Kenya Prisons men’s team coach David Lung’aho believes there are no favourites in this year's KVF National League campaign.
Though record champions General Service Unit (GSU) have dominated the domestic scene in the recent past winning the last three titles in a row (2017-2019), the celebrated tactician feels this year’s title contention is more open with at least five teams standing a realistic chance to claim the title in June.
Having seen the level of competition in some of the first leg matches in Nairobi, the former Malkia Strikers coach, who has been training Prisons men’s team since 2019, has predicted a closely contested title race with regulars GSU, Prisons, Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), Equity Bank and Kenya Forest Services (KF) all in the mix.
The warders garnered six points from their opening three Group 3 matches at Kamiti Prison Grounds, one point behind GSU and one ahead of Equity Bank.
They secured a 3-2 (25-17, 25-27, 27-29, 25-16, 15-11) victory over Equity on Saturday, then lost by an identical score to GSU (21-25, 25-18, 25-23, 27-29, 12-15) before bouncing back to beat Kenya Army 3-0 (25-16, 25-22, 25-18) the following day.
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On the other hand, GSU won all their first three matches against Kenya Army (3-0), Kenya Prisons (3-2) and Equity Bank (3-2).
And with his gamble of fielding an inexperienced squad of Emmanuel Kosgei, Ronald Bitok, Elphas Makuto and Meshack Wambua against GSU appeared to have paid off after claiming two sets, Lung’aho is determined to help the warders tend their three-year title drought.
“It is not going to be a walk in the park for the so-called favourites this season. Teams like Equity Bank, KPA, KDF and KFS have shown their quality in the first leg and are no longer going to be pushovers,” Lung’aho told Standard Sports.
“Looking at points garnered across the groups, any slip up might cost you a play-offs ticket. Though next month’s second leg will give us the direction of the league, I think every team has a chance to win the title this season.”
“Despite losing against GSU, I’m impressed with how the boys played. Unlike the previous seasons where we have been losing by a bigger margin, the squad mostly of in-experienced players defied the odds to push GSU to the limit."
“They have come of age and that's why I fielded experienced players like Michael Chemos later in the game. I think GSU were just lucky to win the game but I assure you it will not be easy for teams to beat us this year.”
His women’s counterpart Josp Barasa was equally happy after they began their title defence with an impressive 3-1 (26-24, 28-26, 21-25, 25-16) victory over a fancied KCB at the Nyayo Stadium indoor arena on Sunday.
“That is a good start for us after Kenya Army failed to show up on Saturday. Getting a win against a team of KCB caliber is not easy, but the girls did it,” said Barasa.