Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Four Killers of Football Talent

The stories of Kenya’s wasted football talent are many. Even for those who stay in the game, many do not achieve their full potential.  You see them in KPL; a player who was beyond his teen age in talent cannot explain where his mojo went to in his early twenties. These are players who attracted media attention and interest from foreign clubs only for them to lose their form and fail to recover.

There are many negative things in Kenyan football; substandard coaching, poor playing surface and training facilities to name a few. These negatives mean that for a player to make it, he must overcome internal (personal) hurdles and other external factors. Yet we keep losing great talents everyday to the same things that destroyed talent several years ago.

 With emphasis on football, but these reasons may cut across other sports, I take a look a look at the four top killers of sports talent in Kenya.

Cheap Drugs

Kenya as a society we love cheap thrills. Our appetite for quick fix solutions lead most of us to go for cheap drugs for a quick high. The two drugs that are easily accessible and affordable to football players are miraa (khat) especially the mogoka version of it and bhang also known as weed.

David Munyasia one time Kenyan medal prospect in boxing was turned away from 2004 Athens Olympics for failing a doping test. When the matter was exposed, it turned out that what cost him was cathine, a compound found in miraa. Then Philip Opiyo was signed up by South African club Umtata Bush Bucks and a few months into the 2004-2005 season he failed a drug test for bhang. His contract was terminated and he came back and joined local clubs.

The two drugs are stimulants; though miraa tends to rob consumers of sleep and appetite, two things that are essential for building strong muscles.  Bhang on the other hand enhances performance. Their effects are subtle and by the time it shows, it is too late.

Celebrity Status

Football is an art; where the coach becomes the choreographer and players artists. Artists are revered people and even the good book says your talents will take you before kings. A first team slot in any team comes with media exposure and a celebrity status that must be managed well.

Most players let this new buzz about their abilities get into their head and soon they try to live a life beyond their means. Slowly, they lose concentration and start to dip in form. This is when the coach a player respected a while back starts to look like he doesn't know what he is doing.

Uncontrolled Sex

The ladies will forever die for a well trimmed body and a muscular physique. It is common knowledge that football players are ladies magnet. The moment one starts to indulge in uncontrolled sex, is the moment his football skills start to deteriorate.

Sex has its benefits, but like many things it serves one best when taken in moderation because it can lead to addiction. Even when it is readily available, sex takes time and money to prepare for it and it needs good time of rest after it. If a player does not watch out on this end, his football will pay for his indulgence.


All the factors mentioned above boil down to discipline or the lack of it. Sooner or later a player will start to come late for training. When his dip in form or lack of commitment is questioned, the problem becomes the questioning authority.

As long as a player will not exercise delayed gratification, the net effect is dwindling in form and a possible end in career. There is no substitute for hard work, when you see Victor Mugubi against Steve Gerald, it looks classy and beautiful. What you will not see is the sweat, blood and may be tears that Mugubi went through to reach where he is today.

It is also prudent that clubs engage the services of chaplains or counsellors (like the Brazillian national team) to look out for the first signs of trouble in a players life. This may go a long way in salvaging many careers for the good of the game, and the good of Kenya.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Five takes from Gor Mahia's narrow win over US Bitam

It was not an explosive match, may be due to Bitams cautious approach and this being Gor’s first competitive match since they lost to AFC Leopards in GoTV Shield finals last year. With only history known to the two clubs, Gor’s 1987 win of Cup Winners Cup and Bitam’s coach Oman Biyik exploits in 1990 World Cup in Italy.

1.       Gor’s 4-3-3 was 4-2-4 on the ground

On paper Bobby Williamson set out to play a 4-3-3 formation but ended up with 4-2-4. Rama Salim set behind the three forwards kept drifting in front to form a four man attack. Shaban Kenga, Danny Sserunkuma, George Odhiambo and Rama are all typical forwards. What Bobby wanted to achieve in this match is not known.

Kizito was left solo at the centre of midfield so all the passes were looped to the attackers. With all the forwarders on the shorter side in terms of height, Gor were losing as many balls as they were winning. Kizito was lost, lacked speed and when he came into play it was more on the defensive. This is one area Gor must address before they leave for Gabon.

