One trophy in the cabinet for Sofapaka, how many more?

Feb 03, 2012
  • One trophy in the cabinet for Sofapaka, how many more?

Nickname:   Batoto ba Mungu (Children of God)

Home ground:  Nyayo National Stadium (Nairobi)

Coach:   Salim Ali (Kenyan)

Key players:  James Situma, Edgar Ochieng, Humphrey Mieno and Bob Mugalia

Major honours:  1 league title, 1 domestic cup

When Sofapaka rewrote Kenyan football history by winning the league title on their debut season, skeptics in the local circles dismissed them as one-hit wonders.

That was way back in 2009 when the fiery Robert Matano was the coach. Though the team failed to successfully defend the title, their respectable fourth place finish in 2010 vindicated them from the naysayers’ criticism.

Last season, the club endured a roller-coaster experience that took them one match away from the group stages of the prestigious Caf Confederations Cup.

On the way to the pre-quarter final stage ‘Batoto ba Mungu’ ousted the highly-fancied Ismailia of Egypt and St. Eloi Lupopo of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The down side was that their remarkable run at the continental stage took its toll on them locally where they struggled to get their foothold.

However, a late surge following the arrival of Francis Kimanzi as coach, guaranteed the team a third place finish behind winners Tusker and Ulinzi Stars.

Curiously, the club which is modelled as a family unit founded on Christian values (Sofapaka is a Kiswahili acronym for Sote (kama) Familia (kwa) Pamoja Kufikia Azimio has variously been referred to as ‘moneybags’ thanks to the deep pockets founder and club president Elly Kalekwa.

But perhaps it is the Congolese construction mogul’s sound leadership and business acumen that has transformed ‘Batoto ba Mungu’ into a force reckon with in the league.

The club is currently enjoying a three-year sponsorship worth Sh12 million from Blue Triangle Cement company. However, all has not been rosy at the club.

At some point last season, there were rumours of a simmering mutiny in the changing room due non-payment of players’ salaries and allowances.

Kalekwa has also come out a suave administrator who prefers to cut the image of an affable personality in public and tough manager behind the scenes. It is rumoured that club’s high turnover of coaches has been occasioned by Kalekwa’s high-handedness on policy matters.

Former coach Matano, Ugandan tactician Sam Ssimbwa and the eccentric Ezekiel Akwana have all in the past suffered Kalekwa’s wrath.

The latest to depart the club’s hot seat is Kimanzi who relinquished the post following his appointment as Harambee Stars coach. Kimanzi has since been elevated to the club’s technical director and his coaching role taken up by former Mathare United tactician Salim Ali.

Away from controversies, the former league champions have a reason to smile following the return of inspirational captain James Situma who failed to seal a move to professional football in Albania.

Last season, the club’s backline was not the tightest in the league but the arrival of goalkeeper Jacob Okello from Thika United and Under 23 defender Eugene Asike from KCB should go some way in solving that problem.

Other new arrivals are Abdalla Juma, Felly Mulumba and Hashim Mukwana all from Rangers FC.

Prediction: As a unit, Sofapaka is a very solid side. Though the team didn’t buy big in the transfer market a top three position should be within its reach.

 

Nesta Kizito

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