How Robert Matano won his fourth Premier League title and plans for next season

Scoreboard: Meet the winning coach, Robert Matano who is the first to win 4 FKF PL titles

The 2021-2022 Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Premier League season ended last Sunday with Tusker retaining the title for a second consecutive year.

It was a milestone achievement for the yellow and black as they became the second most successful club in Kenya.

Tusker have now won 13 Premier League titles, six behind record champions Gor Mahia with 19.

In the process, Robert Matano became the most successful local coach with four league titles.

With Tusker, Matano boasts three titles (2012,2021 and 2022). He also led Sofapaka to their 2009 league title.

“Winning a Premier League title for the fourth time is not a joke. I’ve made history and Tusker have also opened another chapter in history. Remember this is our 13th title,” said Matano.

The former AFC Leopards coach said he did not give up despite a poor start to the 2021-2022 season and he has worked for all of his four titles.

“Hard work and perseverance have helped me throughout all my success. I know how to handle myself and the players in different situations,” explained Matano.

“I have been a coach for many years and with that experience, I know how to use every player in my team. Sometimes it is not all about aggressiveness but how to mould a player into becoming a better player.”

On his new signings, Matano said he brings players to fill gaps where he sees there is a problem and knows how to deal with players of different characters.

At the start of the season last year, many ruled out Tusker as contenders for the league title.

Matano’s charges started the league on the wrong footing. The champions had a poor start to the season despite breaking the bank to sign 10-new players. The brewers lost 1-0 to AFC Leopards and 2-1 to Talanta in their opening two fixtures.

Tusker were below the top ten for the better part of the first leg. In their opening 15 matches, the brewers picked maximum points in seven, shared spoils in two and lost in six.

“In my eyes, my players were the best. I saw champions in them every day. Many people did not see that but I believed in them,” said Matano.

“We had not trained together as a team after signing t10 new players who were roped in straight into the lineup because of the tight schedule we had with Caf Champions League and local league. We had not even gone for camps. But after playing together for three months you saw for yourselves. 21 matches unbeaten.”

Coach Robert Matano of Tusker with the trophy after defeating Posta Rangers 2-0 at Ruaraka grounds. June 12, 2022. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The tactician said mental strength is the biggest challenge for Kenyan players while financial instability is affecting clubs’ performances.

On leaving Tusker, Matano said he has changed his mind and he will continue with the Brewers till his contract ends.

“Things have changed since last Sunday when I said what I said. It was true but things have started changing and it will be fair to the club too if I listen to them. I talked and they reacted so I have also changed my mind and I will not be leaving,” he said.

Tusker FC Coach Robert Matano with his team hold their trophie after beating BIDCO United 2-1 to clinch FKF Premier League Champion at Utalii Sports Ground in Nairobi on Sunday August 22,2021[Boniface okendo,Standard]

On Sunday, Matano threatened to ditch Tusker citing disrespect and sabotage.

“There is somebody who doesn’t need me in this team and I am not happy with that. But again, I am happy because I have proved him wrong.”

“I am an experienced coach who knows what he is doing. I don’t depend on luck. There are people who do not trust me in the team. We had times when the team was down but those are dynamics in football. I said the league is a marathon and that we will win, which we did.”

“Respect is important. During low times and winning days, we must respect one another. On the positive note, I am happy with my achievements being the most successful local coach” Matano had said.

At the same time, Matano downplayed reports that the 2021-2022 FKF Premier League season will not be recognized and they played just friendly matches. This is after FIFA banned Kenya for government interference in the FKF leadership wrangles.

Sports CS Amina Mohamed had on November 11 last year disbanded FKF and installed a Caretaker Committee for six months to take over the running of the federation's affairs before replacing it with a Transition Committee three weeks ago.

The ban has already been catastrophic to local players and clubs after the Confederation of African Football (CAF) kicked out Harambee Stars out of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers that begin earlier this month.

“They can say anything they want but I won. I am the champion. We worked hard for this and honoured all organised fixtures. Nobody can take this away from us,” said Matano.