Flashback 2016: Tusker end Gor’s run for 11th KPL title
The 2016 Kenyan Premier League saw Tusker FC claim their 11th title to end Gor Mahia’s three-year grip on the crown due to proper planning by club management before the season even started.
It all began with the appointment of 2015 Coach of the Year Paul Nkata from Muhoroni Youth FC where he had guided the sugar belt side to a lofty sixth place finish.
Nkata quickly got down to business with the signing of new players who contributed to their success.
Ugandan defender Martin Kizza, who returned to the club for a second stint after turning out for AFC Leopards last term, the 2014 KPL Most Valuable Player Anthony Ndolo (Sofapaka, midfielder), Jackson Macharia (Thika United, midfielder) and Laban Gambareko (Isibania FC, striker) joined the Nkata revolution.
Collins Shivachi (Sofapaka, defender), Fred Nkata (Nairobi City Stars, defender), Shafik Batambuze (Western Stima, midfielder), Luis Misiko (OGC-Nice, France, midfielder) and David Okello (Sofapaka, goalkeeper) rounded the close season signings at the Ruaraka based side.
With former champions Gor torn between the CAF Champions League and the KPL, Tusker began the season by winning crucial matches in the first leg to finish top of the table in June when the league took a break.
However, K’Ogalo had recovered from a poor start- winless in seven opening games- to shoot to the top of the standings only for a three-point deduction due to crowd trouble during their ill-tempered first leg clash against the Brewers saw the champions drop down to fourth.
During the June transfer window, Nkata signed Kenyan international Allan Wanga who was a free agent from Azam FC in Tanzania to bolster the experience in the team.
Wanga who had won the title with Tusker in 2007 went on to score eight goals for Tusker who sealed the domestic double having won the GOtv Shield in October.
Wanga was the match winner when Tusker faced Ulinzi Stars in the cup final, a first success in 34 years.
The Brewers held stiff competition from Gor to keep their Midfielder of the Year Humphrey Mieno who was K’Ogalo’s main June transfer window target after they had lost Ugandan Khalid Aucho and winger Ali Abondo who both moved to South Africa’s Premier Soccer League.
Club CEO Charles Obinyi insisted there was no way they could have sold their best player to a direct rival.
Their decisions paid off after they maintained consistency in the second leg and with one match to go against AFC Leopards Ugandan Shaffique Batambuze etched his name in the Brewers folklore when his 64th minute finish from a Osbourne Monday corner uncorked the champagne that had been on ice in Ruaraka with Tusker celebrating an 11th domestic league title.
Having lead Tusker to the double in 2016 Nkata was earmarked to lead the champions in the 2017 CAF Champions League and a title defence but ‘Mr Double Double’ as he was known by Tusker faithful shocked many when he decided to ditch the league winners and join Bandari FC on a one-year deal.
The 2016 Coach of the Year will be assisted by George Owoko who brought Nkata to Kenya in 2015 who has signed a two-year deal with the Dockers where he will deputise the title-winning coach alongside Ken Odhiambo- the man who led Bandari in the latter half of last season.
Twahir Muhiddin who was fired by the Dockers following a wretched start to the campaign returns to the club as Technical Director, a post he held before he replaced Rishadi Shedu as head coach in 2015 when he led the team to the GOtv Shield glory.
Another Ugandan, George Nsimbe will take over the reigns at Tusker with the club hoping he can emulate his countryman and at least retain the KPL title as the team seeks to close in on Gor’s record of 15 league crowns.
He will be deputised by Francis Baraza who led unfancied Chemelil Sugar FC to finish fifth- their highest in the KPL- with club management once again hoping they have the right combination to bring glory to Ruaraka.
Following the title triumph, Kenya Breweries Limited- manufacturers of sponsoring drink Tusker- presented the team with a Ksh1m bonus besides establishing a monthly player award of Ksh50,000 to the man nominated by teammates.
Nsibe and Baraza will launch their call of duty with a two legged preliminary round of the CAF Champions League clash against AS Port-Louis 2000 of Mauritius at home on the weekend of February 10-12 before the return fixture a week later.