2.       Walusimbi and Shakava
Gor went into the market and brought in several new faces. Of all the players they brought on board, Ugandan import Godfrey Walusimbi is a good catch. Defender Haron Chakava got more for a debut show. He is one defender who can keep the likes of Israel Emuge on the bench.
Walusimbi is an accomplished left back, on the ball and going forward. He was strong defending and threatening going forward winning several free kicks for Gor.

3.       Many moles upfront
Whatever Bobby wanted to achieve by playing four attack minded players and ignore midfield play, no one knows. George Odhiambo and Kenga are yet to fit into the Sserunkuma and Rama flow. With four players competing for balls with no one assigned to supply it, is self defeating. When you put the same type of mole to dig one hole, you end up with confusion.

There are several players to get into the supply chain. Eric Ochieng’ or Wanyonyi would have done it in the absence of injured Kevin Omondi.

4.       Bitam Bit off their own foot

What worked for Gor is that Bitam came for a draw. They even celebrated the 1-0 loss, as if they had scored an away goal. With the opponent on back foot mentally, then Gor should have killed this game at home.
When their goal keeper decide to grab the ball out of the box and got a red card for it, things became thick for them. All in all, it is an average club trying to cut out a place for itself in Africa.

5.       Free Kicks

It has become useless for Kenyan clubs to win free kicks because they are executed with reckless abandon. Gor won several free kicks and none was threatening at all. Set pieces always present a good opportunity to win a match with a low lying fruit. This was not the case on an evening when Gor failed to put the match beyond their opponents reach going into the return leg.

Bitam celebrated the narrow loss. This should tell Gor clearly that it will be a tough duel in Gabon.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Kenyatta Stadium; The Ten Million Shilling Question

Ever since Dr. Alfred Mutua burst into the limelight, I have associated him more with TV series Cobra Squad than his other titles. Until he became Governor of Machakos and I expected the usual jabbering in a high pitch voice. He decided to prove critics wrong.

I happened to be in Machakos twice in the last week. The moment I got to Mlolongo, I was greeted with signposts of a new Machakos. When I turned off Mombasa Road into the Machakos Road, you are struck with a new lease of fresh air. Even the heavens have been good to send rain in Machakos, the hills are green.

The moment I was done with my business, I asked for directions to Kenyatta Stadium. Word had it that the county Government had done some good work in preparation for CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup set to begin on 28th November 2013.

 I had to sweet talk my way through security guards. The guards wore this- I am proud to be here demeanour than a harassing one. I had to prove I am a blogger, the new title in town. I stepped into a bee hive, nobody even bothered to notice an intruder walking around the truck.

Is what I was seeing work worth TEN MILLION Kenyan shillings?  The grass on the pitch was green and well trimmed. The stands were in different stages of construction and completion. The complete parts were painted blue while the other parts had the grey tint of welded mild steel.

Women were selling foodstuff the workers. A supervisor could be heard giving instructions to someone on the other side. As I walked past the main stand, I caught a glimpse of the tunnel still under construction. Behind the main stand, two ablution blocks are being constructed on far right and left. The kind of concentration and speed that the workers are going about their business tells you that, it is not Business as Usual.

 I passed and walked past a group of people preparing to mark the grounds. Meanwhile, a roller is at work making sure the playing surface is indeed flat. The grass is green and healthy, testimony of work done in the scorching semi arid heat of Machakos.

I walk out and get back in through the gate behind the main stand. The process of talking the guards into letting down their guards is repeated. I go in and enter into some rooms that are almost complete. The floor and walls have been tiled to the ceiling. I asked a technician doing the wiring if these are the players changing rooms. He fumbles then tells me his work is to install the electricity system, he is too busy and I walk out and move on.

I see a man my height about twenty metres away. He has a walkie-talkie so I assume he is a supervisor. I go to him and ask where the changing rooms are. He directs me back to the room I have just left, and the next block a few metres away. I decide to check the next one. Wow, I am blown away, I walk straight into the wash rooms at the far end and the finishing is top notch. The floor has dark grey tiles, while the walls are draped in cream ones. There are black strips running from the ceiling downwards in several places making the room look bigger than it really is. The light bulbs are designer and the toilet seats are just superb. Players will definitely prefer Machakos stadium facilities to Nyayo or Kasarani stadiums.

I walk back and scan the tunnel under the imposing main stand. I look around and see the terraces surrounding the eastern part of the stadium and decide my eyes have seen enough. One week is a short time, but If these beehive can bring out the honey. I must go to Machakos’ Kenyatta Stadium to see for myself.

