SportPesa Shield holders, ”Kariobangi Sharks will not underestimate Elim FC when they travel to Trans Nzoia County on March 16-17 for this year’s round of 32 fixtures”, the team manager Mathew Sam has said.
Although record Kenyan league champions Gor Mahia, ten-time Cup winners AFC Leopards and Bandari have been considered favourites after yesterday’s draws conducted in Nairobi, Sharks aim to replicate K’Ogalo’s back to back Cup triumph in 2011 and 2012.
William Muluya’s men beat Sofapaka 3-2 in the final last year to lift their first ever silverware since earning promotion to topflight football.
“It has been an exciting draw, but that doesn’t mean we underrate our opponents. There are no favorites in a knock out tournament. But it’s all about preparation both mentally and physically, then we will be able to retain the Cup. With the quality of players we have and having tested the continental football, I believe we’ve what it takes to win it again,” Sam said.
While K’Ogalo and Ingwe have been given tentatively easy trips to Kenpoly and Transfoc respectively, their SportPesa Premier League rivals Tusker have withdrawn from the tournament despite being drawn against lower tier side Naivas FC.
Ulinzi Stars, who had been paired against SS Asad, have also reportedly pulled out of the oldest tournament in the country.
Football Kenya Federation Secretary General Robert Muthomi termed the brewers’ decision ‘unfortunate’.
“It has been brought to our attention that Tusker have withdrawn from the tournament. I think that’s a lame decision because they’ve not informed us officially. It’s unfortunate but we have a number of lower division clubs on stand-by,” said Muthomi.
But for Sofapaka team manager Hillary Echesa, this a realistic chance for Batoto Ba Mungu to end their nine-year domestic cup drought as they face Bungoma Super Stars in the first round.
“Football is dynamic and there
The winners of the tournament whose final is slated for June 1 will represent the country in next year’s CAF Confederation Cup as well as pocket Sh2 million prize money.