Secondary school games: David v Goliath moment as Ebwali face off with champs St Mary's Kitende

Dorine Wandera (left) of Wiyeta  battles for the ball with Rebecca Odato Dagoretti in the girls football during the National Secondary school games at Nakuru High school on September 12,2022.[Kipsang Joseph,Standard]

Before experienced coach Francis Muhambe joined Ebwali Secondary School, few had heard of the new national secondary school football champions.

For years, the small day school, which has a population of about 300 students from Vihiga County, could not even reach the regional finals, let alone go past the county level.

All that changed in September 2018 when the former Olbolsat Secondary School football tactician joined the school.

After only half a year with the team, Ebwali qualified for their maiden national appearance in 2019.

A lot would be said as no one gave them a chance in this year's national finals, apart from the appeal drama at the regional level, a boardroom decision that gave them the enviable chance to represent Western Region.

As strong participants, they set the competition alight with a stunning 1-0 win over experienced and hosts Kisumu Day before another convincing 3-0 drubbing of Mbooni Boys to book a first national semi-final place with a match to play in the nationals held in Kisumu, three years ago.

St Anthony's Boys Kitale knocked them out 6-5 in penalties before wrapping up a third place finish when they edged out Olbolsat, Muhambe’s former school in the playoffs.

Fast forward and Ebwali are this year's national football champions and their journey to conquer football in East Africa begins today from 3pm when they face Katoro Secondary School.

Derrick Olinga (right) of Ebwali from Western Region battles with Boniheri Gitsambarara of Mbooni from Eastern region during National Secondary school games at Nakuru High school on September 9,2022.[Kipsang Joseph,Standard]

Speaking to Standard Sports, Muhambe said Ebwali played against strong players in the regional finals and proved their prowess by winning the national title on an unbeaten record, scoring 17 goals and conceding only two goals.

“This win is one of a kind because we defeated everyone to be crowned champions. We did not win the title by appeals because it was fair at the nationals compared with regionals,” said Muhambe.

Ebwali thrashed Bute Boys 7-0 and Mbooni 5-1 in the group stage before sealing their semis spot with a 3-1 win over Highway Secondary of Nairobi.

The Lwanda Sub-County school knocked out Kabarnet 1-0 before winning their maiden national gong with another 1-0 win over Highway.

It is with the same momentum that Muhambe has said Ebwali will approach the East Africa secondary school games that begin today in Arusha, Tanzania.

Ebwali are in pool B that also has 12-time champions St. Mary's Kitende, Budo Secondary School from Uganda, St Patrick's from Tanzania and Katoro Secondary School, also from Tanzania.

Muhambe said even as underdogs, fans should not rule them out that fast.

“It is unfortunate that many people are already predicting and favouring the Ugandans relying on past history. In my life, I have never feared an opponent because football is just football, the best team will be known on the pitch,” added the former Olbolsat coach.

“Remember we went to the nationals last week without having trained for a single day after the appeal verdict was issued on the eve of the games. This shows how prepared the team is and we are going to take the same spirit to Tanzania.”

Ebwali will be banking on their captain Brian Lumgafwa and attacking midfielder Derrick Opayo for glory. Both were instrumental during the nationals. The Kenyans will play Budo in their second match on Saturday.

National runner-up Highway Secondary will headline Group A that also has Kibuli Secondary School and St Andrew's Kaggwa, all from Uganda, ES Gasiza from Rwanda and Kwira Coal Mines Secondary School from Tanzania.

Team Kenya march pass during the 18th edition of East Africa Secondary Schools Games at Sheikh Abeid memorial Stadium in Arusha on Friday 16 Aug, 2019. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Highway will play Kwira Coal Mines in their opening match tomorrow before facing Kaggwa in their second match on Saturday.

In girls' football, national champions Wiyeta Girls will be seeking to reclaim the title they last won in 2017 in Gulu, Uganda.

To do that, the four-time East Africa champions have to go past Isevya Secondary from Tanzania, St Noah Girls and Amus College School, all from Uganda, in Group A.

Debutantes Dagoretti Mixed Secondary will be up against defending champions Kawempe Muslim Secondary School (Uganda), Sacred Heart Secondary School (Uganda), Rwanda’s IP Mukarange and Alliance Secondary School (Tanzania) in Group B.

In rugby Sevens, six teams will battle it out in a round-robin format with Kenyan champions Koyonzo Secondary School and runner-up Butula Boys set to face off again.

With defending champions Upper Hill out of contention, Koyonzo, who reigned supreme in Nakuru, will hope to bring the title back home.

Koyonzo will face Elerai Secondary from Tanzania in their opening match on Saturday before meeting Jinja Secondary School, Hanna International and Ntare School all from Uganda and Butula.

 

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