|The 2011 Kenyan Premier League Preview - part 1|
|The Cristal Ball|
|Tuesday, 11 January 2011 06:59|
By Michael Kwambo
The 2011 Kenyan Premier League kicks off in February and despite clubs playing their cards close to their chests in the transfer market, it promises to be another entertaining season. Last season’s top two, Ulinzi and Gor Mahia can take nothing for granted with Tusker and Sofapaka who have embarked on serious rebuilding leading a pack that is hot on their heels.
At the other end, the two newly promoted sides, Bandari and Congo United both from the coastal city of Mombasa have their work cut out but they can draw inspiration from Posta Rangers who survived the big chop in 2010. There will be thrills and spills in the coming months. Let us get into a team by team analysis and the predicted outcomes come November 2011.
Today we look at the top four clubs namely Ulinzi, Gor Mahia, Tusker and Sofapaka.
They were crowned 2010 champions at the end of a very competitive league campaign. This was a remarkable feat especially when you consider the fact that their coach Sammy Simiyu was given a lengthy ban by the football authorities as the season progressed. Benjamin Nyangweso came in and lifted the side to premiership glory.
With continental action looming large in the form of the African Champions League, the Nakuru based soldiers have made some additions to their squad, recruiting the likes of former AFC Leopards and Tusker left back Collins Kisuya, recalling Elvis Ayany and veteran keeper Francis Onyiso. Captain Steve Ocholla, a mainstay in midfield during their successful 2010 league campaign may miss the start of the season due to a thigh injury.
With 2009 champions Sofapaka having invested heavily in their playing and technical units and the early distractions of the Champions league, Ulinzi will be hard pressed to defend their KPL title.
2011 position Prediction: 4th
K’Ogallo had a massive season in 2010, taking the KPL race down to the wire. Their second place finish was their best placing in years, eliciting nostalgia from dedicated fans who recalled the glory days when Mighty Gor reigned supreme. Their vociferous fans aptly served as the twelfth man, urging the team on everywhere they went.
2010 Footballer of the Year George “Blackberry” Odhiambo has since been snapped up by Danish club Randers but the Nairobi based side have moved swiftly to capture KCB striker Ezekiel Odera and have bolstered their squad with the experienced Dennis “Wise” Okoth, formerly of Nairobi City Stars.
Coach Zedekiah “Zico” Otieno has retained the core of his side. They will be one of the league’s better sides but unless his side completely gets out of its shell, a league title will be hard to come by..though they should still be good enough for a top finish.
2011 position Prediction: 2nd
The game of musical chairs continues at Ruaraka, Sammy “Pamzo” Omolo takes charge of the squad replacing James Nandwa who was sacked after failing to deliver the KPL title to the brewers.
Changes in the coaching staff have brought with them changes in the playing unit as well. Omollo has not been too successful as a coach, having had an unhappy spell at Gor Mahia before delivering Mahakama to the jaws of relegation in 2010.
I may be judging him harshly but Lord knows that the Tusker FC directors are a very demanding lot and Omollo will be under pressure to deliver. Will he last long enough to guide Tusker to KPL success? That is the big question??
2011 position Prediction: 3rd
KPL Champions in 2009, Sofapaka had a torrid time defending their title in 2010, sacking coaches Robert Matano and Ugandan Sam Ssimbwa en route to a fourth place finish.
Club President Elly Kalekwa has made no secret of his desire to return to the apex of Kenyan football and has spared no effort in splashing out the money, recruiting James Orundu from AFC Leopards, former Kenya international Titus Mulama from KCB, John Njoroge previously with Tanzania’s Yanga among others. He has also secured the services of former Mathare United and Harambee Stars coach Francis Kimanzi who shall join the team mid season.
“Batoto ba Mungu” have signaled their intentions early on. They have surely learnt from last year’s experiences and will be out to make a serious push for the 2011 title. I could be wrong but they could be champions at the end of the season.
2011 position Prediction: 1st
The next installment of the 2011 Kenyan Premier League preview will look at Sony Sugar,Mathare United, Karuturi Sports and Western Stima, the teams that occupied positions 5,6,7 and 8 respectively.