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Is Mathare United’s FKF Premier League story now coming to an end?

Mathare United training session at Goan Institute grounds on Thursday, February 4, 2022. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Former Kenyan Premier League champions Mathare United can't seem to buy a win at the moment.

There are nine matches to go in the 2021-2022 Football Kenya Federation Premier League and the Slum Boys are praying for a miracle or their stay in the top tier could be coming to an end.

Last Sunday, Mathare failed to win their eighth match in a row after going down 1-0 to fellow strugglers Vihiga Bullets.

The defeat, their 20th of the campaign, left them rooted at the bottom of the log with 11 points after 25 rounds played.

The 2008 league champions have won three matches of the 25 played and have drawn two.

They are eight points behind Vihiga Bullets and nine points adrift of Wazito who are 17th and 16th respectively.

This begs the question; when did the rain start beating Mathare United?

Is it the financial crisis, Fifa ban or the rapid changing of coaches for the past one and a half seasons?

And will Mathare United survive the chop again after pulling a late comeback during the 2020-2021 season?

For the past eight seasons, Mathare has been a middle table team finishing between sixth and 10th position in the log.

Mathare finished sixth in the 2018-19 season and eighth in the following season.

However, last season, they had to leave it late to avoid the drop after finishing 15th with 30 points, their lowest in their history.

Furthermore, Mathare have seen four tacticians take charge of the club in one and a half-seasons.

First, Salim Ali took over the club after the resignation of Francis Kimanzi at the start of the 2019-2020 season.

Salim Ali was fired and replaced with Frank Ouna in May last year, following a series of poor results.

The club then appointed Ezekiel Akwana to replace Ouna after the latter miraculously saved the 2008 champions from relegation last season before leaving for Rwanda’s Musanze in September 2021.

In February this year, John Kamau replaced Akwana and finds himself in the same position as Ouna as he is tasked with rescuing the club from relegation less than ten games through the season.

Kamau’s charges have a huge task ahead with safety only assured if they leapfrog either Wazito or Vihiga Bullets who are eight points ahead of them.

Last year, Frank Ouna had to win five of the remaining six fixtures to avoid the chop.

Mathare defeated Sofapaka (2-1), Kariobangi Sharks (3-2), Nairobi City Stars (2-0), Ulinzi Stars (1-0) and Western Stima (5-2) to finish 15th with 30 points, four points above danger zone.

To start off their push for survival again after missed opportunity over the weekend, Kamau has to win at least six matches and hope their rivals Vihiga and Wazito falter to be sure of survival.

Mathare will face fellow strugglers Vihiga Bullets again in Kakamega, play Bandari, Ulinzi Stars, Sofapaka, Kenya Police and Wazito.

To make the situation even worse, the Slum Boys have to face title hopefuls and defending champions Tusker, Gor Mahia and KCB.

The 2008 champions’ story in the top league might just be over this year, but it remains to be seen if this will be the case at the end of the campaign. 

Mathare was founded to help youth and their families escape poverty in the Mathare slums.

The club came about from the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA), a talent development grassroots project that started in Mathare Slum and has produced some of the best footballers, coaches and referees the country boasts of at the moment.

It took Mathare United just four years after it was formed before ascending to the Premier League, after winning the 1998 Moi Golden Cup (now FKF Shield), the same year they made their league debut.

They won the 1998 Presidents Cup, the same year they were promoted to the then Kenyan Premier League. They won their first and only league title during the 2008 season.

While Gor and AFC command a big following in the larger Western region, Mathare and the sister project, MYSA has been the nursery of Kenyan football.

Two Kenyan referees - Peter Waweru and Gilbert Cheruiyot who officiated at the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon have been through Mathare system.

Some of the notable players and football star and coaches who call Mathare home include former coach Salim Ali, David Ouma (Sofapaka), Francis Kimanzi (immediate former Wazito), William Muluya (Kariobangi Sharks), Ezekiel Akwana (immediate former Mathare United), Stanley Okumbi and Charles Omondi (Posta Rangers) and Bandari’s assistant coach Anthony Kimani, all passed through MYSA programme.

The list of those of have called Mathare United home is just endless and almost every club in the Premier has a player who has passed through MYSA.Former Harambee Stars captain Dennis Oliech and the Mulama brothers Titus and Simeon are the other big names to have played for Mathare United.

Statistics show that 20 per cent of players in the current FKF Premier League are products of the Mathare Slum’s project.

But with current struggles the club is going through, only time will tell if the club will rise from its ruins or it will sink deeper.

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