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Robert Matano, the unsung hero

FOOTBALL By Washington Onyango | September 16th 2021
Coach Tusker FC Robert Matano awarded Coach of the year award during FKF Premier League 2020/21 season in the Awards Gala at Hotel Safari Park on Tuesday, September 14, 2021. [Jonah Onyango, Standard].

From never winning any silverware in the last five years, to lifting FKF Premier League title, Tusker are about to host Djiboutian champions Arta Solar in the second leg of the 2022 Caf Champions League preliminary round.

When did this turnaround happen? Obviously, there are several factors, but perhaps key amongst them in this man, Robert Matano.

In the last 10 years, Tusker have won the league thrice and Matano has been the mastermind in two of the three occasions.

Matano won his first silverware with the brewers during his first stint in 2012 before helping Tusker seal its 12th Premier League title in the just concluded 2021 season.

Matano returned to the brewers in 2018 and won his second title as Tusker coach. It was his third Premier League title in his coaching career. 

After helping Tusker win the then Kenyan Premier League title in 2012, Matano, who had countless ups and down with AFC Leopards and Ulinzi Stars, overcame illness to inspire the Ruaraka-based outfit to another title triumph.

This comes barely three months after he helped the brewers qualify for the CAF Champions League courtesy of being Kenyan league leaders by June 30. 

In 2018, he led the team to a third-place finish (56 points) before slipping one place down to fourth in 2019.

Since last year, Tusker have been on the upward curve and even launched a serious title charge against Gor Mahia.

Kariobangi Sharks' Eric Kapaito Golden Boots Player of the FKF Premier League 2020/21 season in the Awards Gala held at the Safari Park Hotel on Tuesday, September 14, 2021, [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Their dreams were, however, shuttered when the league was disrupted and ended prematurely due to the Covid-19 pandemic with the Football Kenya Federation handing the title to K’Ogalo, who won the league by virtue of being at the summit after 22 games.

But this season, the brewers capitalised on KCB, Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards’ inconsistency to bag the title.  It is these achievements that saw the former AFC Leopards coach win the FKF Premier League Coach of the Year award on Tuesday.

Tusker dominated the awards scooping four out of the 12 categories that were in contention.

Coach Tusker FC Robert Matano (second left) flanked by Eugene Asike Defender (left) of the year, Young Player of the year Henry Meja, and Team manager of the year George Opondo during FKF Premier League 2020/21 season in the Awards Gala at Hotel Safari Park on Tuesday, September 14, 2021. [Jonah Onyango, Standard].

Apart from Matano, Tusker captain Eugene Asike took the Defender of the Year award, while Henry Mejja won the Young Player of the Year award. George Opondo was named the Team Manager of the Year.

The gala, however, belonged to Kariobangi Sharks and Harambee Stars striker Erick Kapito, who won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) and Golden Boot awards. This was the second time he was winning the award after his exploits in 2018.

Sofapaka’s Lawrence Juma took the Midfielder of the Year award as Kariobangi Sharks won the Fair Play award.


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