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Shabana FC was once a force to reckon with

Sports

Kisii-based Shabana FC was once the toast of local football. It is the only other club whose fans could stand up to passionate followers of the other community clubs, Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards. The club thrived due to the sponsorship of businessman Dogo Khan, who runs Shabana Hardware and General Stores in Kisii town.

Shabana FC began as an informal outfit in 1980 until Khan took it up in 1982. The side was coached by Uganda-born John Champion in the lower leagues. They gained promotion to the top flight in 1985 and stayed there for 21 years until they were relegated in 2006.

Shabana FC broke into the continental scene and featured in the 1988 and 2000 CAF Championships. Shabana recently rebranded when Jared Nivaton Ombongi took over as chairman but hopes of gaining promotion back to the premier league are yet to bear fruit. In 2020, the Shem Nyaberi-coached Shabana FC defeated AFC Leopards 1-0 at Gusii Stadium in the Mashujaa Day Cup.

Shabana germinated from the debris of Olympic Youth Centres founded by Kenneth Matiba and run by German Bernard Zgoll. The Kisumu Youth Centre was moved to Kisii from Kisumu after Zgoll found that local clubs were using the centre’s kits. Champion was among the coaches at the Kisii centre until the program ended in 1979. He kept on coaching the players until Khan founded Shabana FC and took them in.

Meanwhile, as Shabana fought their way up to the Super League in 1985, Itierio High School was plotting to break the Kakamega and Musingu high schools’ dominance in football. Itierio lost to Kakamega’s Green Commandos at the 1986 finals in Thika on post-match penalties. The following year they served their revenge by beating Kakamega at their Bukhungu Stadium backyard on post-match penalties.

As Kakamega and Musingu players featured for Motcom FC and later Mumias Sugar FC, Itierio players turned out for Shabana FC. Mike Okoth was in Itierio’s golden football “Class of 1987” which included Henry Motego, Salim Mabruk, Vincent Abuga, Evans Nyariki, and Richard Otambo. Antony Walioba and Henry Nyandoro were on the 1986 team. All these players later featured for other clubs as well as the national team.

In their first season in 1985, Shabana finished 10th out of 18 and moved to eighth the following season. The following year, as Itierio High clinched the school’s national football title, Shabana finished third in the league. Shabana was now coached by Dogo Khan’s brother and Brazilian-trained Akbar Khan.

Schoolboy Henry Motego was the league’s top scorer in 1987 with 21 goals. Dogo Khan had set up a good ecosystem where he invested in the personnel at the club and results came.

That season, Shabana beat Feisal FC 3-0 and Lenana Warriors 5-0 at Gusii Stadium. They drew 3-3 with AFC Leopards in Nairobi and fell 0-1 to Gor at home. Busia Simba was another casualty going down 0-3 at home to the Gusii boys with Motego taking the match ball home. Kisumu All Stars, KTM, Kenya Breweries, Hakati, and Volcano United, all fell to a superb Shabana FC that also had Sylvester Mogeni, Patrick Lumumba, Abdalla Burhani, Willis Owegi, Alfred Oloo, and David Chirchir among its players.

In 1988, Gor Mahia decided to defend their Cup Winners Cup instead of playing in the CAF Cup of Champions, the continental club competition for runners-up of domestic leagues. AFC Leopards also played in the same tournament as the 1987 Moi Golden Cup runners-up which Gor also won. Shabana was now tasked with representing the country in the Cup of Champions.

Shabana met Kabwe Warriors of Zambia in the first round and beat them 1-0 in Kisii through a Henry Nyandoro wonder strike. They fell 4-1 away in Kitwe, Zambia on May 15, 1988, which left them eliminated. The club had Mike Okoth in goal but this was the last season he stood between the sticks. In 1989, he turned goal poacher and became the league’s top scorer and the rest is history.

This was the era when Shabana could attract Tanzanian talent. It recruited Sammy Biseko who came to be known as Sammy Simiyu, Hussein Omar “Tigana”, Salim Mabrouk, and Seif Hassan. At the end of the 1988 season, Motego, Okoth, and a host of other players left the club. This was a big blow but Shabana kept promoting new talent from the grassroots and mixing them up with some experienced players who lit up the league for many seasons. Shabana finished third again in 1989 and fourth in 1991 then third again in 1999.

The 9th edition of the CAF Cup of Champions

The 1999 league had the controversial 10-0 win by Mumias Sugar FC against Kisumu All Stars which led to their suspension. The league was awarded to Tusker and Shabana became runners-up. That is how Shabana featured in the 9th edition of the CAF Cup of Champions. They lost 2-0 away to Hay Al Arab SC of Sudan and managed a barren draw at home.

On May 15, 2004, the match between Shabana and Securicor at Gusii Stadium was abandoned at halftime when Shabana was two goals down. Shabana only managed to raise Sh1,600 from gate collections instead of the anticipated Sh9,600.  The money was to pay allowances for five match officials. This was the season when two leagues were played due to wrangles in the Kenya Football Federation. Shabana entered into a difficult season.

Shabana featured in Group A where they finished just above the chop line and survived relegation. In the controversial 2005-06 unified league, Shabana finished in the 19th position and got relegated. At one time, they featured in the lower leagues as Gusii United but this season, both featured in the nationwide league finishing sixth and 18 respectively.

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