By Job Kimani, Cellestine Olilo and George Momanyi
With the beginning of the Kenyan football season in December 2018, I had promised myself that I would purpose to watch at least one match per month in a stadium, as I strive to achieve my goal of learning more about Kenyan football.
Three months in, and I have attended at least one football match per week from December to March 2019, whether it is following my local league side Nkoroi FC at the Nairobi sub-county level, attending Koth Biro tournament matches, and also the Kenyan premier league games that are played within the Nairobi area.
I am not yet at “expert” level, but I know much more about the Kenyan premier league than I did three months ago. With the Kenyan premier league now at halfway stage (the majority of the teams have played 16 matches out of 34), here is my KPL Half-term report of how each of the 18 teams has performed so far, as well as star players, and predictions for the remaining 17 matches:
I was assisted by Cellestine Olilo, a sports journalist for the Daily Nation who follows Kenyan football keenly, and George Momanyi, who is an avid fan and supporter of the local game.
KPL Teams half-term reports
Possible grades: A-E
- Bandari FC
Bandari has been excellent, leading the league in points, and also getting to the finals of the sportpesa cup in Tanzania where they lost narrowly 1-0 to Kariobangi sharks. With one loss all season, and with goalkeeper Farouk Shikalo and defender Felly Mulumba, their strength is at the back.
They finished second last season and will do above expectations to hold on to first. They have been awesome.
- Mathare United
Mathare United play the best football in the KPL. They have fallen off in recent weeks, having been first for a good portion, but they are doing well to hang on. Cliff Nyakeya, James Kinyanjui and Kevin Kimani have been awesome to watch, and Roy Okal might be the best defensive midfielder in the league.
They should target the cup and a top-four finish. Their squad is too small and they don’t have the finances for a league title push.
- Gor Mahia FC
Gor Mahia has done very well to be within the top 3 while playing in sportpesa cup as well as caf confederations cup. They have the best, deepest squad in the KPL, and have rotated well to keep players fresh.
Once they focus on the league, expect them to win the title easily. Oliech has been better than expected, their midfield is a class above, and they attract the most fans.
It has been a mixed bag for Sofapaka this season. They started poorly, and then fired their coach, and John Baraza has been a great manager so far. Their 4-1 win over Mathare is the best match I have seen all season, I was lucky to witness. Avire is a great winger and will be a Harambee Stars player in the future
It is hard to know their ceiling, but a top-four finish is possible.
Tusker FC has been a bit inconsistent, but they are a solid side with some experienced names. Players such as Lloyd Wahome provide experience. Tusker frustrates me because I expect them to be challenging Gor Mahia for the title. They have their own ground, the backing of a huge company, and experience in the coaching department.
They can and should do better. Might finish in the top four.
- Kariobangi sharks
Kariobangi sharks lifted the sportpesa cup in dar against all expectations, and at their matches, you will hear fans shout: “tunataka Everton!!” they draw too many matches, but are really a good, youthful side. Sidney Lokale and Duke Abuya, as well as keeper Brian Bwire might be the next young players to leave KPL.
They should push for a top 4 finish as we await the Everton match in June.
- Sony sugar
Sony sugar is one of the mainstays of the KPL. Awendo is a difficult ground to visit, and Sony can beat almost any team there. If things go well for Sony, the cup could be a realistic target.
- Western Stima
Western stima has done amazing after winning promotion, they have gained enough points, are experienced and good tactically. They are not a team that is fearful of relegation. They can consider their season’s aims to be achieved, halfway through.
They can consolidate a top 8 finish. Good job!
- Kakamega Homeboyz
Homeboyz have provided one of the most controversial moments of the season, sacking their coach who was alleged to have colluded with players to throw matches. Their form has improved since; Allan Wanga is scoring goals and also was the interim coach for a couple of games. It is great to see Allan Wanga, John Baraza, Boniface Ambani and Muluya all doing well in coaching roles.
