Sunderland eat into Arsenal and Man United fan base in small village in Naivasha
By Elvince Joshua | February 19th 2022 | 3 min read
Kenyans love a little bit of local football and, specifically, European leagues – especially the English Premier League.
From the Blues inside Stamford Bridge to the scary red at Old Trafford, it is rare to miss the jerseys of an EPL club on Kenyan streets.
This support is enjoyed by the big four including Champions League holders – Chelsea, 20-time EPL winners Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, the struggling north London club who last won the league title 19 years ago and are yet to lay their hands on the coveted trophy.
But in a small village near Naivasha, local football fans have fallen in love with Sunderland FC.
While the ‘Big Cats’ boasts of six EPL titles, the club doesn’t boast of a big fan base in Kenya.
But this is now changing following the formation of Sunderland Keroche, a community club in Karai village in Naivasha Sub County.
This lower division team is slowly changing how Kenyans consume English football.
“Everything here is red and white,” Joseph Theuri, head of Sunderland AFC Keroche told The Nairobian.
According to Theuri, the club has been in existence for a long time but they recently shot to the limelight after moving closer to joining the top tier, a long journey seemingly made possible after they hit the jackpot about two decades ago.
But why did they settle on the name Sunderland and not Man City or Wolves?
Before they hit the jackpot in 2003, Theuri says the club existed as a small community team with no clear identity.
But after fate brought the officials of the team with official supporters of the ‘real’ Sunderland FC from the UK together, love was brewed and a new culture entrenched.
“It just happened. It wasn’t planned,” said Theuri when asked how they got the link with the Sunderland supporters from UK,” Joseph recalls how they met the UK supporters.
“We had a neighbour friend of mine who lives in the UK. He learnt about the existence of the team back at home, then shared it with his friends in England and that’s how the rapport was created. It just happened miraculously,” explains Theuri.
Gary Lamb, president of Sunderland FC Supporters (UK) and John Eilbeck are the men who helped change the fortune of the Kenyan club that now enjoys support from ‘strangers’ with the love of the beautiful game.
“We would like to be able to supply every one of our fans with a Sunderland shirt, and paint our town red and white,” Lab was quoted by the Sunderland Echo.
Even though not officially affiliated to Sunderland UK, Sunderland Keroche shares almost every similarity with the ‘The Black Cats’, the big brothers from the Stadium of Light.
From uniform, logo to the stadium, the club from Karai enjoys what most Kenyans clubs just dream of; the passionate love from locals and foreigners.
“Our connection with Sunderland (UK) is that we get everything from them. They provide money for transport and uniforms for players and fans. They do everything for us,” Theuri told Nairobian.
Now with about 4000 loyal fans and the whole community behind them, Sunderland Keroche is challenging the influence of ‘EPL big boys’ in Kenya.
Daniel Kamonde admits his strong affection for Arsenal. This love though will last only as long as Sunderland FC is still on the ‘grass’.
“I started supporting them (Sunderland Keroche) two years ago and that is my official team. And because we get a lot of support from them (Sunderland UK) I will forever be loyal to Stadium of Light.”
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