2020 review: City Stars found the spark to reclaim top tier status

2020 review: City Stars found the spark to reclaim top tier status

Dan Ogegain Nairobi

While the Covid-19 pandemic swung the door shut for nearly all sports events for the better part of the 2020, Nairobi City Stars wore the broadest smile having accomplished the dream of earning promotion to the Kenya Premier League at the fourth time of asking.

That was a welcome turnaround of events for an outfit that was put up for sale in 2016 for bankruptcy, a year that also saw the team relegated from the top tier following their 3-1 defeat at the hands of Kakamega Homeboyz, in the last day of action to end the campaign at position 16 thus sealing their fate.

However, a radical restructuring saw the team’s management agree to a takeover by Jonathan Jackson Foundation.

The coming on board of Jackson as the club’s principal owner was the fresh air needed. It not only injected an aura of fresh air at the troubled outfit but belief in the playing unit. There was massive overhaul in structures – from the management to technical bench, with new players also coming on board.

These changes manifested on the pitch where the team picked results week in week out culminating in sealing a berth to the top tier league.

Their promotion was confirmed by Football Kenya Federation President Nick Mwendwa exactly a year after the Jonathan Jackson Foundation takeover perhaps underlining their biggest achievement in the past five years.

Club Chief Executive Officer Patrick Korir attributes their quick turnaround in fortunes to meticulous recruitment strategy and incentives that saw players dedicate to helping the team earn the much coveted Kenya Premier League promotion.

“We understand that if we want to recruit a player in any position, we can get them.

“For us the key consideration has been to find players who can grow with the team and get us the right dedication that will push us to new horizons.”

This policy was key in the team’s triumphant campaign that culminated in their return to the Kenyan big-table of club football.

In a bid to hit the road running in the 2020/21 season, the Simba wa Nairobi embarked on a recruitment spree to replace charges whose contracts had expired or those who chose to ply their trade elsewhere.

Players like Herit Mungai Atariza, Rodgers Okumu, Yusuf Mukisa Lubowa, who was playing for Ugandan outfit Proline FC, Kennedy Onyango of Kakamega Homeboyz, former Kariobangi Sharks holding midfielder Sven Yidah among others joined camp fostering the team’s season ambitions.

Also Steve Njung’e who was signed from moneybags Wazito FC has proved to be a critical acquisition for the Hope Center based side having perfectly replaced Levis Opiyo who quit for KPL champions Gor Mahia having shone in the team’s opening matches.

Korir says their aim this season will be to attack one game at a time and evaluate their position once the fixtures are halfway done.

“We are grateful for the promising start that we have had so far.

“However we will not allow ourselves to be carried away by the euphoria of ranking highly on the KPL log cos we understand we have a long season ahead.

“We will tackle all teams using customized strategies to enhance our chances of getting maximum points from all fixtures,” he adds.

Having attained their long-term objectives of making a return to the top division, the sudden demise of team manager Neville Pudo in December took the shine off their impressive 2020.

Pudo who has been with Hope Center based side since 2014 was an integral cog in the team’s sensational return to the top last season following their relegation in 2016.

He was named Premier League team manager of the year at the close of the 2015 season.

He may have gone to rest but City hope his spirit, charm and calm-demeanor will live long amongst the club as they continue with charge for the top.