That is when I will ask the TEN MILLION SHILLING question?

I have always known that money is never the problem in Kenyan football, lack of vision and the determination to get it done is the problem. IT CAN BE DONE, Dr. Alfred Mutua has shown us the way, Kisumu and Kakamega County Governments, there is no need of re-inventing the wheel.

Copyright - Stuttustics Media

Friday, October 25, 2013

When Sofapaka sneezed to give Gor the title;

Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech where he repeats the phrase; “Had I sneezed, I would have died.” Sofapaka went into their match with Gor Mahia on Wednesday 23rd October knowing very well that should they sneeze, Gor’s –Giniwasekao (we have taken it) chant would be a reality. They held Gor for 88 minutes, then they sneezed, and Dan Sserunkuma fired in his trademark shot into the roof of the net from Patrick Oboya’s wonder pass.

The main man of the match was Sofapaka’s midfielder Benard Mang’oli and the flop for the day was Gor mahia’s Anthony Akumu. Eric Ochieng’ and Joseph Wanyonyi outplayed their own ‘veteran’ Akumu in the midfield. Eric was winning 50-50 balls and Wanyonyi was supporting attack very well. Johnstone Bagole was good at holding midfielder; in the end Mang’oli bagged man of the match.

Sofapaka played their traditional 4-4-2 with James Situma back in defense from kickoff.  Johnstone Bagole and Benard Mang’oli were in the midfield assisted by Bob Mugalia and Anthony Kimani. Mang’oli faced and outplayed Eric Ochieng’ on the opposite side. Bagole silenced Akumu and Sofapaka kept the Gor fans in the stand on the edge for a better part of the match. This set up worked and Sam Timbe can maintain it.

Gor played a 4-5-1 formation with Serunkuma the lone man upfront assisted by Kevin Omondi and Edwin Lavatsa on the flanks coming in from the midfield. So Gor had an extra man in the midfield and Sofapaka outplayed them in the centre circle. That brings the Akumu factor, playing him in central mid was a mistake. Eric Ochieng’ is better at central midfield; Akumu should have been in front of the defense. This was Gor’s undoing until Akumu went off for Moses Odhiambo in the 86th minute.

Sofapaka’s main undoing was attack. John Baraza and Mustafa Kasolo fired blanks throughout the match. Batoto ba Mungu gave a good account of themselves. Bob Mugalia was having his first start in many days and his lack of fitness was evident. He limped out in the 53rd minute for the improved Elly Asieche.

Joseph Wanyonyi had a good day but his inexperience was shouting. He is the kind of player you don’t thrust huge responsibilities on at such a time in his career. Gor had a rough time but their defense of Israel Emuge, Mosoti, David Owino and Musa Mohammed stood firm.

In the end, Gor won the match from the bench. If a coach has Patrick Oboya (Lavatsa 68), Moses Odhiambo (Akumu 86) and Paul Kiongera (Omondi 75th) on the bench, that is manpower. Sofapaka on the other side brought in Elly Asieche (Mugalia 52) and Patrick Kagogo (Kasolo 77). This is when Sofapaka could not hold the sneeze and Gor killed the game.

Apart from that, Gor has a champion’s mentality that combines resilience with character. If there is anything that has given Gor the title this season, it is those two. There has been little or no bad vibe coming in from Gor playing unit. It doesn’t mean they don’t have problems, I heard their training allowances were recently delayed for weeks but they kept their eyes on the ball.

Congratulation to Gor for winning the 2013 title and to Sofapaka for making the victory worth celebrating.

Monday, October 21, 2013

GoTv Shield Semis: Sofapaka ‘pinched’ by Ingwe

Peter ‘pinches’ Opiyo pinched Sofapaka out of the midfield battle to win the ‘man of the match’ award. It was a match that lacked firepower as both sides employed a cautious approach. At some point it looked like a kick around. Sofapaka made two great mistakes and paid by conceding as many goals. One was a goalkeeping blunder and the other leaving Noah Wafula unmarked on the blind side.

I had aluded to the match being a battle between Peter Opiyo and Sofapaka skipper James Situma. In the end Peter Opiyo prevailed because he had good back up in Martin Imbalambala and Paul Were as Mike Baraza got lost in the crowd. Situma on the other hand had the team’s weak link in John Njoroge right in front of him with Anthony Kimani only as his side kick. That simple arithmetic counted for Leopards.

