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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Champions League Last 16 Draw: Barca to Meet with Man City, Chelsea Draw PSG

Premier League Champions Manchester City have for the second time in a row been drawn to face La Liga giants Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League knockout round. The two sides met at the same stage last season with the Catalans advancing after emerging 4-1 winners over two legs.

City’s English counterparts, Chelsea, have been drawn to face Ligue 1 side Paris Saint Germain with the first leg set for Parc de Princes on the 17th of February next year. The two sides clashed in the quarter finals last season with PSG beating Chelsea 3-1 in Paris only for the Blues to win 2-0 in the return leg in London and advance on the away goals rule.

Holders Real Madrid have an easy tie on paper after being drawn against Bundesliga outfit Schalke 04 while Bayern Munich will take on Ukraine side Shakhtar Donetsk.

Last year’s losing finalists, Atletico Madrid will face Bayer Leverkusen as Serie A champions Juventus brawl with Borussia Dortmund. FC Basel who beat Liverpool to second spot in Group B behind Real Madrid will host FC Porto in the first leg.

Arsene Wenger will return to his ex club Monaco after his side were drawn against the French outfit.

The first leg matches will be played on the 17/18 and 24/25 of February with the return legs set for 10/11 and 17/18 of March 2015.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Letter from #TeamNyati to Opponents ahead of KPL Fans Fun Day

First I want to admit that am very pleased to break all the hogwash of the English language which would have dictated that I kowtow to some traditional format that would have breathed conventional air into how to write a letter. The feeling of breaking that rule is such a relief.

Having said that, I also want to refute any suspicions the headline might have raised as to whether this is the official mouthpiece of one #TeamNyati; the best thing there will be on KPL Fans Fun Day set for this Saturday.

As you fight a personal war over that claim and award yourself a pyrrhic victory, I suggest you be cleaning your newly acquired boots which might melt under the sweltering heat of the artificial black rubber-crumb surface that awaits you at City Stadium this Saturday.

Meanwhile, #TeamNyati have been under residential training since they became among the very first teams to confirm participation by paying the registration token which was channeled to the organizers’ coffers via the captain Gregory Mulemi. Although he has been absent from the camp due to reasons better kept secret in the #TeamNyati’s cabinet safe, the glass-kneed Mulemi has done the team a world of good by ensuring they will participate in the inaugural KPL Fans Fun Day.

Mulemi will be a vital cog for #TeamNyati provided he steers clear of trying to force a nutmeg on a heavily built bowlegged opponent. To address that, #TeamNyati are discussing the possibility of allowing him to nutmeg a handful of teammates during the pre-match warm up – hope he doesn’t read this part.

Were it up to #TeamNyati, this Fun day would have been held on a Sunday. Reason being, one Japh ‘De Jong’ Mutinda, a specialist in Sunday League Football (SLF) would have singlehandedly handed the trophy to #TeamNyati. Nevertheless, the fact that the game is played a day before Sunday is a motivation enough. As a brotherly warning, opponents marking him should feel just a wee bit safe if they ‘dress up’ like a National Football League (NFL) player.

One of #TeamNyati’s secrets will be one Amos Abuga who has, for lack of a better expression, worked his ass off during the week. The non-scoring goalscorer (oh boy am in trouble) has been doing extra work in the gym, so much so that he might as well stand in the defence alone on Saturday in a 1-1-5 formation.

And then there’s the far-travelled, jet-lagged, Kaka Tim Iqbal Mustafa Bharath. He declined a multi-million offer from the gulf to return back home and his presence in the team sheet itself should have rest of the teams hitting the panic button.

#TeamNyati’s major weakness is the fact that they are awash with skills. Yes, deft touches, delicate flicks, rabona and rainbow kicks, ‘kuipaka’, name it. Ever heard of the expression being ‘left for dead’, or hitting the ‘groundie’? There will be a lot of that level of embarrassment #TeamNyati will dish out when they put the opposition under ‘sieke’. One Steve Ayoo will take the lead on that so the least said the better.

As I conclude this apparent letter, I will tell you for free that there won’t be any better ladies on the pitch than #TeamNyati’s Shinyatinyatis led by the red-hot red-dressed red-carpeting Myra Redele and the Tore Bobe maestro Rebecca Magoma.

Iko sida.

Hopefully after all has been said, the participants will live up to the name of the day, Fun Day, because it’s the experience that matters rather than the competition. Donge?

Good luck and let us have fun on Saturday.


And That’s thesteifmastertake!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Did Liverpool Overachieve in 2013-14 Season?

Liverpool were the most entertaining football team last season. Their brand of football, their movement going forward, the telepathic understanding among their front three and some quickfire scoring  that caught teams off guard time and again was a joy to watch for the Koop.

They were the most envied team in England and to a larger extent, Europe. Captain Steven Gerrard hit the heights he’s been known for over the years, Raheem Sterling came of age, Daniel Sturridge was finally living up to his billing and Luis Suarez was well, being Luis Suarez: bully, skillful, unpredictable, hard working and scoring goals for fun. The feel good factor was there and it was – to those born in the last 24years or so – the most beautiful time to be a Liverpool fan.

That that run ended in a second place finish behind champions Manchester City was disappointing. However, it had supposedly set the stage for Brendan Rodgers and his men to mount an even more serious title charge this season.

No one foresaw the struggles that the Mersyeside club is experiencing right now. The departure of Luis Suarez, the confinement of Daniel Sturridge to the treatment table coupled with the inability of summer arrivals to get their feet playing to the tune of high expectations within the club has made Liverpool this season’s Premier League laughing stock.

They have collected only 6 wins in the Premier League this season and lost have already lost six times in only 15 games, a far cry from last season where they lost the same number of matches the whole season. Goals have been hard to come by while the Reds have carried on their unwanted form of last season where they conceded one too many goals.

Their campaign in the Champions League came to a crashing conclusion in front of their home fans after they failed to collect the win they needed against Basel which would have sent them into the last 16. They toiled under the challenge of the Swiss side who took the lead and looked like they would leave Anfield with the three points until Steven Gerrard hit a brilliant free kick that leveled the match with 10 minutes to play. However, not even the captain's heroics could save the Reds this time as Basel held on for the draw to proceed at their hosts' expense.

