Voice of Sport

Second day highlights; Gor Mahia descending on Thika, big soccer returns to Kericho

Late kick-off, ugly face of undecisive schedule, lack of stadiums threatens 2017 Kenyan Premier League to become a commercial nonsense


2017 Kenyan Premier League:

Fixtures:

Sunday, March 12:

2.00pm: Mathare United v Thika United – (Thika Municipal Stadium)

4.15pm: Kariobangi Sharks v Gor Mahia – (Thika Municipal Stadium)

3.00pm: Sony Sugar v Chemelil Sugar – (Awendo)

3.00pm: Zoo Kericho v Posta Rangers – (Afraha Stadium, Nakuru)

Results

Saturday, March 11:

Tusker 2-5 Nzoia United

Bandari 1-0 Nakumatt

 …

ONLY a handful of spectators turned up at Afraha Stadium, Nakuru on Saturday for what would have been a prized treat for an opening match of the 2017 Kenya Premier League. New boys Nzoia United thumped Tusker 5-2. In Mombasa, another debutant, Nakumatt’s first taste of the league was a 0-1 defeat by Bandari. Today, how visiting big guns Gor Mahia manage to attract audience at Thika Municipal Stadium will draw the picture of where the competition is headed — attraction and commercial-wise.

There would have been a fresh outpost of the league; a return to the top-flight for Kericho City, who once very long ago  were owners of national league teams Chagaik Estate and Brooke Bond football clubs. The new kids in the block, Zoo Kericho, make their debut in KPL against Posta Rangers of Nairobi at Afraha Stadium. It is because the promise by Kerico County authorities that the city would have refurbished its local stadium ‘to international standards’ by the league-start has not been confirmed as truth.

Scarce stadia

Elsewhere and because of shortage of stadiums, teams will be taking their home games to unfamiliar venues. For example, Nairobi’s Mathare United at Thika Municipal Stadium are the ‘home team’ against the local side Thika United. The match is already underway and in a double header at the venue, will give way to another debutant, Kariobangi Sharks also of Nairobi ‘hosting’ Gor Mahia.

Nzoia’s rout of Tusker left one wondering at the quality of the league teams. Or maybe it was no wonder as Tusker had already tamely been bundled out just in the opening round of this year’s [Africa] Champions by an unheralded team from Mauritius,  ASPL [Association Sportive Port-Louis] 2000.

Tusker rout

Noah Wafula put the champions up in ninth minute but Elvis Rupia made his KPL mark leveling in the 22nd minute. Then a former teammate at AFC Leopards and namesake of Noah, Edwin Wafula gave Nzoia the lead in 43ed minute which was cancelled by Uganda international Shaffique Mutambuze in the 48th minute.

That was as far the parity went. Then a tiring Tusker were completely torn apart by the ambitious upstarts. The backpedalling Tusker defence, especially, were in shambles including putting  in [Brian Otieno] an own goal in the 52nd minute which gave Nzoia 3-2 and Tusker ‘keeper Duncan Ochieng’ crashed to own net while trying to save the ball that came in straight for a Nzoia corner kick for the fifth goal. Brian Tiang’a had scored Nzoia’s fourth. It was a dream start for coach Bernard Mwalala, a former Kenya striker.

Francis Kimanzi (left) the Mathare United coach with his assistant Ali Salim. Kimanzi wants to build up team this season aiming for championship stub in next but apparently had a good opening day beating Thika United 3-2

 

Starting the KPL action with 16 teams of the intended 18, saying two will be decided later is bizarre and flies at fairness. Teams cannot strategise properly. It is like starting a long run motor rallying event with 50 cars on the road with the view that several in the garage will catch up in the trip once they are given mechanical green light to start.

All things being constant, recent, albeit smooth run KPL seasons, have been of financial challenge to clubs, many struggling to survive. It is a no-brainer that with the KPL distracted by sideshows this season that do not in any way bring money on the table for sharing, it will be a poorer competition in attractiveness and commercial viability. (more to follow…)

Sunday fixtures:

Mathare United v Thika United

Mathare United are beginnin life without nine established players who were central to the team last season including midfielder Eric Johanna, lanky defender Robinson Kamura, forward Obadiah Ndege and Eric Mata.

Former Kenya coach Francis Kimanzi, who is in his second year of a return to the team since taking it to the KPL title in 2008, has said that he will focus on rebuilding the team this season. Read, he will certainly be gunning for a podium finish.

And now in the closing stages of the match, Kimanzi’s boys score an 82nd minute goal to take a 3-2 lead.

 

 

Kariobangi Sharks v Gor Mahia

K’Ogalo have not lost any competitive match at the Thika Municipal Stadium since 2012, and will be looking to keep this record intact. The title contenders will also be looking to get their perfect record in 2017 going, as they have already beaten defending champions Tusker in the season opening Super Cup.

Seventeen-year-old Sharks have flirted with promotion for the last three years, and their chance to prove themselves worthy of Premiership status has finally arrived.

And with a half gone to the game, Gor Mahia looked to be cruising comfortably, Haroun Shakava, in the 18th minute and the Rwanda international Jean-Baptiste Mugiraneza giving their team a 2-0 lead.

Gor Mahia celebrate Haroun Shakava’s [No. 18] 19th minute match opener then takeing a 2-0 first half lead against KPL debutants Kariobangi Sharks at the Municipal Stadium, Thika on Sunday

Sony Sugar v Chemelil Sugar

This will be the first sugar derby of the season, and it will be against the two teams desperate to step onto the top echelons of club football.

Both sides have assembled modest squads comprising mostly youthful players with little top flight experience, and fans will be looking to see which new youngster will light up the sugar belt.

Zoo Kericho v Posta Rangers

When they returned to the top league last season, Posta Rangers went on to finish at a prestigious fourth position.

The spotlight will be on Zoo Kericho, who are making their first ever appearance at this level.

Experienced coach Sammy Omolo, now with Rangers, is also making a return to top flight football having been in the cold for two years.

-Additional reporting by KPL