2019 in Review: Year presented mixed bag of goodies for Bandari

 Review, Luqman Mahmoud

The year 2019 will go down as having presented mixed bag of goodies to Kenyan Premier League club Bandari FC.

To put this  into perspective, Bandari participated for the very time in the Super Cup Tournament in Tanzania in January. (This is a tourney that brings together  four teams; two each from Kenya and Tanzanian, organsied by a gaming firm which has since ceased operations in Kenya).

Despite making a debut appearance at this stage, Bandari did fairly well reaching finals but were beaten to the trophy by Kariobangi Sharks losing 1-0 thanks to a Harrison Mwendwa goal.

But, it seems, the defeat to Sharks only emboldened them as they exerted a revenge on the Sharks to win the FKF Shield 3-1 on June 2 at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.

The entertaining finale played over two days after the clash was rained off at the same venue a day before when Bandari were leading by 2-1 from Yema Mwana’s brace with Patillah Omotto scoring Sharks equaliser.

For their Cup heroics, the Kenya Ports Authority sponsored Bandari were shipped to South Africa for a boot camp where they trained for one week before flying to Kigali, Rwanda to participate in the 2019 Cecafa Kagame Cup.

Bandari FC players celebrate their victory against Kariobangi Sharks FC during their 2019 FKF Shield at the Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi on June 02, 2019. Bandari FC won 3-1. Photo/Stafford Ondego/sportpicha/Citizen

However, despite the boot camp down south, the Dockers failed to shine in the tourney where they were making an appearance for the first time failing to win any group match. Interestingly, they also didn’t lose a game bowing out at the preliminaries having drawn with KCCA of Uganda, Azam of Tanzania and Mukuru Victory of Rwanda thus finishing third on the log.

This perhaps drove the executives to the drawing board opting to sign new talents such as Danson Chetambe from Zoo Kericho, Cliff Kasuti from Sofapaka as well as Sosthenes Idah from Kakamega Homeboyz.

Burundian goalie Justin Ndikumana was also roped in to take over from Farouk Shikhalo who left Bandari and crossed the border to join Tanzanian outfit Young Africans.

Being in their second season in the CAF Confederations Cup, coach Bernard Mwalala guided the Dockers to qualify for the play-off round where they were bundled out by Guinean Giants AC Horoya.

Bandari FC fans celebrate a goal during their FKF Shield final at the Kasarani stadium in Nairobi on June 1, 2019. Photo/Kelly Ayodi/Sportpicha/Citizen

At the first hurdle, Bandari sent Al Ahly Shendy of Sudan packing on an away goal rule after a goalless draw in Kasarani, Nairobi before holding them to a one-all-draw in Shendy, Sudan a fortnight later.

In the second round the Mombasa-based club was drawn against US Ben Guerdane of Tunisia whom they beat 3-2 in aggregate to qualify for their first time for the play-off round.

They won 2-0 in Nairobi before losing 2-1 in Tunisia.

This earned them a slot in the preliminary stage locking horns with experienced Guinean side AC Horoya who thrashed home and away to record an aggregate 5-2 win to the West Africans to all but end their continental football journey.

“The international tourney has built a strong confidence in my players as they now play differently even if we lose,” Mwalala said back then, hailing the impact of international football on his players.

In the domestic league KPL, Bandari have however been far from fluent struggling to maintain the high-standards they set for themselves in the last two seasons.

Twice finishing second, in 2017 season and 2018/2019 season, the Dockers did not start the 2019/2020 season strongly and never looked like they would mount any title challenge against the likes of Gor Mahia and Tusker who started brightly with comprehensive wins.

Nevertheless as the season gathered momentum after bowing out of international competitions, Bandari went on to record a five-match winless run, affecting the players mentally.

Bandari FC goalkeeper Faruk Shikalo reacts against Bandari FC during their Kenyan Premier League (KPL) match at the Narok stadium on February 4, 2018. Bandari FC won 3-0. Photo/Oliver Ananda/Sportpicha
Farouk Shikahlo became the only player to ditch the club, penning a deal with Young Africans of Tanzania

“This was something I anticipated as the fatigue and injuries loom in my squad following long travels in and out of the country,” head coach Bernard Mwalala lamented back then.

With dwindling fortunes, Mwalala revised his ambitions, surrendering a title challenge and instead aiming at a top five finish

But that is not all, their poor run has allowed the likes of Kakamega Homeboyz, Tusker, Western Stima and Ulinzi Stars to emerge as Gor’s main opponents in the title race.

Bandari FC coach Bernard Mwalala reacts during their Kenyan Premier League (KPL) match against Posta Rangers FC at Kenyatta stadium in Machakos on May 05, 2019. The match ended in a barren draw. Photo/Stafford Ondego/Sportpicha
(FILE)Bandari FC coach Bernard Mwalala reacts during their Kenyan Premier League (KPL) match against Posta Rangers FC at Kenyatta stadium in Machakos on May 05, 2019. The match ended in a barren draw. Photo/Stafford Ondego/Sportpicha

Heading into the New Year, the Dockers are placed 11th, in the lower half of the 17-team KPL table, on 15 points, from 13 matches, 13 adrift of table-topping Gor.

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