Liverpool’s relegation to Europa League is merited given that they only claimed one victory in six matches which was against lowly Bulgarians Ludogorets Razgrad. They were beaten over two legs by Real Madrid and lost to Basel away which sealed their fate.

A league fixture awaits them this Saturday with an away game at Manchester United who have won their last four matches and look way better than Liverpool in spite of making several changes within their squad including changing the manager.

Going by their current form, a victory against their biggest enemy in English football will be hoped for rather than expected, a far cry from last season when the Reds rolled over United and won home and away scoring six goals and conceding only one. The clash against Louis van Gaal’s men will perhaps make it bare the fact that the Merseysiders might have overachieved last season.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Giants to Clash in 2015 Africa Cup of Nations after Draw is Released

The stage is set for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations showdown, the 30th edition in the competition’s history, after the draw was conducted in Malabo, the capital of host country Equatorial Guinea.

The prolonged ceremony in Malabo served up some potentially blockbuster fixtures especially in Group C which has three former winners and a finalist. South Africa who topped Group A and locked defending champions Nigeria will headline the group as they hunt for their first title since the 1996 triumph. Four-time winners Ghana were seeded first in the group and they will be joined by 1990 winners Algeria as well as the star-studded Teranga Lions of Senegal who are still searching for their maiden title.

Group D looks equally tricky with Cote d’Ivoire set to battle it out with a rejuvenated Cameroon side as well as Mali who have reached the semis on the last two occasions. Guinea, beaten by Morroco in the 1976 final are the group’s dark horses.

Hosts Equatorial Guinea headline Group A and will play the opening match against Congo in Bata. Last year’s beaten finalists Burkina Faso are also in the group alongside Gabon.

Zambia who won the 2012 edition are drawn in Group B alongside 2004 winners Tunisia, two-time champions DR Congo and Cape Verde. Honoum Janza’s Zambia already clashed with the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde during the qualifiers with the Chipolopolo losing the first leg 2-1 before exacting revenge on Rui Aguas’ men with a 1-0 home win, Ronald Kampamba with the solitary goal.

The 2015 edition will start on 17th January with the finals set for 8th February. All the Group A matches will be held Bata, Group B in Ebebiyin while Group C and D matches will take place in Mongomo and Malabo respectively. Nigeria are the defending champions but they failed to qualify after finishing third in Group A, four points adrift of South Africa who topped the group.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

No Sserunkuma, No Problem: Gor Mahia's Ready Replacement for Mzee

Danny Sserunkuma is officially a Simba player. The pint-sized Uganda international has signed a two-year contract with the 18-time Tanzanian Premier League champions ending his hugely rewarding stint with Gor Mahia.

His departure to the Ligi Kuu Bara will potentially leave a big hole in the Gor Mahia set up, something that the club’s hierarchy needs to address before they start their continental campaign in mid January.

Be it a transfer driven by the player’s quest to add more bucks on top of what Gor Mahia has been offering (the more likely reason) or a plain desire to test his resolve in a different league, Sserunkuma’s departure might harm the club’s ambitions.

And here is why.

Since joining the record champions midway into the 2012 season, the former Nairobi City Stars forward has been a vital cog in the club’s year on year title charge. In his first full season with Gor, the Ugandan found the back of the net on 17 occasions, just one short of the 18 Sofapaka’s John Baraza netted to claim the golden boot. His goals pushed Gor to within a whisker of claiming their first League title since 1995 only to be beaten to it on the final day by Tusker FC. However, he took home the Premier League Player of the Year gong.

His goals dried up a bit last year but his contribution was still immense in Gor’s title winning season. He scaled up to top the goalscoring chats this season, his 16 goals helping K’Ogallo become the first team in the last decade to defend the KPL crown.

You may be wondering why the article thus far has concentrated on his goalscoring exploits but that’s what he is paid to do. Since signing for the 1987 CAF Cup Winners Cup champions, Sserunkuma has finished as their topscorer in the last three seasons with 41 goals in total. His nearest challenger during that period is Rama Salim with 17 goals, almost two and half times less.

With such statistics, the Gor Mahia topbrass should be panicking, and if they are not, they must be feeling they have someone within the club who could fill up his boots, or that they can acquire the services of someone who  could do even a better job.

A few names have been thrown in the air but there has been no official communication from the Chris Omondis of the K’Ogalo world. That notwithstanding, the Green Army should look no further than a player within their rank.

George Blackberry Odhiambo has always been a darling of the Gor faithful and his performances towards the tail end of this season showed just why. Playing alongside the Ugandan, Blackberry was a joy to watch sometimes with his dribbling and willingness to take on defenders setting him apart as from many of his peers. Before leaving Gor in 2010 for Danish Superliga side Randers, the Thur Gem born player had already cemented his place in the Gor Mahia folklore and it wasn't a surprise that he re-signed for his boyhood club in January.

Odhiambo’s one-year contract expires at the end of this year and Gor could do far worse than adding more years to it because in the absence of Sserunkuma, the 22-year-old has the ability to make ‘Mzee’s’ absence feel insignificant. His biggest asset is versatility. He is comfortable on both the left and right channels, could play in the hole behind the striker but also do the job as the main man upfront.

So while the Yin may have already jumped ship for more mullah, the Yang is still very much a piece of the K'Ogalo cake and it might not be rocket science finding his support cast.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Shabana Launches New Kit as their Preparation for Topflight Football Continues

Shabana FC Chairman Jared Niverton, centre, pose with models during the Club branding ahead of next KPL season at Hotel SixEighty Nairobi on Monday, December 1st, 2015.

As the embers of discussion on whether or not they deserved to be promoted to topflight Kenyan football dies its natural death, Shabana FC are already rolling their sleeves in preparation for the coming season.

The Kisii-based team today Monday launched their official kits ahead of their return to the Kenya Premier League after an 8-year absence. Going for a retail price of Kshs. 1500, the home kit (dominantly white) and away kit (dominantly red) will be available in leading stores countrywide.

The designers of the kit went the extra mile of exemplifying the Abagussi culture in the kit by adding a banana touch to the multi-coloured club logo. The club’s rallying cry, ‘Tore Bobe’ was also made apparent in the new kit.

The club’s chairman, Jared Niverton rallied the fans to continue supporting the club by purchasing the official kits in a bid to improving the club’s warchest ahead of the new season.

