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By Erick Ochieng’

Taqwa FC 1 Kathungi Mixed 1

(Taqwa won 3-1 on penalties)

Isiolo-based Taqwa FC is quickly establishing itself as a force to reckon with in this years’ Safaricom Sakata Ball Challenge.

This year, Taqwa again overcame all odds to emerge Eastern Region Sakata Ball champions in the boys’ category after fending off Kathungi Mixed at Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos, at the weekend.

Together with Matuu Heroines, Taqwa will represent Eastern Region in the Sakata Ball national finals set to be held early in August in Nairobi.

The teams beat all their opponents from the grass roots, the zonal and at the regional level to emerge champions unbeaten.

Taqwa was little known last year and their participation in the event was a constant thorn in the flesh of most of the teams after they won the Central/Eastern region finals as a guest team.

Even though they were eliminated in the semi-finals at the national level last year, the team left a mark in the tournament meant for nurturing youthful talent when its prolific midfielder, Abdi Malik Mohamed, sprung to the surface.

The fast-rising Malik earned a call up in the national U-20 team in less than a year. He is currently on trials in Sweden. The team’s morale has been boosted by the sponsorship from Minister for Livestock Development Mohamed Abdi Kuti.

During the final in Machakos, many of the team’s fans travelled to Machakos at the weekend and the team did not disappoint.

They defeated Embu Sportif 2-0 in the knock out stage, edged out Kibirichia from Central Meru 2-1 and wound up their quest for the title by beating Kathungi 3-1 on post-match penalties after a fierce 1-1 draw.

Taqwa have since stepped up training ahead of the nationals, where they will battle it out against football powerhouses Nyanza and Western.

The Sakata Ball Challenge now moves to Central Region beginning Thursday for the next three weeks. Eight boys’ teams and four in the girls’ category will battle in the regional finals slated for between March 12 to 13 at Nyeri Technical grounds.