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Sports Features of Friday, 7 December 2018


Five things Asante Kotoko must expect ahead of Kenyan Sharks clash

Ghana Premier League giants Kumasi Asante Kotoko will spark their campaign in an attempt to stage a magnificent outing on the African terrain to regain their lost glories as they take on Kariabangi Sharks of Kenya in the CAF Confederation Cup on 15th December.

The Porcupine Warriors on many occasions have flattered to deceive being knocked out by sides like Barrack Young Controllers of Liberia, MC El Eulma of Algeria and most recently, CARA Brazaville of Congo.

Following the decision of the Ghana FA Normalization Committee to enter the Porcupine Warriors for the 2018/19 CAF Confederation Cup campaign, many have expected less for obvious reasons.

Could this be Kotoko’s time of reclaiming their glory on the African terrain? brings you 5 key things the Porcupine Warriors must expect as they take on Kariobangi on the 15th of December.

The Altitude

The geographical location of Kenya places them at a huge advantage especially when they host West and North Africa sides. Quite recently, the Black Stars of Ghana lost to Kenya in the 2019 AFCON qualifier by a lone goal and after the game, we heard complains of the players struggling to play in the second half.

The report after the clash with Ethiopia in Adis Ababa was terrible. The altitude in Kenya is terrible for visiting teams from West Africa largely because of the climatic differences. The lowest point in Kenya is at sea level on the Indian Ocean. The highest point in Kenya is 5,197 meters above sea level at Mount Kenya. The altitude situation in Kenya means the level of dryness of the air is usually uncomfortable for visiting sides.

Asante Kotoko must, therefore, expect the altitude to have a huge toll on them. According to climatologists, you either visit an environment with a different climate 7 days before a game or a day before the game. The effect of the climate is not hugely felt within this period. Asante Kotoko must therefore expect a very harsh climate and must prepare for that.

Youthful Kariobangi side
Kumasi Asante Kotoko must also expect a youthful Kariobangi Sharks side. Kariobangi Sharks are a youthful team owned by Football Kenya Federation president Nick Mwendwa. This is the team's third full season in the top Kenyan Premier League. Kariobangi is a low income residential area in Nairobi, or a 'slum' if you prefer to use that word.

Sharks play with pace, and most of their attacks come through the middle. The youthfulness of Kariobangi Sharks only mean one thing – attack oriented. With the climate on their side and the youthfulness of their squad, Kotoko must prepare to defend excellently. Considering their 9-1 aggregate score line over Arta Solar FC of Djibouti, Kotoko obviously know what to expect.

Reports from Kariobangi indicate that the Sharks are not an intimidating side. They are very young in the Kenyan top flight and do not command a lot of fans. Expectations are that around 3000 supporters will be available at the 60,000-seater Kasarani Stadium during the clash.

So Kotoko may not necessarily be intimidated by supporters but the conditions of the home side can intimidate Kotoko. The usual ‘Africa football’ behaviour must be expected by Kotoko. Sharks may not have the fans to intimidate Kotoko, but the dressing room gimmicks, the refereeing controversies and the home advantage are obviously positives for them.

The owner of the club is the President of the Kenyan Football Federation as stated already. That alone is enough to get the results for any side especially on the African terrain. Players are obviously confident going into the game with Nick Mwendwa behind them.

They are well motivated and have phenomenal attacking machinery. Sharks are one of the few teams in Kenya that are financially stable. Rarely do you hear the players and coach grumbling over unpaid salaries or bonuses. Their mindset is to play the game without fear. This one will be a huge battle.

Quality and Experience
This team has several quality players, a majority of whom turn out for both the senior and U23 national team. Eric Kapaito, a striker and top scorer in the Kenyan Premier League last season with 17-goals is the lead attacker and is with the national team. Other players who play for the national teams include Patillah Omotto, Syndey Lokale, George Abege and James Mazembe.

Their goalkeeper, Jeff Oyemba, too is on the fringes of the national team. He was part of the team that defeated Ghana in Nairobi. So, even though most are aged below 24, they have the necessary experience of playing on the continental. The side has produced two of the best scorers in the league in 2017 and 2018. They have goals in them.