Niverton further confirmed the club is doing its final touches in trying to land key players for the coming season. “Kisii and Nyamira counties have come on board with sponsorships. This is indeed a big thing for our club as we look forward to facing some of the top clubs in the local league,” he said.

Meanwhile the club has made defender Andrew Ongwae among its first major acquisitions. Ongwae, a former Gor Mahia and Congo United defender but who was hitherto plying his trade with relegated Nairobi City Stars joins Shabana on a two-year contract.

Shabana were promoted to the topflight after finishing at the zenith of the National Super League Zone B alongside Poster Rangers who topped Zone A division.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Champions League Matchday 5 Preview: Man City in Must-Win Clash as More Teams Aim for Qualification

The UEFA Champions League returns tonight with Premier League side Manchester City facing a do-or-die clash against Bayern Munich at the Eitihad.

The Premier League champions go currently lie bottom of Group E with only two points from 4 games and must beat the already qualified 2013 champions if they are to have any hopes of advancing to the knockout round. City’s torrid campaign in Europe has taken a turn for the worse this year, their previous match ending in a 2-1 loss to CSKA Moscow where they were reduced to 9-men.

The two already met this season with Jerome Boateng’s last minute strike securing the Bavarians a 1-0 success in Munich back in September. Should City fail to get the three points from Pep Guardiola’s side, Rudi Garcia’s AS Roma will advance to the knockout stage should they complete a 100% win record against CSKA Moscow who they thrashed 5-1 in their first leg meeting.

Barcelona will be aiming at toppling Paris Saint Germain from the top of Group F when they travel to Cyprus for their clash against APOEL Nicosia. Luis Garcia’s side are one point behind the French side who host Europa League-chasing Ajax. Both Barca and PSG have already ensured their qualification to the last 16.

Another team that will be aiming to move on are runaway Premier League leaders Chelsea. The Blues travel to the Veltins-Arena to face Schalke 04 where victory over the Germans or a draw of two or more goals will ensure their progress. Schalke could also qualify should they pull a surprise win over Jose Mourinho’s outfit and Sporting draw with Maribor in the other group encounter.

Porto will be gunning to seal top spot when they make the trip to Belarus to meet BATE Borisov. Julen Lopetegui’s side are unbeaten in the group and beat the Belarusians 6-0 in their opening matchday clash. Shakhtar Donetsk could claim the top spot should they beat La Liga side Athletic Bilbao.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Fans to Win Fabulous Prizes in Arsenal versus Manchester United Clash

One of the raffle winners receives his prize from popular radio host, Maina Kageni at the Manchester Derby live screening hosted by Chevrolet, Manchester United’s Official Sponsor
Arsenal versus Manchester United will be highlight match this weekend as the English Premier League returns after the international break.

The two clubs, arguably the most supported in Kenya, lock horns at the Emirates in a crunch game on Saturday from 8pm Kenyan time. United and the Londoners have had an indifferent start to their season in spite of huge summer spending. Arsenal are placed 6th on 17 points, just one point above their weekend visitors. 

To spice up the bitter rivalry between the two sides, Manchester United’s shirt sponsors, Chevrolet, have lined up an activation that will see local fans not only catch the action but stand a chance to win original club merchandize.

Chevrolet, a subsidiary of local auto firm, General Motors East Africa (GMEA), will sponsor live screening of the match in an atmosphere that will see the fans participate in a trivia with lucky winners taking home fabulous prizes. 

“We are really appreciate the gesture by Chevrolet for bringing the game closer to the fans home, but more so for providing the opportunity to win original club merchandize that you will otherwise only find in the UK,” said Maina Kageni who will oversee the event.

This is the second time the activation will be done in Nairobi after the Manchester derby a fortnight ago. “This activation has been happening in Nairobi and Mombasa but we plan to extend it to other counties in due time,” said Geoffrey Mulandi, General Manager, Sales and Marketing at GMEA.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What Promoted Shabana FC Should Expect from the Kenya Premier League

Welcome to KPL, Shabana FC. Photo: Courtesy
After 8 years in the abyss, Shabana Football Club finally made it back to the top tier of Kenyan football after topping the 2014 National Super League Zone B. Whether the promotion was merited or connived by the Football Kenya Federation top brass as has been suggested in other forums is a fragile matter perhaps handled better by lads who’ve got fingertip veracity on the issue.

The fact that is there to live with at least until the end of the 2015 season is that the Kisii-based club has made its way back to the topflight, a slice of heaven for proponents of community clubs. Away with the perchance wild but expected association of the club’s promotion to FKF supremo Sam Nyamweya, who, by faults not his own, hails from the same region. That he has interests of vast proportions in the club isn’t a sinful act in the garden of Eden either. Period.

Shabana’s promotion celebrations will perhaps go into the New Year. There will be things like players’ dinner, fundraising, a VVIP invitation to Esagasaga night for the staff and playing unit, coronation by village elders, secretive cleansing by some respected juju man (hey, that happens in football, it helps), and err… what have you - I have never used that fishy lower primary school-esque word combination in my writing but it sounds just fine. Doesn’t it?

After the triumph, one of the posts on the club’s Facebook Page attributed a quote from the club’s founder, Dogo Khan, rallying the fans, “Now the community must come on board and support the team because the next level needs the passion we have seen through the fans."

The Next Level. The Kenya Premier League level. A far much different ball game. Much has changed since the Justine Mogire-captained side last featured in the KPL. Leadership has changed hands, the league has been restructured, clubs have a better financial muscle, logistical costs have soared, there’s Live coverage, media interest has been restored, expectations from fans keeps hitting at times unrealistic heights and the league is more competitive, just ask Nakuru Top Fry.

So while they are entitled to dine and wine in celebration, the smile will start narrowing when the federation and co decide when the league kicks off, then vanish when the Gusii-Stadium club realize they’ll face either Tusker FC in the opener or champions Gor Mahia at City Stadium. The former will be a ‘you should know people’ kind of meeting that will remind Shabana who the sponsors of the league are, the latter, an ill-timed derby in a ill-mannered pitch that arouses ill-tempers from the home team fans.

Away from the pitch, there will be those boardroom huffs and puffs, the African elephant in the room. They always arise somehow, especially once you involve that democratic process we lobby for but love to hate when we get it; elections. Will they be peaceful? This is Kenya my friend.

