After slaying perennial giants Ambira, Barding and St Mary’s School Yala last month, Siaya County football kings Usenge High School have sent warning shots to their opponents ahead of the Nyanza Region secondary school games that begin next week.
Usenge were crowned football under-19 champions after shocking St Mary’s Yala 1-0 in the final and captain Brighton Ramolo is yearning for more success ahead of the regionals.
Speaking to Standard Sports, Ramolo believes they have had proper training and preparations, which have impacted positively on their style of play, intensity and confidence.
The Form Four candidate said he wants to guide Usenge to the East Africa school games as they draw inspiration from their phrase, ‘Usenge are standing firm because God listens.’
“I am humbled to lead Usenge back to where they belong. To beat giants like St Mary’s Yala and win the Siaya County finals will surely inspire the team ahead of the regional finals. Preparations have been tough and we are ready to dance with other top stars,” said Ramolo.
Ramolo has been at the heart of the Usenge's defense. They conceded only one goal during the Siaya County games and head coach Paul Wambunya believes his team is ready for bigger things.
From the Nyanza regional draws conducted at Nyamira Girls High School, which will co-host the games alongside Maranda School, Usenge will headline Group A that also has Ndonyo, Matutu and Onjiko High from Kisumu.
“We are working on our scoring department. We look forward to a successful regional championship. As Usenge High School, we are standing firm because God listens,” said Wambunya.
“I want to appreciate my fellow coaches. Majiwa Basil, who does a good job to ensure that the boys are up to speed in terms of strength and conditioning. There's also Rayori Joshua who handles mental preparedness of the boys as well as keeping an eye on the tactical gaps that may exist," said Wambunya.
"We have also received a lot of support from several coaches, led by veteran coach Asha Abibi Orieny as well as coach Francis Baraza, who is our long time development partner.”
Commonly referred to as the Breezers, Usenge’s journey to the top begun at the divisional level where they emerged champions after winning seven matches and drawing one in their nine-team round-robin competition. They scored 22 goals and conceded only one.
At the Bondo Sub County games, they defeated Nyangoma 3-2, drew 0-0 with Oking' Talent Centre, beat Akoko 3-1 in the semis before being declared champions of Bondo after Oking' Talent Centre withdrew from the final citing crowd trouble.
In the Siaya County games, Usenge defeated Ambira 1-0, drew 0-0 with Barding, before beating Ugenya High 4-0.
In the semifinals, they knocked out Wagai Mixed 2-1 before edging out St Mary's Yala 1-0 to clinch the county trophy.
In basketball 3x3, Usenge, who finished runner-up in the county final, will play Homa Bay giants Agoro Sare and Ekenyoro in Group B.
Schovio Wise, Usenge basketball captain, said the sky is their limit.
“We learnt a lot during the Term One games where our team finished fourth at the regionals. For Term Two, we want to improve on the results and finish within the medal bracket, if not win the overall title,” said Wise.
Usenge's Deputy Principal Bishop Joseph Walwenda said the school thrives in nurturing their students to excel in both academics and co-curriculum activities.
Walwenda, who spoke on the behalf of the school principal Stephen Abong'o, said they pride in their school and students who continue to thrive in various activities.
“We are going for the regional trophy. Many people doubted us but after slaying giants in Siaya, they are afraid of us. I believe in our boys,” said Walwenda.
The English and Literature teacher also said that they support their footballers through offering sports-study scholarships.
“We have very vulnerable students who come from humble backgrounds but are talented. Through our scholarship, where we pay most of their fees while their parents and guardians also chip in remaining sectors, the students have been able to stay in school,” said Walwenda.
Meanwhile, defending champions Kisumu Day High School will renew their rivalry with St Mary’s Yala in Group B of boy’s football under-19.
Arguably the tournament’s ‘Group of Death’ with the inclusion of Homa Bay giants Agoro Sare and Masara, Kisumu Day have their work cut out when the games begin on July 18 at Maranda.
Last year’ Kisumu Day defeated Agoro Sare 2-0 to win the regional title and now the two sides will face off in a repeat of last year’s final in the group stage.
Nyanza Region Secondary School Sports Association Vice Chairman Ngala Mbuor said everything is ready and they can’t wait for action.
“We have inspected all the pitches, both at Nyamira Girls and Maranda, and I can confirm that we are ready for another battle. We call upon all schools to practice sportsmanship because it is not a matter of life and death, but sports development through healthy competitions,” said Mbuor.