Homeboyz are here to stay, and will always be a hard team to beat for anyone. Will be interesting to see their effort in the cup.
- Nzoia sugar
The departure of coach Bernard Mwalala was a huge blow from which this team is yet to recover. The financial woes dogging sugar belt companies is also bogging the team down and for these reasons, it would be unfair to give the team a score lower than B-.
- Ulinzi stars
The KPL has missed the stoic, obstinate, fearsome team that was Ulinzi Stars. The current team, due to delayed payment of allowances and thoughtless redeployment of key players back to the forces has led the team to this embarrassing position. They deserve only a D.
Kcb started poorly, in the relegation places for the first six games. They have improved since, and in their position now, they should be in the league next season unless something incredible happens.
With their corporate backing, some serious investment could have them pushing for a top-six finish next season.
We give them a B, for maintaining a consistent performance despite operating with a squad made up of many inexperienced players. They have made Kericho their fortress and few teams have managed to collect anything from there.
- Posta Rangers
The team is a far cry of the one that strung an unbeaten record spanning more than 10 matches in 2017. They are now a far cry of themselves and their style of play is drab and uninspiring. C is the best score we can hand them.
The team lost 10 first team players last season in a mass exodus that was caused by the financial problems affecting most sugar belt companies locally. The team has struggled to stay afloat, but this performance is understandable. They score B-.
AFC are above the relegation spots by a whisker. They have been a mess at boardroom level, they are on their second (or third, depending on who you ask) coach, and for a period, they lost 6 matches in a row. Simply unacceptable form for a giant of the Kenyan game.
They should push on and finish mid-table this season, but they haven’t provided fans with much to cheer about. Must do better, and possibly target the cup.
- Vihiga united
Vihiga’s season has been a hard slog. They finished mid-table last season but began this one with issues of finances and lack of it from Vihiga county government. I wrote about their unique ownership structure last year, and I was unconvinced it could work. A county government has no business owning a football club, and results show this.
With one win all season, Vihiga is not good enough for the KPL. they have drawn more matches than anyone, but their ownership structure isn’t good enough to last in KPL long term.
They should prepare for relegation.
- Mount Kenya united
Mount Kenya united, formerly known as Nakumatt fc, provided the shock of the season when they beat Mathare 2-1. They also lost 6-0 to Kakamega Homeboyz, so it is a really unpredictable side.
I wrote about them here in January, I wasn’t convinced by their ambition to be the third biggest club in Kenya. They have to improve significantly to avoid relegation.
Half term team of the season
Here is my half term team of the season: Gor Mahia has really rotated, hence the likes of Kahata, Batambuze and Boniface were not really in consideration, and normally they would be in such a team. Bandari, gor Mahia, Mathare and Sofapaka are the teams we have been most impressed with. I am yet to be really impressed by the fullbacks in the KPL, most seem to be rather conservative in approach. I want to see more wingbacks!!!
Predictions for the second half of the seas0n:
Title winners: Gor Mahia
|Job’s predictions||George’s predictions||Cellestine’s predictions|
|1||Gor Mahia||1. Bandari||i. Gor Mahia|
|2||Bandari FC||2. Gor Mahia||ii. Bandari|
|3||Sofapaka FC||3. Mathare United||iii. Kariobangi Sharks|
|4||Mathare United||4. Sofapaka||iv. Western Stima|
|Job’s predictions||George’s predictions||Cellestine’s predictions|
|17||vihiga united||Vihiga United||Vihiga United|
|18||Mount Kenya united||AFC Leopards||Mount Kenya United|
Player of the season:
Job Kimani: Cliff Nyakeya
George Momanyi: Nick Kipkirui
Cellestine Olilo: Allan Wanga
It has been an awesome KPL, and I have enjoyed the experience of watching matches, mostly at Ruaraka sports ground behind garden city mall, and at Moi international sports centre, Kasarani. I hope Nyayo stadium and city stadium are completed soon, I will watch more matches that way.
You have a different angle with our analysis and predictions? Tell me why in the