Like every club that gets promoted, Shabana will be among the bookmakers’ favorites to drop. No doubt about that. However, that should serve as a motivation to Gilbert Selebwa’s side as they seek to reinforce themselves as one of the marquee names in the folklore of Kenyan football. Luckily, they have two County governments behind them, Kisii and Nyamira counties who both should support the club and model it into the levels of Gor Mahia or AFC Leopards. Though traditionally considered community clubs, K’Ogalo and Ingwe have marshaled support that transcends beyond their tribal and geographical pigeonholes.

Of course not all that happens at Gor or AFC is rose-colored. The duo’s off the pitch misgivings are at times a no-no and should be avoided like eating bats (those far-travelled ugly animals reportedly have the uglier Ebola virus). However, the two teams, now established members of the Premier League, have set a fine blueprint of progress for community clubs. Shabana should aim to get close to the high standards the two have set, be it the enviable fan base or top performance that has seen Gor win back-to-back titles and AFC finish in the top 8 for the last four seasons.

They journey for reconstructing the Shabana fabric and restoring its lost pride has just began. Will their 'Tore Bobe' (We are on fire) mantra propel them to glory or will they be torn to boredom by teams who were once their peers? The jury is out.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Kenya Premier League 2014 Season in Numbers

1 –          Although they were the second highest scorers in the league behind Sofapaka, champions Gor Mahia had only one name, Danny Sserunkuma, in the league’s top 10 goal scorers. The Ugandan was also the only non-Kenyan in the top 10 list. Sofapaka took four slots, Thika United, Tusker and Sony Sugar had two each while Muhoroni Youth and Ulinzi Stars had one apiece.

2 –          This was only Gor Mahia’s second Premier League title after the revamping of the topflight division in 2003.

3 –          Nakuru All Stars managed only three wins all season long as they got relegated back to the National Super League as early as last month. They shocked Gor Mahia 2-0 in Nakuru where they also slaughtered KRA 1-0  while replicating a similar score line win at Thika United. City Stars won one more game than the Top Fry-sponsored team while Bandari registered 5 wins.

3 –          Ulinzi lost only 3 games all season. They were beaten 1-2 away to Tusker FC in March with Gor Mahia beating them with the same scoreline at Afraha Stadium. Their only other loss was a 1-0 capitulation at the hands of KCB at Nyayo Stadium in September, John Macharia with the solitary goal. Champions Gor Mahia lost four games while Sofapaka and Tusker lost five times each.

4 –          Based on positions from last season, Ulinzi Stars and Chemelil Sugar made the highest leap with both teams moving up four places to finish fourth and fifth respectively having finished 8th and 9th last season. KCB made the biggest drop falling from position four last season to 14 this season followed by Bandari who finished 13th this season having finished 6th in 2013.

5  –         Only five clubs assumed at least the bottom two positions at some point in the season. AFC Leopards were second from bottom on matchday four, Muhoroni Youth were bottom after the first two matchdays, KCB were in the bottom two between matchday five and 22, City Stars during the last 7 matchdays of the season while Nakuru All Stars were rooted to the bottom two from start to finish.

5 –          Number of goals scored in the highest scoring matches on the final day. AFC Leopards beat Bandari 3-2 in Mombasa while KCB had a similar margin win over relegated Nakuru All Stars at Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi.

6 –          The longest winning streak in the league which was recorded by Gor Mahia. Having failed to win in four consecutive matches which culminated in a 1-2 loss away to Bandari, K’Ogalo went on a 6-game winning splash with KCB, Ulinzi, Muhoroni Youth, Sony Sugar, Sofapaka and Chemelil all falling by the way side before AFC Leopards grind the record champions' run to a halt with a 3-1 derby win.

6 –          Only six teams managed to assume the number one position during the season. Besides Gor Mahia who featured on 16 matchdays, Tusker had the second highest number featuring 8 times, Sony Sugar featured twice while Sofapaka, Chemelil and Western Stima all featured once.

7 -           Gor Mahia registered 7 more wins than their archrivals AFC Leopards this season having won only three more games the season before. 

8 -           There were two new entrants to the coveted Top 8 bracket with Muhoroni Youth and Chemelil Sugar replacing KCB and Bandari who dropped out.

9 –          Nine teams in the KPL 2014 season finished with a – (negative) goal difference. Nakuru All Stars led the log on -25 followed by KRA on -18, Nairobi City Stars had -17, KCB had -9 while Western Stima finishes in the top five with -7. Only 7 teams finished on negative goal difference in 2013 and 5 in 2012.

10 –        KRA finished with the longest losing streak in the league. Having started the season strongly with victories against the likes of AFC Leopards, Thika United and two-leg wins over Nairobi City Stars, Ken Kenyatta’s side lost all their season ending 10 games conceding 22 goals and scoring only six.

11 –        This was the 11th season of the Kenya Premier League since it began in 2003 and the 51st season of top division football in Kenya since 1963.

12 –        Chemelil Sugar and Ulinzi had the joint longest unbeaten run in the league. In a season that saw Chemelil assume the top position on matchday 5, the sugar millers’ rearguard was impregnable for the first 12 matches of the season. Eventual champions, Gor Mahia brought that run to a debilitating end on May 22nd with Rama Salim heading the only goal of the match in a 1-0 win for the then Bobby Williamson managed side. Ulinzi went unbeaten for 12 matches between 23rd April and August 13th while Sofapaka who after losing 2-0 against Thika United in August 6th finished the rest of the season with a 10-game unbeaten run.

13 –        Nakuru All Stars scored the least number of goals during the season at 13 followed by City Stars who could only find the back of the net 18 times.

14 –        Gor Mahia’s triumph is the 14th time they have won the league, a new record. It is also the first time they have won the league back-to-back since the 90s where they won it three times on the trot, 1983, 84 and 85. AFC Leopards who last won the title in 1998 are now one behind in 13, three ahead of Tusker in 10.

15 –        The joint high number of draws recorded in the competition this season with Ulinzi Stars and Bandari sharing that number

16 –        Gor Mahia’s Danny Sserunkuma claimed the golden boot award after emerging topscorer with 16 goals. The Ugandan however scored one goal less than the 17 last season's golden boot winner, Jacob Kelli, scored for KCB. Gor Mahia’s Maurice Ochieng remains the league’s all-time top scorer in a single season having bagged 26 goals during the 1976 season.

