro Atletico.
Uganda forward, Erisa Ssekisambu who flickered on and off in his only season at the club returned home to join KCCA while former Kenya winger George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo who returned to the team and won four league titles left to join domestic rivals and 11-time champions Tusker FC.
Burundi forward, Francis Mustapha was released last week before the close of the local transfer window as the club sacrificed the striker to abide by the KPL rules on foreigners.
On the other hand, Gor have signed Ghanaian striker Francis Afriye, Ivorian midfielder Yikpe Gnamian, keeper David Mapigano and winger, Dickson Ambundo from Tanzania in the close season to add to their foreign quota that is completed by Ugandan wingback Shafiq Batambuze who was at the club last season.
Gor will take on Aigle Noir CS this weekend in the first leg of their Champions League preliminary round. The winner will face either USM Alger of Algeria or SONIDEP of Niger in the first round.
Gor were knocked out in the Champions League first round in the past two seasons before winning a play-off to join the Confed Cup group stage.