How it went down at City Park as Warriors were crowned champs

How it went down at City Park as Warriors were crowned champs

The 2018/19 Kenya Hockey Union (KHU) Premier  League season came to an end on Sunday and what a way to wind up the season than with a title-decider clash pitting newly crowned champions Butali Sugar Warriors against  Kenya Police, who were defending the crown.

The two teams marched out of the dug-out to battle it out under the scorching sun at Nairobi’s City Park with the hockey faithful storming the facility in numbers, everyone ready to get a glimpse of where the trophy would be headed to.

Police entered the fray having 60 points, three ahead of Warriors (57), who on the other hand had a better goal difference of 60 against 50 of Police.

For Butali to lift the league, they needed nothing short of a win in order to go through on goal difference while their opponents needed a draw of any kind or a win to keep their crown.

The intensity and level of play did not disappoint either as fans across the divide were lively throughout the contest.

The proceedings of the match kept the fans at the edge of their seats but it was Butali who would take an early lead in the first half only for Police to equalize with 10 minutes to time.

With the scores at 1-1, it meant Police smelled yet another league title.

But alas! The Warriors had other plans, Frank Wanangwe striking with just three minutes left to all but secure the title for the Warriors.

Calvins Kanu (L) of Kenya Police contest for ball with Kenneth Kanu of Butali during the Kenya Hockey Premier League final match at City Park Stadium on December 09,2018. Photo/Sportpicha.

Two- horse race

Unlike the previous seasons where the league would be won much earlier, this term the race went down to the wire with the two sides locked in a neck-to- neck race throughout the season.

Both teams lost two matches each across the season; Butali losing to Police and to the relegated Parkroad Badgers. Police on the other hand lost to Greensharks before the Sunday loss to Butali.

Apart from the duo who ended the campaign on 60 points apiece, Strathmore University Gladiators came in a distant third with 32 points, half the points of the duo, a concern Butali head coach Dennis Owoka raised.

“Even though we have been locked in a tough title fight with the Police, I am not impressed with other teams in the league because they are somehow far away so I would urge them to pull up their socks so that we can have a much competitive league going forward,” said Owoka.

What next for the champions?

“We are going to celebrate for now because for the last three years we have been looking forward to this. Thereafter, we will plan for next season where we intend to be stronger since we have already identified four players who we would like to boost our squad further,” Owoka said.

The top spot also gives Butali a direct ticket to next year’s Africa Cup for Club Championships which they pulled out of this year citing financial difficulties.

Butali players celebrate with their trophy after winning the Men’s Kenya hockey Premier League title at City park stadium on December 9,2018. Photo/sSportpicha.

Owoka is however optimistic they will grace the event next year.

“We will also be preparing for Africa Club championships for next year as early as January. It is true that this season we will not be competing there but we hope next year we will compete in the tournament,” added Owoka.

His Police counterpart Patrick Mugambi has vowed his side will bounce back next season adding that the second spot is not the worst result in the world.

“Finishing as runners up for us is a plus because it is not easy to maintain that (top position). Next season we will be back hungrier than before and they should watch out for us,” Mugambi fired warning.

Relegation tussle

The fight for survival in the men’s top flight was tight as the title race with three teams facing the axe and only one team from the Super League earning promotion.

Bottom-placed Kenya College of Accountancy University (KCAU), Nakuru Club and Parkroad Badgers all faced the chop with Western Jaguars surviving by the skin of their teeth.

Meanwhile, Chase Sailors earned their promotion to the Premier League after winning the men’s Super League beating Multimedia University 2-0 in their last match that decided the winner of the second division.

Telkom Unbeaten

In the women’s front, Telkom maintained their 100percent winning record when they edged out Strathmore University Scorpions 1-0 in their last match of the season to mark yet another milestone as they celebrated their record 21st league title.

Telkom players celebrate scoring against Sliders during their Ladies Kenya Hockey Union League at City Park Stadium in Nairobi, Kenya on November 12, 2017. Telkom won 3-0. Photo/Sportpicha.
(FILE)Telkom players celebrate scoring against Sliders during their Ladies Kenya Hockey Union League at City Park Stadium in Nairobi, Kenya on November 12, 2017. Telkom won 3-0. Photo/Sportpicha.

Telkom now shifts their focus on the Africa Club Championships as they are set to depart for Nigeria on Thursday.

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