16 –        Chemelil Sugar had the tightest defence conceding only 16 goals, 4 less than Ulinzi who allowed 20 while champions Gor Mahia and Sony Sugar finished third and fourth respectively with their defences sliced open on 21 occasions.

17 –        Champions Gor Mahia won the league having secured 17 wins, one ahead of runners-up Sofapaka. In fact, the last four KPL titles have been won by a team that registers 17 wins save for Gor who in spite of achieving that, they failed to beat Tusker to the 2012 title having lost a game more. Nakuru All Stars got relegated having accumulated only 17 points, the least of any team in recent memory.

20 –        The total number of goals that were scored on the final day of the season

40 –        Beaten 3-0 by Gor Mahia in the final game of the season, KRA alias Ushuru FC had the leakiest defence soaking in 40 goals while scoring only 22 as they finished with the second worst goal difference.

43 –        Champions Gor Mahia scored 43 goals on their way to retaining their KPL title. This is the second most goals scored by a league champion since 2008 when Mathare netted 47 times to win the trophy. Last season, Gor scored only 32 goals

49 –        Sofapaka were the highest scorers in the league with 49 goals, Enock Agwanda scoring 11 of those, followed by defender Ekaliana Ndolo who scored 9 while Fiston Razak and veteran marksman John Baraza both netted on 7 occasions.

60 –        Gor Mahia won the league after amassing 60 points out of a possible 90. They continued with the trend of the previous three seasons where 60 has been the magic number for winning the league. Gor won the title last season on 60 and so did Tusker the year before. The previous three had been won on 58, and twice on 59 by Tusker, Ulinzi Stars and Sofapaka in 2011, 2010 and 2009 respectively. Mathare’s 63-point triumph in 2008 remains the yardstick over the past five years.

104 –     The total number of days that KPL matches were played. Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday were the most popular while five matches were played on a Thursday and only once on a Monday when Bandari lost 0-1 to Chemelil in Mombasa. No match was played on a Tuesday.

238 –     The total number of matches played. There still remains an impasse over the Tusker versus Muhoroni Youth and Sony Sugar versus AFC Leopards matches which haven’t been played for various reasons. If they get played, the total will rise to the usual 16-team number of 240. If Football Kenya Federation pushes on with the idea of raising the number of teams in the topflight to 18, that would push the number to 288.

451 -      the total number of goals scored all season at a ratio of 1.89 goals per game. This is an improvement on the 432 scored last season but 7 goals less than the 458 scored in the 2012 season. The 2011 season saw 488 goals scored which remains the highest for at least the last five years.

500,000 –     Half a million shillings seems to be Football Kenya Federation’s benchmark fine for crowd trouble. AFC Leopards were slapped with Kshs. 500,000 fine for fan trouble in their 2-0 loss against Thika United while Gor Mahia had to fork out the same amount after their fans went berserk in Machakos against Sofapaka who were fined Kshs. 300,000 for failing to provide adequate security.

10,000,000 –       The amount Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua want Gor Mahia to pay as compensation for damage caused to public and private property when Frank Nuttal's side lost a potentially title-deciding match 2-3 against Sofapaka.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Stats behind Lionel Messi’s Equaling of Raul Champions League Goalscoring Record

Lionel Messi beat Cristiano Ronaldo to Raul’s Champions League all-time goalscoring record after striking twice in Barcelona’s 2-0 win at Ajax on Wednesday night.

Trailing Ronaldo by one goal and two further adrift of Raul’s 71-goals benchmark, the Argentine and Barcelona maestro found his first which equaled Ronaldo’s haul in the 36th minute before equaling Raul’s record with a close range finish in the 76th minute.

His two goals helped secure Barcelona’s progression to the last 16 alongside Paris Saint Germain who had a 1-0 success against APOEL Nicosia, Edinson Cavani’s strike inside the first minute being the only goal in the match.

Ronaldo had the first chance to equal or even surpass Raul’s record in Real Madrid’s away game at Liverpool a day earlier but the Portuguese failed to get past the Reds defence with Karim Benzema netting in a 1-0 win.

Messi’s record-equaling fete looks even more impressive given the fact that he has played fewer games than either Ronaldo or Raul. Messi found his 71st goal in 90 Champions League games for Barcelona, Raul needed 142 appearances for his 71 while Ronaldo has scored 70 in 106 matches for Real Madrid.

His goal haul has included 4 hat-tricks and 8 penalties. The of the goals, 61, have come from inside the box with just 10 outside. Messi's lethal foot has contributed 59 goals with 8 goals coming from his right foot and 4 from his head, the highlight being the looping header against Manchester United in the 2009 Champions League final which they won 2-0, Samuel Eto’o having opened the scoring.

Scoring against AC Milan has been the 27-year-old’s favorite dish, the Italian side having conceded 8 goals, 2 more than Ajax, Arsenal and Bayer Leverkusen. Greek side Panathanaikos and Russian outfit Spartak Moscow have both conceded 4 Lionel Messi goals while Celtic, FC Copenhagen and Olympique Lyonnais have all conceded three each.

Ronaldo and Messi, two of the world’s best players, will now fight for who becomes the Champions League all time goal scorer having steered their clubs to the last 16 with two games to spare.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Alexis Sanchez is to Arsenal What Suarez was to Liverpool

Forget about Chelsea duo Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas or West Ham’s Diafra Sakho, or Southampton’s Graziano Pelle, all summer signings (alongside a few others) who have had explosive starts to their Premier League careers.

Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez looks like the real deal. The Chilean, deemed surplus to requirements at Barcelona, is carving himself out as a fine Premier League import. After looking like he was stuttering at the starter’s gun during his infant days in England, the 25-year-old has picked up the pace and physicality of the Premier League and is more than justifying Arsenal’s £32 million outlay on him.

His latest display against Burnley where he scored Arsenal’s twin goals just served to validate his growing stature as the Gunners’ most influential player. He worked round the clock, got tucked in, attacked with venomous speed, was frighteningly powerful with the ball and showed the willpower to win than any of the other 21 men on the pitch.

His workrate, hunger and quality with the ball at his feet is something that hasn't been seen in English football since the departure of Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan, now at Barcelona, was influential for Liverpool last season as they came to within a hair’s breadth of winning their maiden title in the Premier League era. Suarez dominated, dribbled past seasoned Premier League defenders and scored goals, lots of goals, as he almost singlehandedly delivered the diadem to the Reds. 

