The footballing nation weeps for Kenya’s oldest cup competition, the believers in fairy tales are fast losing hope of any happening in their lifetime and a competition is fast becoming the ‘regard’ for a few.
With just two years short of six decades it’s horribly surprising that only three clubs holds more titles than Mombasa Liverpool, the club that won Kenya’s first ever FA Cup title and just one more according to official records.
Just so you have the figures; 21 titles have been shared between three clubs, (Gor Mahia 10, AFC Leopards 8, Kenya Breweries (Now Tusker FC) 3). A paltry 11 titles have since then been shared amongst 8 clubs.
Clearly from the above numbers, the difference is all out there for everyone to see, however with times changing the motivations, politics, financials and the fortunes of teams; the recent past best paints a picture of this cup competition.
Astonishing as data from the recent past will reveal, it’s in detail very factual and represents the struggles of federation run competitions and the one factor that seemingly favours the winner more than often.
It’s therefore not surprising when football analysts predict a no show for non-top flight teams who more than ever represent the face of these struggles (FKF basically runs the leagues they take part in.)
But so here is a brief look into the situation;
Martin Ndangano’s Sofapaka FC in 2007 became Kenya’s second ever non-top flight team to have won the FA Cup final, ever since that time to date only three other non-top flight teams have made the finals, sadly all of them lost and only one managed a goal.
As late as 2009 the winner of the tourney played only 3 matches to win the trophy(lot’s of walk overs) while in 2011, KPL teams even threatened to ground the competition by not competing- this ideally meant Kenya would not have a representation at the next year’s CAF Confederations Cup as Non-top flight teams may have never had the cash to prepare for such assignments, though that was later rectified.
In all honesty, it’s hard for non-top flight football teams to pull a ‘David’ on such a Goliath even though the will might be there. The financial gap always leaves them struggling with honouring away ties, balancing the league and even running day to day activities compared to their partners who’ve got TV revenue to run to and numbers to back it up.
Away from non-league teams, why don’t top flight teams (around half) consistently fight for an opportunity to lift this cup?
The general feeling when this competition gets to the quarter/semi final stage (when most non top flight teams are out) is that top flight teams would make/give the fans a spectacle but I guess that’s all wrong.
In actual sense, only Sofapaka, Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards can lay claim to consistency in the final four of this competition in the last four years; the other is always a first timer who again is 1/2 likely to be a top flight team.
While for Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards, a little pride goes into it; it has never rubbed off any other top flight team around them in regards to this cup. Most Sofapaka coaches use it as a fall back after a horrid season (mostly to avoid the sack) but why not Ulinzi Stars or Tusker FC?
Again brings me to the ‘motivation’ behind this cup.
Kenya has another cup competition in the name of the KPL Top 8, now in its fourth season but with never a winner having ever done a double of wins and 5 teams having made the final in three different finals.
The KPL Top 8 (the league cup)’s motivation (read prize money) in all honesty for 4 matches and the treatment it comes with for teams taking part is far more prestigious than the FA Cup.
The seriousness teams warrant this competition therefore is likely more higher than that they give the domestic FA Cup even though the prize of the latter should ‘in our eyes’ be greater.
Realistically, the ability of teams even in top flight competition honouring CAF Confederations Cup matches is very much in doubt. With around 2M shillings up for grabs, even winning falls short the budget for such a competition, thus 1M and no further football to play as winners is an easy route out.
Nonetheless the brilliance of the winners and sweat of the losers every year should never fall short of praise and ululations.
Kenya’s FA for all the problems it has must be applauded for the little they have tried but should be challenged to try and position the FA Cup as Kenya’s second best competition behind the league, if not the first.
Waking up ‘underachievers’ means adding a little more ‘motivation’ to the cup, besides sometimes in life as in football- the will might just be the difference between shelf potential and exploited potential.