Sofapaka nowadays breathe with ease
Coaches happy with progress despite smarting from financial hitches.
At this time last season, Sofapaka were at the bottom of the Kenyan Premier League table and all indications were that the 2009 champions were headed for relegation.
The club president, Elly Kalekwa, had shifted base to Uganda at a time when the players’ morale was at its lowest ebb while the technical bench seemed clueless.
Add to that the fact that Batoto ba Mungu had no sponsor after Blue Triangle opted not to renew its partnership with the club.
“Things were bad. But we kept the faith. We would encourage each other,” says John Baraza, the assistant coach who engineered the club’s late revival and ultimate survival in the league.
But Sofapaka seem to be getting back their groove this season. They may not be the favourites to win the league but their performance at the moment is clear testimony that there is some semblance of stability.
“All we needed was to have some financial injection into the team and thanks to our prayers, we now have a sponsor,” said head coach Sam Ssimbwa.
“I said if we can ensure the players get to the pitch without fear of going without salaries and allowances, we would perform well in the league and that is what is happening now. We have a sponsor (Betika), whose sponsorship is now catering for players’ salaries and allowances,” he added.
So far, Sofapaka have amassed 18 points and lie sixth on the log after five wins and three draws.
Ssimbwa, who coached Sofapaka in 2010 before parting ways with the club in less than a year, says he is back to accomplish what he failed to do when he replaced Robert Matano.
The Ugandan arrived when Sofapaka was at their best, having won the league title in 2009. However, the club has since then faced challenges.
Several top players left the club due to financial problems. Ssimbwa has promised to ensure that Sofapaka regain their lost glory.
The coach has managed to turn around the club’s fortunes despite limited resources in terms of players. They now find it easier to take on teams that offered a stiff challenge last season, Ssimbwa said.
Last weekend they beat Chemelil by a solitary goal, just days after they lost by a similar margin to Ulinzi Stars.
They have also registered wins against AFC Leopards, Zoo Kericho, and Mathare United and held defending champions Tusker.
“So far I am happy with our performance,” said Ssimwa.