Leopards employed a 4-3-3 formation from the start. Paul Were and Noah Wafula were on both sides of Allan Wanga upfront. The two Sofapaka full backs of Thomas Wanyama and Yusuf Juma did well to stop the two terrorists. In the end Were had to fire in a clever cross from far between Eugene Asike and Felly Mulumba to Wafula on the right to score the second goal as his traditional runs on the flank were halted by Wanyama.

Sofapaka had a 4-4-2 formation with John Baraza and Mustafa Kasolo in the opponent’s box. Their back four played wide in attack forming a wedge into Ingwes box. In defense, the back four would go narrow giving space for Anthony Kimani ‘muki’ and Patrick Kagogo to fall back and cover.

Sofapaka must look for another Humphrey Mieno to go into the ‘hole’ behind the twin strikers. John Njoroge was deployed in that position and ‘his calls went unanswered’ just like Mike Baraza in the opposite side. In the absence of speedy wingers as Juma and Wanyama were kept busy hence overlapped less, an intelligent player is needed at the centre. Situma was left to do everything, from spade work recovery of balls to rushing up to initiate attack; he lost the fight honourably in the end.

Martin Imbalambala with two powerful players on the flanks, Paul Were and Wafula, freed Peter Opiyo to do what he does best, read the game. This worked for Ingwe, as Sofapaka opted for long balls to Baraza and Kasolo who were tightly marked by Saleh and Anthony Kimani ‘modo’ in ingwe defense.

The first goal in the 42nd minute, Duncan Ochieng’ missed to clear a ball after Bagole had shielded Wanga. Wanga broke loose and tapped it in. This came after Duncan had made some daring saves to deny Leopards’ goals so it was a tot of bad luck.

Sofapaka came in the second half with the intention of hoarding the ball but that did not work. Situma had gone into defense and Bagole replaced him in the midfield with no much effect. Kagogo went out for Elly Asieche in the 47th minute and went behind the strikers as Njoroge went to the left. This change added little punch upfront to trouble ingwe.

Eugene Asike came in for Kasolo and went into defense to send Situma back into the midfield. Sofapaka now crowded the midfield with five players with only John Baraza upfront. Ingwe responded by Were and Wafula dropping deep to leave Wanga a lone man upfront. Wafula’s 82nd minute strike killed the match and Sofapaka’s efforts were too little too late.

Sofapaka are good but that could be the enemy of their best. They lack that cutting edge of champions and to wrestle the league title from the jaws of Gor will need extra cat skills. Leopards’ must sharpen their claws if they are to bag the GoTv Shield; their first major silver since 1998. It was a match with ‘little juice’ to write home about.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

GoTv Shield Semis: Sofapaka vs. AFC Leopards’ Preview

This is a James Situma vs. Peter Opiyo battle, whoever wins the fight in the midfield will carry the day. Why do I say this? Watching the two teams in the quarter finals last weekend, these two players were the ‘engine’ – the cog upon which their sides revolved.

Sofapaka and Ingwe both like to use the flanks. The difference is it is full backs that overlap for Sofapaka while Leopards’ has speedy wingers with slow fullbacks. I will wait to see how James Nandwa and Sammy Timbe use their charges to play out in the flanks.

Back to the midfield. Last Sunday Peter Opiyo was with Charles Okwemba, Oscar Kadenge and Martin Imbalambala.  Seda and Paul Were came in the 2nd half. Situma had Bernard Mang’oli at the centre with John Njoroge and Anthony Kimani on the flanks.  Situma finished the match in the defense, another shot from the hip from Sofapaka.

This should have been a Peter Opiyo vs. Bernard Mang’oli battle as they will be playing similar roles. Their positioning is similar but mentality different. When Ingwe’s defense wins the ball, it lands on Opiyo, but for Sofapaka it goes to Situma who pass it on to Mang’oli or someone else. Hence the term ‘engine.’

Situma is a ball winner, he can tackle hard. Opiyo on the other hand, is good at intercepting than fighting for the ball. This will prove decisive if the match gets thick as I hope it will be. The cover for Opiyo when it comes to tackles is Martin Imbalambala.

On the flipside Opiyo is better at holding the ball than Situma. Situma will win the ball then he must pass it to Mang’oli who is good at holding and passing. Is Opiyo a good passer? A big NO. If there is one area Ingwe’s main man at the centre must improve on is passing accuracy, especially when pressure piles.

