SWILA: Bandari should be self-sustaining and must think of life beyond KPA

MyCall Sports editor

Bandari FC, the supposed pride and football giants of Coast region have, in recent times, been trying hard to punch equal to their weight.

In 2018 and 2019 – they made subtle attempts at the Kenyan Premier League title, challenging Gor Mahia for the honours but falling short in each episode.

Impressively though, the team, under its former youthful coach Bernard Mwalala, came out second in the 2018 season, on 62 points, 13 off champs Gor Mahia and replicated the fete in 2019; this time settling for 64 points as Gor carted the gong on 72.

Important to note is that in these two seasons, when Al Bandar had arguably one of their sweetest runs in recent times, a number of factors contributed.

Chiefly was the presence of a solid and gifted playing unit. From the defence to midfield to attack the Dockers had at least two standout players in each department.

From their inspirational skipper Felly Mulumba who has since left the club, to tricky attacker William Wadri, to coach Mwalala, the dockers simply rocked.

Add that to the fact that in Mwalala they had a youthful coach whose tactics resonated with the playing unit then you understand why the team’s wheels rolled with relative ease.

But that is not all. In those two seasons, discipline within the squad was impeccable – club CEO Edward Oduor then revealing that the club management would offer bonuses for each goal scored and an assist made.

On the other hand, players who picked unnecessary cards were fined while those that arrived late for training and team meetings also got their fair share of punishment.

In the long run they pulled in one direction and little wonder they pushed K’Ogalo to the limit.

However that is not all. There is no trophy for finishing second in a competition.

Time is nigh- the hour has come for Al Bandar to show the world that they have come of age and do not just make the numbers.

Ahead of the soon-to-be-announced kickoff dates for the new campaign, the Ken Odhimabo coached side must prove that they are not just flower girls, walking the bride, K’Ogalo, to the high table to collect the trophy.

But how do they achieve this?

Player recruitment and building of a cohesive playing unit has to be the start-up point. The current unit is average and for Odhiambo to topple Gor from the summit he must invest in the playing unit by signing quality players.

Bandari FC defender Felly Mulumba is assisted off the pitch by coach Ken Odhiambo after scoring an own goal against Gor Mahia FC during their Sportpesa Premier League match at the Mbaraki stadium in Mombasa county on April 28, 2016. Gor Mahia FC won the match 2-0. Photo/Stafford Ondego/www.sportpicha.com

It is shocking that at a time when quality players are leaving Gor and AFC Leopards in droves, and for free, Bandari, with their supposed financial war chest could not snap up one any! Think of it, how good will be the Bandari defence be with the services of the no nonsense Kenyan international defender Joash Onyango? What of forward Vincent Oburu who just decamped from Leopards to Wazito or even John Mark Makwatta who elected to pursue greener pastures in Zambia?

Apart from building a rock solid playing unit, the club needs to invest in a vibrant football academy where talents can seamlessly sprout to feed the senior team.

This calls for having scouts within and outside Coast region to spot young promising talents and sign them up with the club’s academy. At the club they should develop under talent management coaches contracted by the club and learn football the Bandari way.

Having a solid youth structure and age groups teams would ensure that in future the club does not spend heavily on ready-made talents. That way only few purchases can be made to make the team tick.

Thirdly, the club must wake up and think beyond. For now the team is at the mercy of State owned corporation Kenya Ports Authority. What happens for instance if, say, KPA halted its support for the team or decided to do away with sports in toto?

Would the club still exist?Will the centre hold?

The club, other than depending on the rich State agency for support must also come forward with modern and creative ways or raising its revenue.

For instance, does the team have any members who pay, say, monthly or annual membership fee? Do they have a professional merchandise shop?

What of ploughing back monies realized from the sale of players? Time and again these have been pointed out as the Achilles heel at Kenya’s communal clubs Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards but Bandari must also wake up and think of how best they can bring more bacon to the table.

Success does not come cheap. It has to be planned for. It could be long, tiresome, torturous and laborious journey but where there is a way there is definitely a will.

Lastly, the Mbaraki Sports Club, home venue for the team, is at the moment undergoing some renovations.

Methinks some quality works are being done and at the end of it all the facility will meet the ‘international’ benchmarks if not a semblance of a football stadium.

KPA management should also consider having the team have limitless access to the facility.

It does not help that the team is granted limited access i.e specific hours for training and on match days while making way for some social events. While the latter may make some economic sense, priority must be given to the team.

Upon completion, the facility should be good enough to host international matches sparing the team the trouble of travelling to Nairobi to use Nyayo or Kasarani stadium for such international assignments.

The author commentates on Sports, Social and Current Affairs

Talk to me: isaac.swila@royalmedia.co.ke