National Secondary School games kick off today

Brian Omondi of Kisumu Day (right) in action against Agoro Sare.[Washington Onyango,Standard]

The battle grounds have been drawn as the National Secondary School games kick off at Nakuru Boy's High School in Nakuru County, today.

In football, unlike previously witnessed back then, will yield a new champion.

While fans would predominantly predict the football battle to be a four-way contest between the behemoths, defending champions St Anthony's Boys Kitale, Kakamega High, Barding High and Dagoretti High, this year's games will see a new king crowned in Nakuru.

This is after reigning champions St Anthony's Boys failed to progress past the Rift Valley regionals. And it is Kabarnet Boys High School from Baringo County that qualified at their expense.

This leaves a vacuum that Nyanza region giants Kisumu Day High School are eager to fill; to be the new national football champions.

But while Kisumu Day are looking forward to ending their eight-year finals drought, Friends Secondary School Bukembe have been banned for two years after they were found guilty of fielding ineligible players during last weekend's Western regional final against Ebwali Secondary in Mumias.

With yesterday's decision by the office of Western Regional Director of Education, Ebwali who lost 7-6 on penalties in the final, will now replace Bukembe in Group A of the boys' football that has Highway Secondary School from Nairobi, Mbooni Boys Secondary School (Eastern) and Bute Boys from North Eastern.

The Nyanza region football champions, who saw off Homa Bay giants Agoro Sare 2-0 last Sunday to qualify for the nationals, are set for an epic battle in Nakuru after being drawn against Central region heavyweights Olbolsat, Coastal kings Serani and Rift Valley giant killers Kabarnet Boys High School in Group B.

Kisumu Day football coach Andrew Aroka is confident his boys can rise to the occasion once again by advancing through to the knock out stages.

Dagoreti High school's Captain Patrick Kaiser (left) and Highway Secondary school's Captain Teddy Dan during the Nairobi Region Secondary School football semi final Championship, Term 2 games at Lenana School on August 26, 2022. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Speaking to Standard Sports, Aroka said they have worked out their mistakes over the three days they have had to prepare for the nationals and is looking forward to winning all their group matches.

"The nationals is where the big boys show up and we are ready to show Kenyans that Kisumu Day is the team to beat this year. It has been a long time calling that has evaded us previously but we are on a better side now," said Aroka.

"Our goal is to win our opening match and then build from there. We need a positive start and we are prepared for anyone."

The former Kisumu All Stars coach said they will of course respect their opponents but they have set a goal to travel to Tanzania.

"The main objective in Nakuru is not only to win the national title but to secure a ticket to East Africa. Nothing beats playing against the best from Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania. I believe the goals will come and we will reign supreme," added Aroka who will be banking on Dan Omalla, the brother of Gor Mahia's striker Benson Omalla.

Dagoretti Mixed High School's Hilder Kanze dodges Kamukunji High school's Goalkeeper Jane Wangui in semifinal match during the 2022 Term Two Nairobi Region Secondary Schools Football Championship at Lenana school ahead of National games. Aug 27, 2022. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

On the other hand, Serani Boy's High School coach Swaleh Sunda is hoping to replicate their 2019 feat when their Under-16 won the national title.

Sunda said his team, which forms the backbone of the Bandari Youth team, has the experience of playing not only at the national showpiece but local football leagues.

"The champions of 2019 are now in the main Serani team. They were juniors back then and are now turning into strong men. Additionally, these boys have been playing for Bandari Youth where they are getting tremendous experience playing in the Mombasa County Leagues," said Sunda.

In girls' football, Group B will see former champions Wiyeta Girls Secondary School from Rift Valley and St John's Girls Secondary School, Kaloleni from Coast region clash alongside newbies Kobala Mixed Secondary School from Nyanza and Mwira Secondary School from Western.

Former champions Itigo Girls Secondary School headline Group A alongside Nairobi's Dagoretti Mixed Secondary School, Kibauni Secondary School (Eastern) and Central's Kinale Secondary School.

Meanwhile, as the national school games kicks-off this morning at Nakuru High School, some coaches are confident of achieving a positive performance that should lead them to the East African games in Arusha next week.

St George's High School, Kaloleni hockey coach David Masha has set his eyes on the regional championships but is taking a match at a time. [Additional reporting by Ben Ahenda]

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