Funny it is how several big football fans (me included) get carried away by the big European leagues at the expense of our very own Premier League kicks off this weekend. On the backdrop of Tusker’s victory over Gor Mahia on penalties, it sure has set a stage for more tough battles on the Kenyan pitch. I personally did watch the match and if you too did, then you gonna agree with me that Supersport have done a great job in Kenyan football. The prize money for that clash an equivalent to the EPL’s Community Shield was quite impressive by all standards, taking into account that not such good money was given to Kenyan teams in the past anyway.
Away from the league, Continental action too beckons for Gor Mahia and the Champions Tusker. Kenya hasn’t done so well in recent years in this type of competitions but a new football management in the country, renewed interest by fans to get back to the stadiums and improved professional terms of the game gives me a slight glamour of hope and interest as we wait to see our teams take on others giants from all over the continent. The top 8 teams of last season too, also have a chance of competing against each other for another trophy called the SUPER 8. Ulinzi are the defending champions of this Cup and will go guns blazing to make sure they retain this cup at all costs.
Silverware for sure doesn’t come easy in this league as demonstrated last season, as a team you got to fight for every point and it’s never over till the final whistle. For newcomers Oserian and Muhoroni Youth, expecting them to fight for the title would be expecting too much(unless they pull a SOFAPAKA on other teams, which I highly doubt), survival is the name of the game, lest they end up like the two coastal sides that graced the league last season. It would be sad to play at the elite level of the league, get relegated, loose players and the flair that comes with it.
I guess it’s too early to predict anything but as a keen follower of the league, the usual suspect for the trophy are still the same but with a few more entrants into the category. In no particular order, Gor Mahia, AFC Leopards, Tusker, Ulinzi Stars and Sofapaka are my picks to win the league.
Gor Mahia has got a huge fan base, both home and away and the green army is bound to cause trouble to the opponent with the loud singing, boos and the ever annoying vuvuzela’s. Having to play in 4 competitions, one in which they are the defending champions will not make it any easier for the Nairobi based club. They sure got a big squad and the players have the attitude to win each game. What I would like to see in this team is one match at a time. Gor tend to live today and tomorrow at the same time, live today, work hard in training, let tomorrow take care of itself. Awono the Cameroonian sure has got the most dangerous job in this country but patience from the fans and club management should see him through this season.
The only problem when you speak about Gor, is that you don’t know when to stop, so now AFC step forward and first a big welcome to Masika , here we got lots of sugar, fish is at the least here, once or twice we serve it but Justas a piece of information, blue and white is the colour, get your claws out, the Leopard is on fire. Probably the best team in the second half of last season, the Western side have added ammunition to its team by bringing in Allan Wanga (yes the one who married Brenda Mulinya), Mike Baraza and Victor Ochieng among others. Coach Jan Koops otherwise known as Wepukhulu needs to work hard on maintaining the momentum that swung them to a respectable 5thplace finish months after taking over from Nick Yakhama. I have a feeling that should they maintain that tempo, they would bag the KPL title with a few games to the homestretch.
Talk of Tusker in Kenya, the first thing that comes to your mind is the beer. Brewed and made Kenyan style, their football team too, last season did it in style, bottling up the points and taking home the coveted trophy albeit in the last day of the season. Then followed the celebrations and the pomp that comes with winning the title but now the hard work begins again. Winning might be hard but retaining is even harder. Every opponent looks up to beating you and everybody expects you to win again and again. A win against Gor Mahia last weekend proved critics wrong and showed, they are still in business of collecting silverware. By all means they are favourites for the title but until they step onto the pitch and get the wins, they are as good as any other team in the league.
Away from home, the national Army is at war, back home too, they are at war but this time against their football adversaries. Before Tusker, they were the defending champions but lost out on it this time round and want to prove that they are back on track for the title challenge. Coach Nyangweso, has been here before, knows the business and would want to have a second bite of the cherry. How about retaining the super 8 cup, that’s left to them, they have to face the best yet again and as explosive as it was last season, (GOR MAHIA fans PLEASE!!!) let justice be our shield and defender.
Sofapaka, the giant killers, able to pull a surprise on anyone is another one to watch out for. Despite loosing Kimanzi to the national team, the squad still has the firepower to bag the title even this year. Excuse their continental ambitions that derailed the team a bit last season, they are back fighting and not just fighting, fighting under the keen watch of Salim Ali and David Ouma. Proffesionalism for this team has always been core and discipline and values are never shied away from. The great understanding of the players and the support of the management should see them win or even a respectable position.
The day might probably not end if I wrote about the whole Kenya Premier League. The history, the rivalry, the on sides, the off sides, the shot stoppers, the good, the bad are all here in plenty. Last season was a good one by all standards, this one will be even much better and with the new administration in place, what’s left to see is how the league will be handled. Officiating levels have far improved but still not the best, the organisation has been getting better and better, the security has been questionable in a few occasions, the fans have been swelling in numbers and the overall performance breathtaking. And as the saying goes, GAME IBAMBE, What’s the game? Football it is? What football? Kenyan Football. And what’s Kenyan football? The KPL it is.