He finished on 31 goals in 33 games for Liverpool and swept all the individual awards on offer. His departure to the Catalans has left Liverpool struggling to find goals but the gap of a Premier League player in his mould seems to have been filled by his fellow South American.

The Tocopilla-born forward cum winger has 10 goals in 16 appearances to his name, most of them crucial goals which hauled his team from the precipice of losing points. He has scored a brace in both of Arsenal’s last two matches against Burnley and Sunderland.

With 7 goals in 9 appearances, the former Udinese and Cobreloa winger is Arsenal’s topscorer in the Premier League, five goals ahead of second-placed Danny Welbeck and Aaron Ramsey. He is also joint third in the Premier League goalscoring log and his two goals in the Champions League is only bettered by Welbeck’s three.

Like all seasons gone by, Arsenal fans will be hoping the team can mount a serious Premier League title charge. They have come short, very short, before but perhaps the presence and form of Alexis Sanchez will bring them so close like Suarez did with Liverpool last season. 

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Liverpool Thumping by Real Madrid Prove they are Light Years Behind Europe's Best

Matchday 4 of the UEFA Champions League didn’t flood with goals as the night before but there was still enough drama, action and just about enough goals to quench the thirst for some.

Europe hosted 8 games in 8 different cities but it was in Northwest England that arguably the lion share of attention was as five-time winners Liverpool entertained record winners and defending champions Real Madrid in a European heavyweights clash. The odds were rightly stacked against Liverpool getting a result against Madrid who won last season’s title and have made it to at least the semis for the past four years, a stark contrast to Brendan Rodgers’ side who are making their return to the elite competition after a 5-year absence. Gulf in class.

Much had been said of the atmosphere in a European night at Anfield and the Koop were in full voice bellowing one song after another before raising the decibels to deafening levels when the ‘You Will Never Walk Alone’ rendition rented the air before kickoff. Emotions ran high as the home fans sang along to one of the world of football’s most famous anthems. Not even the likes of Steven Gerrard who was born and grew up with the song nor first time visitors like the would-be tormentor of Liverpool’s midfield, Isco, could have understated the chilling effect, the hair-raising feeling of the musical carousel.

With the stage set for a giant clash, the hosts started with a spring in their step, circulating the ball around with ease, putting Carlo Ancelloti’s side under relentless pressure. After all, the last time Real made the trip to Anfield, they were made to look like they had just emerged from an inferior universe with Steven Gerrard scoring twice in a 4-0 demolition job, damn, even Andrea Dossena scored on that night! There was a bit of gulf in class in favor of Liverpool then.

But that was five years ago, and so much has happened besides the passage of time. So it wasn’t a surprise when the Reds were given a timely reminder of how far they half fallen behind the La Decima champions when James Rodriguez’s perfectly weighted lob behind the Liverpool backline found Cristiano Ronaldo who slotted home with Dejan Lovren attempting in failure to clear the danger. A classy goal created by a World Cup Golden Boot winner and scored by a Ballon d’Or winner. Gulf in class.

Karim Benzema showed the hosts why a player of his quality shouldn’t be left unaccompanied at the back post after he looped a header past Mignolet to double Madrid’s lead. A better positioning, a little instinct not to give Madrid too much time on the ball outside the box and that goal could have been avoided. And who assisted Benzema’s goal? Toni Kroos, a World Cup winner who was also named in the All-Star team of the tournament. Gulf in class.

Benzema was at it again just four minutes before the breather, and boy didn’t Liverpool desperately need a break given the proceedings. With the game 3-0 in favour of the visitors at half time, Liverpool fans would have wished for yet another Istanbul miracle. They must have recalled that night in Tureky when the Reds came from three goals down at half time to force a 3-3 draw and edge out AC Milan on post-match penalties and lift what was their 5th European crown. Problem was, Carlo Ancelloti was the manager of Milan then and for sure he wouldn’t let such a catastrophe hit him for the second time. And secondly, there simply wasn’t motivation enough; there wasn’t a title to compete for.

For the second half, Brendan Rodgers tinkered with the team a bit, hauling off the ineffectual half-time-shirt-swapping Mario Balotelli for Adam Lallana and putting Raheem Sterling as the point man. Whether it worked or not is open to debate but the Merseysiders at least ensured there wasn’t more goals in the second half.

Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu will be stage for a rematch in less than a fortnight and such is the importance of that match as they will secure qualification to the next stage with a draw or a win against the Reds. Will Liverpool prove to be a much tougher opposition or will the gulf in class see the hosts prevail?  

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Champions League Matchday 3 Review: Goals Galore Mark Record Setting Night

There was goals galore in the UEFA Champions League matchday 3 with no less than 40 goals finding the back of the net.

It all started with the early kick off with four goals scored in the match pitting CSKA Moscow and Manchester City. CSKA came from two goals down to force a 2-2 draw with the Premier League champions in Russia. City took the lead just before the hour mark, Sergio Aguero tapping in Edin Dzeko’s cut back before the Argie turned creator for James Milner’s strike in the 38th minute for a 2-0 lead at half time. However, the Russian outfit fought back pulling a goal back through Seydou Doumbia in the 64th minute before Israeli midfielder Bibras Natcho converted an 86th minute penalty to draw level and leave City’s qualification hopes in tatters. Manuel Pellegrini’s side are without a win in their first three matches leaving them third on the log, 2 points behind second place Roma and a further 7 adrift of leaders Bayern Munich.

Pep Guardiola’s men put themselves to within a win of securing qualification to the last 16 with a 7-1 demolition job of AS Roma. Arjen Robben netted twice in the first half with Mario Gotze, Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller all registering their names on the scoresheet for a 5-0 lead at half time. Gervinho pulled one back for Roma after the breather but substitutes Frank Ribbery and Xerdan Shaqiri joined the Bayern goalscoring party which only ended with the scoreboard reading 7-1 in favour of the visitors.

Three goals either side of half time guided Chelsea to a 6-0 thumping of Slovenian side NK Maribor at Stamford Bridge. Loic Remy put the Blues ahead in the 13th minute before Didier Drogba converted a penalty midway into the first half, the Ivorian netting his first goal since returning to Chelsea and his 43rd in the competition. John Terry made it 3-0 before the breather connecting to a cross from Cesc Fabregas. Mitja Viler turned into his own net before a brace from Eden Hazard completed the rout to ensure Jose Mourinho’s men remained top of Group G ahead of Schalke 04 who edged out visitor Sporting 4-3, Cameroon international Jean-Eric Moting with a winning penalty for the Germans in stoppage time.

