Malungu: We knew the playoff was a lifeline

By ronnie evans
Feb 28, 2021
  • Mike Malungu wants his team to mirror that of Green Sharks which made major changes in their systems and style of play. (SNA. File Photo)

Western Jaguars player-coach Mike Malungu believes fitness is key to a better run this season after being offered a ‘lucky’ route back to the Kenya Hockey Union men’s Premier League following their promotion playoffs triumph at the weekend.

The team which was formed in 2006 saw off Mvita Club, Multimedia and Bay Club in straight wins to emerge top of the KHU sanctioned mini-league and book their spot in the men’s top tier league.

This is after Wazalendo Youth opted out of participation in the league citing financial challenges and the inevitable conflict of interest with parent club Wazalendo as the key reasons.

Malungu said that they had already come to terms with their relegation before the playoff which was a welcome respite for the West Kenya-based side which has 30 players in their stable.

“We knew that the playoffs were a lifeline that had been thrown at us. We had been relegated last season so we were not actually preparing for the playoffs but the National League. This involved strategizing in normal training and recruitment of new players,” he explained.

The departure of several players meant there were gaps to be filled. As a result,  they recruited five new players in the limited time to strengthen the playing unit. These were Emmanuel Cheruiyot, Davis Keter, Anthony Musilwa, Peter Wanjala and Ian Inziani.

Malungu looked back at last season and singled out their match against Green Sharks as their toughest assignment despite losing 2-0.

He wants his team to mirror that of Green Sharks that made major changes in their systems and style of play.

“We realized that Green Sharks is a team that has really re-constructed. Their training regime seemed to have changed as they brought in a new coach and the results were there to be seen. In that light, we also resolved that we needed to change otherwise we would be swept aside,” he stressed.

Price to pay

The Kakamega-based side now faces an uphill task not only on the field but also off with the long trips to Nairobi coming with a price to pay for the club that is self-sponsored. The club spends on Ksh.40,000 on average per trip to travel to Nairobi for matches.

To cut on costs of accommodation, it is friends of the club and members of the team in gainful employment who step in to accommodate the players.

For their funding, Western Jaguars again relies heavily on the same group of people and well wishers in formal employment or doing business to chip in. Even those who are not in employment make a certain contribution towards the club kitty.

“This is a challenge considering that there is equipment needed for the team. In the event of injuries, the team lacks insurance so we take our chances,” Malungu explained.

The club also plays a part in spotting talent through its development side that plays friendly matches against top high school sides in the western Kenya like Maseno High School and Mukumu Boys in a bid to further expose the young guns.

This goes a long way to identify top talent and possibly draft those players into the team.

On the upcoming season scheduled to start in March, Malungu and singled out fitness as integral to how they perform.

“We have changed our training regime because we realized that how matches are played ideally reflects what you do in training. So we have intensified our sessions to ensure that there is physical fitness because that has been a major issue for us in the past,” Malungu concluded.