KPL Countdown: Reinforced KCB aim higher as new season beckons
Analysis, Jacob Icia
Since 1994 when KCB Football Club was founded, their chart-flow in terms of performance at different levels has remained as inconsistent as unstable waters.
Sometimes so inspiring, sometimes quite low. For example, it is just last season (2018/2019) season that the bankers made it back to the topflight, following relegation in 2017.
However, there appears to be fresh hope, perhaps more than any other season, with club’s President Paul Russo saying the strategically reinforced team is keen to seal a top-four finish in the 18-club Kenyan Premier League (KPL), not ruling out a possibility of lifting the coveted title.
Russo, who despite overhauling his team that had fought back to the KPL last season attempting to compete with the perennial contenders saw his team finish 10th, forcing more changes in the current pre-season that he believes will pay direct dividends.
“We are keen to continually build a strong squad and tap it to it’s full potential. We are looking to finish in the top-four next season and therefore we are looking for the right mix of skills to propel the team,” said Russol, who is the KCB Group Director Regional Business.
It started with the axing of former coach Frank Ouna, soon after the culmination of the 2018/19 season, who had been given a massive budget to sign a whopping 15 players as he strolled back to KPL. They included the now freshly inducted into the Harambee Stars squad and promising defender Mike Kibwage, the captain, but Ouna was unable to steer the team to at least top-six glory.
Now, at the helm, is seasoned Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno, who left rivals Gor Mahia at the end of last season to start building his new squad.
Eight new players
Zico, now Harambee Stars assistant coach, has his work cut out at the lions den as he has been given quality players to match his employer’s ambitions.
“I’m very optimistic, two demanding jobs but the reward is sweet when you are thriving in both well. I have seen coaches who win trophies with clubs and have national team duties. I will be doing my best to seek glory in the two mandates as envisaged by both quarters that have trusted me with these roles,” said Zico, a man highly credited for his formidable defensive tactics.
Among the eight new players signed ahead of the new season are former Sofapaka midfielder Dennis Odhiambo, whose experience with Harambee Stars especially during Sebastien Migne’s tenure should come in handy for the bankers.
“I feel I have a better opportunity to win the league title here after many years of unfruitful attempts. We have set our target well and with the players around it is very possible to achieve it. This is every player’s dream at this level and I think I’m within the right timing ,” offered Odhiambo.
Others are Ugandan custodian Allan Owiny, former Ulinzi Stars and Sofapaka striker Stephen Waruru, Gor Mahia’s Pascal Ogweno, Enoch Agwanda formerly of Gor and Sony Sugar, budding Paul Reagan from Busia Olympics, Ian Motanda and Moses Odhiambo who both featured for Kisumu All-Stars last season.
Kibwage the main man
Defensively, Kibwage and Ogweno should stand out while Waruru and Agwanda’s experience in the attack provides the edge that lacked on last season’s set up.
Kibwage, showed he was bigger than he was ranked when he was at AFC Leopards two seasons ago, by leading KCB after promotion at such a tender age, to 10th position. Fresh from the Ingwe’s den, Kibwage kept his cool to lead a team that had a terrible start to the season.
He has been a pillar at the back of the KCB defence and his heroics at the back handed him the armband of the Kenya U23 side when they took on Sudan in an Olympic qualifier earlier in the year.
He also earned trust from immediate former Harambee Stars coach Sebastien Migne, playing him full-time in his two last matches in charge against Tanzania.
He’s already in Stars team selected by new coach Francis Kimanzi for the forthcoming international friendly against Uganda, and has since shown determination to rise higher.
If KCB will achieve their season’s target, Kibwage will be key in chasing the dream by both leading his teammates by example and using his influence as the main man in the defence to guard their ranks.
His new coach Zico thrives in defensive football, thus his abilities will be much needed.
With the major title contenders appearing quite shaken in the transfer window, KCB can rise at least four positions higher on the log from their last season’s 10th spot.
Club: KCB FC
Home ground: MISC Kasarani, Kenyatta Stadium – Machakos.
Year founded: 1994.
Head coach: Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno.