- 07th Feb 2009 00:00:00 GMT +0300
Muhoroni based side confounded critics by finishing a creditable third in their third season in the top division. Last season, Henry Omino’s men held eventual champions Mathare United to a scoreless stalemate home and away and beat then outgoing champions Tusker in Nairobi. Three of their star performers last season, Eric Apul, Jeff Odongo and Vincent Otieno have left the club with the former joining Western Stima. Otieno has moved to Nairobi City Stars. Junior international goalkeeper, Phinius Odhiambo joined the military. Omino faces a hard act to repeat his exploits.Verdict: In coach Omino they have one of the best local coaches but whether the depth of his squad matches is ability is open to debate. To finish mid-table. Thika United (www.thikaunited.com)
SEE ALSO :Uhuru, ex-Italian PM Renzi night meeting sealed Itare dam deal Despite unmatched organization, Thika United have failed to launch a serious bid for the KPL crown. Critcis suggest they may have to look inwards to overcome their weakness.They have recalled Kepha Aswani and Haji Mwachofi from loan deals at Mathare United and Bandari. Junior international defender Abdulatif "Ashkobe" Omar joins from Sony Sugar. They have offloaded Nicholas Muyoti, Joseph Mwangi and Fredrick Onyango. Their blue and white jersey from apparel manufacturer, Legea, is arguably the cutest in the league.Verdict: If they overcome themselves fourth placing would be a fair result.
SEE ALSO :Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari re-electedWestern StimaThe Kakamega based team has confounded everybody by handing coaching reins to greenhorn Fred Serenge. They appeared to be doing well last season until they hit turbulence when Nick Yakhama quit in huff. Alfred Imonje took over and appeared to have hit the right notes but did not live to finish the job and had to be replaced by senior players Ramadhan Balala and Mark Sirengo on a caretaker basis.
They survived by a whisker with a 1-0 win at home to Mahakama with Imonje’s hand in the background. Harambee Stars and former Agro midfielder Erick Otieno Apul is their major signing and have lost lead striker Augustine Etemesi to Tusker. In Hezron Nyabinge, Stima have one of the best youngsters in the country.
|Mathare United celebrate winning the KPL title last season. Photo: Robert Gicheru And File/Standard|
SEE ALSO :Then and now: How the past defined my brandStima failed to make the most of home advantage at Bukhungu last term and it will be difficult to see them better it this season. Verdict: Avoiding relegation could turn out to be their theme all season.Nairobi City Stars (www.nairobicitystars.com)When they were called World Hope, they could not even hold on to last part of their noun.
SEE ALSO :New online UK visa application service launches in KenyaNow that they are City Stars the latter part would be a point of debate at the final analysis just as is their base. Is it Kawangware or Lavington?The team endured contradicting halves with impressive performances in the first half of the season only to capitulate in the other.Its new owners, Ambassadors In Sport, however have shown unmatched ambition by acquiring German coach Oliver Page and capturing American Josh Westermann from Cleveland City Stars. The greatest challenge however for Page would be overhauling the team’s mentality.Verdict: Sixth placing would be exceeding expectation.Sher KaruturiAnother mid-table master. Nothing spectacular about the Naivasha-based club. To get a clear picture of this team think of Bolton. Combative, full of vigor, claim a scalp here and there once in a while and the season ends. No serious attempt at the title neither fighting survival wars.But with the departure of coach James Nandwa to Tusker, the Sher "Old Trafford" faithful should brace for any eventuality.They have signed Allan Otindo, KFF Nationwide’s prolific striker over the last two seasons, from Homegrown. Journeymen Nicholas Muyoti and Geoffrey "Jambe" Okoth have also touched down at the flower zone. Harambee Stars goalkeeper Noah Ayuko and captain Ken Wangwe carry Sher’s burden of expectation.Verdict: Will struggle to maintain mid-table status. A crash out of KPL cannot be ruled out.KCBConsidered a breeding ground for most premier league clubs and an also run side.After the sacking of Yusuf Chippo, Leonard Saleh has taken over faced with the challenge of moulding a side that can seriously challenge for honours. Saleh lost the battle to help Mahakama stay in the KPL but took with him Kenya’s promising midfielder Humphrey Mieno and Dancun Wanjohi.The bankers may have everything they need to build a formidable team but history and tradition on which to lay a foundation for success.Verdict: For many years they enjoyed safety a comfort zone in mid table over the past years.Chemelil SugarThe sugar millers made a sensational start to the season last year but faded as the season progressed. Since winning the KFF Cup in 2003, Chemelil have not been consistent as to challenge strongly for honours. Although they finished sixth last season, coach Zedekiah Otieno may not be too pleased with that result. Otieno has re-signed Jeff Odongo and Elisha Omollo, players who played a key part in Agro’s good run last term. Kevin ‘Keegan" Ngugi, KPL’s 2007 second top scorer has penned a deal with Chemelil along with Alloys Mangi and Kizito "Sky" Sikhai from Agro.Verdict: Another mid-table finish would be more than a bargain.Mathare UnitedThe champions have reinforced their title winning squad, which underlines Francis Kimanzi desire to retain the trophy. In their books are Victor Mugabe who has not settled in Belgian side Germinal Beerschot, Titus Mulama and Paul Ambembo as Kimanzi looks to shore up his already solid team.Mathare owes its title largely on Austin Makacha’s impressive form and top level consistence of defender Edgar Ochieng both of who are in line for best player honours. The Valley Boys remain top contenders for the title.Verdict: No club has retained the league title since Ulinzi’s exploits in 2002-2004. Kimanzi should be disappointed with a second