Kenya/Djibouti: Tusker Look to Leave Arta Staggering in Djibouti Solar

10 September 2021

Kenyan champions Tusker start their Caf Champions League campaign on Saturday when they take on Djiboutian giants Arta Solar 7 in the preliminary round first leg at Hassan Gouled Stadium in Djibouti City.

The first ever meeting between the two sides will be played behind closed doors due to Covid-19 restrictions. The match kicks off at 5pm Kenyan time in the tiny Eastern Africa County which has a population of one million people.

Tusker will host the second leg on September 18 with the winner set to meet Egyptian giants Zamalek in the first round next month.

The Djiboutian side is home to former Arsenal and Barcelona star Alex Song, the Cameroonian having been signed in November last year. Others Stars in the team are former West Ham United forward Diafra Sakho and Cameroon legend Carlos Kameni.

On Friday, Tusker's squad mostly comprising of newly signed players, held their last training session at the match venue.

Arta Solar 7 won their first ever Djibouti Premier League title last season. They finished top on 48 points, 11 ahead of their closest opponents As Police Nationale in the 10-team league.

In the 2019/20 season, Arta Solar 7 won the domestic cup to qualify for Caf Confederation Cup but unfortunately, didn't go past the preliminary round after a 10-1 aggregate defeat to Egyptian club Al Mokawloon.

Tusker, on the other hand, return to the continental scene for the first time since 2017. After winning the league in 2016, they were bundled out of Caf Champions League by Port-Louis of Mauritius on a 3-2 aggregate score.

Song, an accomplished footballer with a decorated career, will be the player to watch in the game. He won the Spanish La Liga title with Barcelona in the 2012/13 followed by the Spanish Super Cup in 2013/2014 season, immediately after joining from English Premier League giants Arsenal where he had spent seven seasons.

He has 49 caps for Cameroon national team Indomitable Lions and featured in the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.

However, Tusker coach Robert Matano told Nation Sport his focus won't be Song or other star players in the Arta Solar squad but on the game.

"We are okay since we arrived here and have fully prepared for the match. It is a tough game but as I said earlier our focus is not on an individual player but the game itself. If we all concentrate on Song and other big names in their team, then they can use other options to beat us tactically," said Matano.

He revealed that he doesn't know their opponents having not played against them before but his focus remains winning the game.

The brewers have signed 11 new players and 10 made the travelling squad. They released 14 players who were part of the squad that won the league last season.

The new players at the brewers camp are Clyde Senaji, Teddy Osok, Charles Momanyi, Patrick Matasi, Shami Mwinyi, Daniel Sakari, Hillary Wandera, Brian Bwire, Tanzanian duo of Joshua Ibrahim and Kalos Kirenge and John Njuguna.

"The players have gelled well and that is not an issue anymore. We have trained well and I'm sure those who will have the opportunity to play will do their best for the team," added the veteran coach.

His sentiments were echoed by captain Eugene Asike who rallied his teammates to at least pick a draw in Djibouti.

"If we avoid defeat then it will be an easy task to face them at home next week. We just need to focus and concentrate then avoid chasing the game. This team has a lot of talent and I think we will get something positive," he said.

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