Sofapaka rocked by boycott threat- SPL Preview
After nine rounds of the 2016 SportPesa Premier League (SPL), the 2009 champions and once the country’s glamour club, Sofapaka FC, are rock bottom with a win and eight loses with their players threatening to boycott their weekend match over pay.
Their impressive 3-1 victory over Ushuru FC on opening day is now looking like a fluke and David Ouma’s boys face Nairobi City Stars hoping to avoid being cut adrift and stem their slide down the relegation lane.
The Batoto ba Mungu players have kept away from training since Tuesday protesting unpaid salaries and allowances for two months at the cash strapped club that announced their arrival in the top flight by winning the crown on their maiden season.
This is in far contrast to their heydays when money flowed from their flamboyant Congolese president, Elly Kalekwa, who has fallen into lean times and is reportedly not in the country to run the club.
Speaking to Citizen Digital at Nairobi’s Camp Toyoyo Grounds where he watched his junior side sent packing in the on-going KPL Under-20 championship, Ouma was oozing confidence his boys will bounce back to winning ways.
“We are in the top tier to stay; it is very early for anyone to write us off. What worries everyone is that we are surely where we don’t belong and it’s time to react.
“The onus is on the boys to deliver the results of our hard training because we have a name and history to guard,” charged the former Posta Rangers tactician who also doubles as Harambee Starlets boss.
He however, decried inexperience as the major challenge in his squad, but was quick to warn it cannot be an excuse enough for more losses.
“If you look at Tusker FC, almost all the players who have catapulted them to the top are from my last season’s first team. Their departure was of a blow to us but we have to move on. It is an opportunity for the green boys to write their own history at the big stage,” added Ouma.
For City Stars, John Bobby Ogolla will be going for nothing short of a win after his boys impressive run was put to a halt by Kakamega Homeboyz and Thika United in their last two outings, conceding a single goal in each.
Knowing the vulnerability of their opponents, three points will be the least aim as the former Gor Mahia assistant coach who is avoiding being sucked in another escape act from relegation the club has perfected in recent season.
Salim Babu will lead Sony Sugar in his second match against the flailing champions K’Ogalo at Nairobi’s Nyayo Stadium since taking over from Leonard Odipo hoping the wind is in the club’s sails after recording their first victory of the season in their 1-0 victory over Chemelil Sugar.
Brazillian Ze Maria will have his most potent striker Jacques Tuyisenge back to full fitness with a point to prove after the 15-time champions succumbed to a 1-0 defeat to table toppers Tusker last weekend; the tactician’s first loss since his arrival.
Citizen Digital followed K’Ogalo’s training at Camp Toyoyo in the midweek where Ze Maria concentrated on striking drills which hints his intentions against the Sugar Millers.
At Mumias Complex, AFC Leopard’s boss, Ivan Minnaert parades his arsenal against the wounded battalion of Ulinzi Stars who are smarting from back-to-back defeats that have derailed their title charge.
Robert Matano was candid there was no room for error with the choice of Mumias by Ingwe seen as a tactic to unnerve the soldiers by playing the game at a region where Leopards enjoy fanatical support.
Minnaert has also been speaking tough warning complacency will not tolerated at the Den and last weekend’s slip from the summit after a 1-1 draw with Ushuru adds more pressure to deliver in the quest to remain among the top three.
“They have to improve; some are playing like cats and not like leopards. Someone like Aswani is pushing and pushing until the last minute, but Diallo comes in and does nothing,” remarked the Belgian after the Ushuru stalemate.
Kepha Aswani and Andrew Tololwa will lead the goal hunt for Ingwe as the Soldiers will count on Mark Bikwokwa and John Makwatta hoping to end the goal drought witnessed in the last three matches.
Mathare United who are hanging on the coattails of Tusker FC at the top have their coach, Francis Kimanzi keeping it cool, warning his boys to forget their previous success that has kept them top of the league so far when Muhoroni Youth come calling on Sunday at Nyayo.
His boys humbled Ulinzi at their Afraha fortress last Sunday in a 2-0 victory making a big statement to early title rivals Tusker and Leopards.
“We are back at the top of the table but for me that is not as important as winning the next game. But we cannot afford to start getting comforted at the top. What is important is to ensure that we win the next match, and the next and that will keep us in our current position, the immediate former Tusker FC coach was quoted saying after the match.
Two leading scorers, Wycliffe Ochomo who has six and Obadiah Ndege with five of Muhoroni and Mathare are out to keep the Golden Boot chase alive by outclassing each other in the shootout.
In other weekend pairings, Posta Rangers will play 10-time champions Tusker as Paul Nkata, fresh from beating titleholder Gor will seek to remain top on the log, Kakamega Homeboyz host Thika United at Mumias while Bandari will be visiting Western Stima at Moi Stadium Kisumu.
13:00: Chemelil Sugar vs Ushuru- Chemelil Stadium
14:00: Kakamega Homeboyz vs Thika United- Mumias Complex
14:00: Gor Mahia vs Sony Sugar- Nyayo Stadium Nairobi
15:00: Western Stima vs Bandari- Moi Stadium Kisumu
16:15: AFC Leopards vs Ulinzi Stars- Mumias Complex
16:15 City Stars vs Sofapaka- Nyayo Stadium
14:00: Posta Rangers vs Tusker- Nyayo Stadium
16:15: Mathare United vs Muhoroni Youth- Nyayo Stadium