place finish.SOFAPAKA (sofapakafc.com)The team that won promotion with a massive goal-difference (47) and lost only once in the KFF Nationwide League will be unrecognisable after aggressive recruitment. But like Bandari, coach Robert Matano faces the hard task of raising a team that matches the ambition of its owner Elly Mboni Kalekwa. Harambee Stars defender Zablon Amanaka, Edward Kauka, Abdi Simba and Jack Omondi are some of the big names in Sofapaka’s roster. Also in the team is hot-prospect Evans Wandera who made his international debut against Egypt even before playing in the league.Bobby Ogolla has joined their technical bench from Nairobi City Stars as part of Kalekwa’s bigger dreams.Verdict: If Matano manages to get the Sofapaka plane off the ground, a difficult task indeed, may be they will be a Kenyan version of Bundesliga’s Hoffeinheim in terms of results but not recruitment.Sony SugarFrancis Baraza may have faced big challenges in winning the KPL title in 2006, third in 2007 and second last year. However, this year will even be harder after a massive loss of key players.Internationals Fred Ojwang, Noah Abich, Jockins Atudo left for Tusker and goalkeeper Zachariah Onyango moved to Sofapaka. Although Baraza insists he still has a strong squad after signing Abubakar Yusuf from Mahakama, Andrew Aroka (Sher) and Chris Igwe (Nigeria) he faces a huge task of replicating past results. Fortress Awendo was breached only once last season when they fell 1-0 to Mathare United. Their challenge would again largely depend on their home record on which they should spring from to challenge the other big contenders, Ulinzi, Tusker, Sofapaka and Agro ChemicalVerdict: May challenge for honours, but missing out on top four may not surprise pundits.Bandari The Dockers offer the best case study of ambition and execution. Despite recruiting heavily upon joining the premier division, Bandari struggled to raise a team. Indefatigable midfielder Ali Breik, Abdi Simba, Anthony Dafaa, Abdulwahab Musa did not gel in time and had to wait until the last day of 2008 season to get off the chopping board.Twahir Muhiddin, brought in to steady the sinking Titanic following 10 straight matches without a win in the middle of the season, has quit the coastal side. Former Harambee Stars midfielder Douglas Mutua has taken over the reins. But with the departure of Simba, goalkeeper Wilson Oburu, Salim Kinje, Mutua faces an uphill task of rebuiling a formidable side.Verdict: Mutua remains one of the best midfielders Kenya has produced. However, translating his success into kneading together a good team is different ball game. Struggle for survival will continue where they left last season.Ulinzi StarsThe military side appears to have overcome a bad patch especially after finishing fourth last season despite a terrible start to the season. It has taken long to replace attacking midfielders Tom Ogweno and Sammy Simiyu. They have in their books former Gor goalkeeper Jackton Odhiambo, Stephen Ocholla (Thika United) and Katumo Michael (Thika United) who joined the military last year.The fact they finished fourth despite occupying the bottom half of the table most of the season speaks volumes of their rebirth.However, they are faced with the task of replacing their aging squad that includes evergreen goalkeeper Francis Onyiso, Fred Ogot and defenders Busolo Wamalwa.Verdict: Could actually beat Mathare United, Sony Sugar and Tusker to the title should they sustain last season’s momentum.TuskerKenya’s third most decorated side. They are rebuilding after a mass exodus of players following a fallout between coach Jacob Mulee and the management. Finished eight last season, the teams worst placing since inception. Mulee’s successor James Nandwa has signed no less than 13 players including international Edwin Mukenya who makes a come back after several seasons with Tanzania’s Yanga. Augustin Etemesi from Western Stima, too, has joined the brewers. Tusker will be under pressure to lay to rest last season’s ghosts that saw them fall to lesser teams.Verdict: Could force their way to the top three but a title win may prove elusive.Gor Mahia (www.gormahia.net)The side that draws its name from the legend of Gor Mahia is known to be makers of history. And history is written by conquerors not the conquered. But a week ago, a 5-0 thrashing at home to football Lilliputs, APR of Rwanda in the Confederation Cup left the otherwise history writers reeling in immeasurable pain. A stadium announcer’s point of information that the result was a historic defeat almost invited his ejection by Gor fans. Coach James‘Abawa’ Siang’a has shown remarkable courage by going for young and untested talent. In Elisha Ochieno, Gor have a talented youngster who should the ever-demanding K’Ogalo fans grant the patience he has requested should be future fulcrum of the 13-time champions.Chants of "K’Ogalo tumeiva" (K’Ogalo we are ripe) rent the air in the latter stages of lasVerdict: A top four finish could still be a long shot for Siang’a’s young and inexperienced side. Midtable could be a realistic target.AFC Leopards (www.afcleopards.net)The 12-time national champions are returning after two seasons in the lower reaches of local football. The 2006 season will go down as the darkest moment in the history of Leopards after they were relegated under acrimonious circumstances. Eight of their matches were subject to Independent Disciplinary and Appeals Committee decisions. Leopards last win, 1-0 against Kangemi United was rescinded by KPL and were ordered to replayed but after they declined the match was awarded on 2-0 goal-basis plunging the once mighty club into turmoil. The blue and white striped side, however, has witnessed a renaissance of sorts lately with massive financial support of chairman Alex ole Magelo and technical support of Gilbert Selebwa and a team of young officials like Duncan Angode and Richard Ekhalie.Verdict: Could struggle coping with established sides but with the massive support they are receiving could finish just below mid-table.
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