Lionel Messi and Neymar were both on the scoresheet for Barcelona who easily dismissed Ajax 3-1. Messi assisted Neymar’s opener for the Catalans with 7 minutes on the clock before the Argentine captain turned in one after being set up by Andres Iniesta in the 24 minute. Anwar el Ghazi pulled one back for Frank de Boer side two minutes before the final whistle but any hopes of an unlikely comeback were dashed by Sandro Ramirez who scored in the final minute of added time to give Barca the win, their 67th home win in the Champions League.

Barca however remain a point behind leaders Paris Saint Germain who needed an 87th minute strike from Edison Cavani to beat APOEL Nicosia in Cyprus.

Atletico Bilbao fell further behind in Group H after going down 3-1 at the hands of group leaders Porto. Hector Herrera put Porto ahead at the half time mark only for Guillermo Fernandez to equalize for the visitors 13 minutes after the restart. Ricardo Quaresma had the last laugh though as he netted in the 75th minute to protect Porto’s unbeaten record in the group. The Portuguese side are a point ahead of Shakhtar Donetsk, who dismantled BATE 7-0. Luis Adriano hauled five goals for Shakhtar including two penalties while there were also goals for Alex Teixeira and Douglas Costa.

On Wednesday night, Liverpool welcome Real Madrid at Anfield with victory more vital for them than the visitors. The Reds have never lost to Madrid winning their last encounter 4-0 in their Champions League clash in 2009. Ludogorets will host Basel in the other group fixture.

Last year’s losing finalists, Atletico Madrid will host Malmo FF with Juventus traveling to Olympiacos Piraeus. Bayer Leverkusen will have a date with Zenit in Germany, Monoca will host Benfica while Arsenal and Dortmund will play away to Anderlecht and Galatasaray respectively.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

The Records that Tumbled in the Champions League Matchday 3 Goalfest Night

Are you the type who appreciates goals, goals and more goals even if the quality of football is not up to scratch? Or do you love an eclectic mix of both? If you are either of both then you sure must have slept feeling entertained enough at the end of Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League matchday.

A record 40 goals were scored in only 8 games across Europe with the standout figures being Luis Adriano’s 5-goal haul for Shakhtar Donetsk which led them to a 7-0 obliteration of BATE Barisov and Bayern Munich’s 7-1 bullying of Roma at Stadio Olympico. The 40 goals were the second highest on a Champions League matchday falling only four short of the 44 goals scored on October 1 1997 but even then, 10 games were played on the night.

The Bavarians and the Ukrainian outfit became only the third and fourth sides to score seven goals away joining Ligue 1 duo Olympique Lyon and Olympique Marseille. Mircea Lucescu’s Shakhtar also became the first team in Champions League history to score six goals in the first half of a match with Adriano matching Lionel Messi’s record of 5 goals in a match, the Argentine having accumulated the same against Bayer Leverkusen on March 7 2012. However, Adriano became the first player to score five away from home in the history of the competition.

And as if that’s not enough, 21 goals were scored by the half time whistle, a competition record for first half goals. CSKA Moscow, Bayern, Sporting, Schalke, Chelsea and Shakhtar (both twice) all scored from the penalty spot, the eight goals from the spot also a new Champions League record breaking the six penalties scored on September 13 2000 and September 29 2010.

There were also club records. Bayern Munich’s 7-1 win against Roma was their biggest away win in European competition while they also became the first away team to put 7 goals past an Italian team in Italian ground in European competition. Chelsea’s 6-0 thrashing of Maribor is their largest win margin in their Champions League history while Shakhtar’s 7-0 win over BATE was not only their largest but ended the hosts’ 14 month unbeaten run at home.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

2015 AFCON Qualifiers Roundup: Algeria, Cape Verde Qualify, Nigeria Get a Lifeline as Ivory Coast Lose to Congo in Abidjan

Africa champions Nigeria rekindled the hopes of making it to next year’s Africa Cup of Nations championships after a classy display saw them beat Sudan 3-1 in a must-win match in Abuja.

The 2013 winners had to beat the North African nation but were made to wait for the opening goal which came three minutes into the second half through Ahmed Musa. However, their lead only lasted for 8 minutes with Salah Ibrahim drawing the visitors level in the 56th minute. The Super Eagles came close to extending the lead but were occasionally thwarted by Akram El Hadji in the Falcons of Jedaine’s goal.  Aaron Samuel Olanare restored Nigeria’s lead ten minutes later before Musa settled the home team’s nerves with a third goal in the 90th minute. The win was Nigeria’s first in Group A helping them to move off the foot of the table and putting them right in the mix for qualification.

South Africa would have secured progress to the finals with a victory over Congo but were held to a frustrating barren draw by the visitors in a game of few clear-cut chances at the Peter Mokaba Stadium.

Cape Verde and 1990 winners Algeria, became the first nations to book their places at the 2015 championships in Morocco. Algeria made it four wins out of four in Group B after making light work of visiting Malawi. FC Porto midfielder Yacine Brahimi gave the Fennecses the lead inside two minutes with Riyad Mahrez making it 2-0 just before the interval. Islam Slimani’s 54th minute strike put the game to bed as Christian Gourcuff’s side made it to the finals with two games to spare. Ethiopia revenged their defeat against Mali beating The Eagles 3-2 in Bamako, Abebaw Batako with the winner in the final minute of normal time, a result that leaves the runners-up position open.

Cape Verde secured only their second ever appearance at the Cup of Nations after beating Mozambique 1-0. Heldon Ramos netted the only goal of the match with the Blues Sharks guaranteed at least the second slot irrespective of whether they lose their remaining two matches. Three second half goals by Zambia gave them a 3-0 win over Niger to move them second on the log. Rainford Kalaba and Emmanuel Mayuka netted before goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene converted an 87th minute penalty to give the Chipolopolo maximum points.

Cameroon took a huge step towards qualification from Group D after beating Sierra Leone 2-0 in Yaounde thanks to quick fire goals by Leonard Kweuke and captain Stephane Mbia who found the back of the net in the 2nd and 7th minute respectively. The Indomitable Lions could have entered the finals had Ivory Coast beaten DR Congo but The Elephants were shocked 4-3 in a game of fine strikes.