I have expanded it to include Martin Imbalambala and Benard Mang’oli. I hope the rule of on-loan players not playing against their ‘parent’ club won’t apply in the GoTv shield, Mang’oli should feature. This is where the match will be won. Sofapaka has a secret weapon in Johnstone Bagole, how Timbe positions him will also count.

Upfront, John Baraza is better than Allan Wanga in terms of the ratio of shots at goal against goals scored. Wanga will work harder than Baraza but in the end Baraza will carry the day. The support strikers in this case may just make the difference.

I expect the flanks to be active especially where speedy Paul Were will be facing Thomas Wanyama. The game changers may come from the bench, but meanwhile, let’s watch the centre. I see a balanced match, but Ingwe have had a better run prior to this match.  I won’t be surprised if it ends up in penalty shootouts.

Let’s meet at Kasarani at 4 PM.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sofapaka beat an Organized Muhoroni Youth

Sofapaka 2-1 Muhoroni Youth

This was a match I believe Muhoroni did not deserve to lose if it was not for Sofapaka’s fighting spirit. Muhoroni were organized, Sofapaka were hungry for a win and that is what made the difference. When the match balance sheet is drawn, Sofapaka’s custodian Duncan Ochieng’ went home deserving in accolades, he saved Sofapaka from a painful loss especially in the final minute of the match.

The two teams set out with similar formations, a variation of 4-4-2 but with the two midfielders playing more as wingers. They both had a single defensive midfielder and a central midfielder.  This worked for Muhoroni but failed for Sofapaka in the first half with Anthony Kimani failing to click as a central midfielder. Muhoroni were fluid on the ball with brilliant passes while Sofapaka went for goal with intent with minimal ball play.

The defense of both teams played a great game. James Situma who was playing as a holding midfielder was outstanding for Sofapaka. I believe this position gives him leverage to express himself as compared to when he is in the defense. Felly Mulumba has matured into a strong defensive tower for Sofapaka and Wanyama’s high work rate on the right was commendable. 

Franklin Osama marshaled Muhoroni backline well with Harry Gentle on the left flank. Nick Owende, Muhoroni’s right fullback like Sofapaka’s left back Collins Kisuya had concentration lapse in the face of fast attacks. The cover was good for both teams which minimized the damage.

Jackson Maina was the engine of Muhoroni’s play; coming in from the right his moves always threatened Sofapaka. When his one-two passes worked with Issa Khaemba, Sofapaka was left chasing shadows. Then Iddi  Shikanda came in for Sammy Wakhanya and Imonje boys had a stabilized but failed to convert activity into productivity.

Koko Manupi tapped in Sofapaka’s first goal against run of play, then Felly Mulumba headed in the second from a Wanyama corner two minutes later. Muhoroni replied when Joseph Emeka tapped in a free kick. Emeka had a good play with Issa Khaemba earlier, he shot past an outstretched Duncan Ochieng, hit the post and the ball went out.

 Anthony Kimani always positioned himself directly in front of Situma at the centre leaving two ‘highways’ on either side. Sofapaka wingers Koko Manupi and Obadiah Tarumbwa played wide and Jackson Maina exploited this but Muhoroni could not capitalize on this Sofapaka weak link. Obadiah Tarumbwa realized this and fell into the hole behind Bob Mugalia and John Baraza to cover for Kimani. This is what saved Sofapaka and they went to the break with a 2-1 lead.

 Coach David Ouma realized this and Kimani was replaced by Eli Asieche in the second half and the chances reduced for Muhoroni. The visitors always came up with flashes of brilliance which were followed by spells of slow play. This is what made the difference; they failed to pile pressure consistently despite coming up with organized and threatening attacks.

Sofapaka was opting for long balls when the midfield failed but Muhoroni defense was always ready to keep improved Bob Mugalia and John Baraza at bay. Gaddy Omondi was brought into the goal for a shaky Joel Odongo and Muhoroni and the confidence in Muhoroni defense grew.

 The introduction of Agwanda and Patrick Kagogo changed the flank play for Sofapaka. Kagogo earned a penalty in injury time which John Baraza fluffed. Muhoroni came in with a counter attack that Duncan Ochieng punched out in the 95th minute to save Sofapaka from a last minute blush.