Ulinzi FC are the 2010 Kenya Premier League Champions! The military men fought of a spirited challenge by the young Gor Mahia side to emerge victorious on Sunday.
This year’s league has been the most competitive in recent past with two teams (Gor and Ulinzi) separated by only I point going into the final day of the season. Afraha Stadium Nakuru, home to Ulinzi and venue to their match against Karuturi was packed with fans decked in the Ulinzi jerseys while the situation was the same at City Stadium Nairobi, home to Gor and venue of their match against City stars. Gor drew 0 – 0 with City Stars while Ulinzi defeated their neighbors from Naivasha Karuturi 2 – 0 and were thus crowned champions.
Various factors have led to the resurgence of interest in local football. SuperSport in 2007 entered into an agreement with Football Kenya Limited (FKL) to broadcast Kenya Premier League matches and this brought a semblance of order and professionalism in the clubs management.
There has also been flamboyant clubs taking the league by storm and stirring interest. Sofapaka popularly known as Batoto ba Mungu rose from a church-based team in Kawangware to win the Kenya Premier League in their first year of playing in 2009. In the 2010 season, Gor Mahia popularly known as K’Ogalo has revolutionized football support in Kenya. Fanatical Gor fans have electrified the support base and filled up the stadia and this has been infectious. Kenyans now talk animatedly of Blackberry, Barasa, Ngwa, Itubu Imben, and Mohamed Juma just as they talk of Rooney, Fabregas, Drogba and other footballers.
I pray that the current momentum will be maintained and increased in the 2011 season.
However football in Kenya is not entirely a bed of roses. Football management is in a sorry state and I honestly can not make heads or tails of the situation which involves FKL, KFF and FIFA. What I know is that ALL these football officials who have run football in Kenya for the last two decades need to be swept away like bad rubbish and new blood brought in to take Kenyan football to new heights.
Looking forward the growth areas in Kenyan football are: construction of new stadia, starting of training academies that will act as feeders to the clubs, increased tactical training for coaches, better club management, injection of sponsorship and in honor of the fans who died in a stampede at Nyayo Stadium changes in spectator management during matches. Other miscellaneous areas of growth are in football reporting, football commentary (Bernard Otieno can only do so much!) and merchandising (Did Gor make any money from the thousands of merchandise sold or did clever Wahindis cashing in?).
In the international scene, Harambee Stars campaign in the Africa Cup of Nations has started off badly! They have lost one and drawn one and I’m not entirely convinced about Ghost Mulei being the coach. I hope that Francis Kimanzi can be convinced to take over when he comes back from Netherlands.
In the midst of all the mismanagement, it is with pride that I state that Kenya has TWO footballers in the Champions league. These are Inter’s MacDonald Mariga and Auxerre’s Dennis Oliech. Imagine what would happen if football in Kenya was professionally run?
GOD BLESS KENYA!