Ghana moved on top of a tight Group E after claiming a 3-1 win over Guinea. Asamoah Gyan opened the scoring for the Black Stars at the quarter hour mark but Mohamed Yattara equalized in the 34th minute. A Jordan Ayew penalty and Emmanuel Badu’s strike in stoppage time gave the 4-time champions the full points. Togo completed a home and away win over Uganda beating the East Africans 1-0, Serge Akakpo with the goal.

Angola thrashed Lesotho 4-0 while Burkina Faso and Gabon drew 1-1 in Group C. Ferjani Sassi scored with the last kick of the game for Tunisia in their 1-0 win over Senegal while Egypt ended Botswana’s qualifying campaign with a 2-0 win.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Of Roy Hodgson’s Poor Media Skills and Raheem Sterling’s Risk of Burning Out Ala Michael Owen

Sterling explaining to Roy how he wants to play?
Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling has been hitting the headlines in the UK press at the back of England’s 1-0 win over Estonia in their 2016 European Championships qualifier. 

Sterling didn’t start the match with the Three Lions manager Roy Hodgson claiming the Liverpool midfielder asked to ‘sit out’ owing to fatigue. However, the 19-year-old was still called upon midway into the second half when he replaced Jordan Henderson to give the hitherto blunt England attack some pace and trickery in the final third. It wasn’t a surprise then when Sterling won a freekick outside the box barely ten minutes into the action which was drilled into the back of the Estonia net by Wayne Rooney.

That moment there emphasized the increasing importance of Sterling to the national team, his club Liverpool notwithstanding. However, when the dust seemed to be settling on the game, Roy Hodgson alleged that it was Sterling who asked to be rested, an unnecessary comment that once again exposed Hodgson’s poor management and naivety in front of the press.

The common rule in the book is always that you should protect your players and not hang them to dry especially not in front of the blaring cameras and desperate-for-a-slip-in-the-tongue group that is the English press. For all his managerial know-how boasting 38 years, and counting, the 67-year-old seemed alien to that when he told reporters that the decision to exclude Sterling from the starting lineup wasn’t a shrewd managerial move but that the youngster asked to be left out.

You simply cannot say that, unless you are out of sorts like Roy Hodgson of course. 

However, after all has been said though, Sterling is the proverbial grass that gets burned when two egomaniac bulls engage in a brawl. Granted, many pundits have made a mountain out of the molehill as Sterling finds himself stuck right inside a club and country row. 

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has been critical of how his players are handled while on national duty, and he is perhaps justified if the absence of Daniel Sturridge for the past six weeks is anything to go by. An indispensable member of the Liverpool squad, Sturridge sustained injury while playing for England, something that didn’t go down well with the Anfield hierarchy. His absence from the Liverpool set up has seen the Reds struggle to live up to expectations. They have struggled for goals, fast-paced attacking football, sharpness in front of goal, wizardry skill with the ball, all the qualities that define Daniel Sturridge.

A similar occurrence to Sterling and Liverpool could find themselves struggling even further hence the weighted concern from his manager. 

The Sterling case just raised the bar a bit higher but both managers should take the blame. Statistics indicate that the Jamaican-born star has played almost thrice as much football in the past year than he did the year before. That’s too fast a transition and too much football for a teenager. Add the fact that he loves playing his football with with explosive pace, the physical demand of the Premier League, the mental beating he got after Liverpool's almost-there title challenge, 15 games already in an infant season and the stress level Liverpool's new campaign has gotten and you see why the little boy might ask to be rested against a lowly club ranked 81st in the world, 63 places below England.

Liverpool don’t have to look no further than Michael Owen who burst into the scene as a 17-year-old. Owen was precocious, a fine goalscorer, a complete finisher. However, he was allowed to play too many games and by the time he got to 23, 24 years, injuries had plagued him. He never peaked at the age of 26-27 years when most players get to their prime. The same could be said of Robbie Fowler.

Roy Hodgson needs not to look any further than Jack Wilshere. The Arsenal midfielder played over 4000 minutes of competitive football before he turned 18, a huge mistake as after that, he was on the sidelines for a year. Sterling is clocking even more minutes and runs the risk of getting perma-crocked should his plight for a little rest continue making the likes of Hodgson parade him for criticism.

Ex Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher added his voice to the controversy saying; “I’ve mentioned it myself, that we’ve got to be careful with Raheem Sterling burning out. You think of players in the past – I played with two of the best young players you’ll ever see in Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler. They had a lot of injuries when they got to 23, 24, and a lot of it comes from too much football.”

Carragher couldn't have hit a better nail on the head since in Michael Owen, Liverpool and England had arguably the most talented forward of his generation but due to too much football, he never lived up to his billing.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

COPA 2014 Champions, Kitale Youth, Depart for South Africa Camp

COPA Coca-Cola 2014 Champions, Kitale Youth left the country Wednesday morning for a one-week international boot camp in South Africa.

Led by their coach, John 'Ingwe' Barasa, the contingent of 14 players departed the country in the wee hours of the morning for Pretoria where they are expected to enhance their knowledge in different aspects of the game.

"We are extremely delighted to have gotten this opportunity and the boys have been really looking forward to this day," said Barasa who guided the team to victory in the national finals held in Nairobi in August.

"It's almost unbelievable what the little boys have achieved in such a short time they have been together and also given their humble backgrounds in Transzoia County. We will strive to make our country proud," he added.

Kitale earned the right to represent Kenya in this year's boot camp after edging out Kisumu Lakers 5-4 in post match penalties in the finals played at City Stadium.

All the 14 players who were part of the title-winning side got themselves on the plane. They included the 2014 MVP Kennedy Mwendwa, golden boot winner Elly Saenyi who is the captain, custodian Dan Wamalwa and pint-sized wideman Maxwell Kibet.

Others are fullbacks Dominic Tab and Charles Chege, center-halves Brian Bahati and Livingstone Konzo as well as anchorman Issa Rashid. Midfielders Kevin Ouma, Eric Wafula, Samuel Wanjia, Geoffrey Onjuati and utility man Austin Juma also traveled.

"This is a dream come true for me and my colleagues. It is yet to sink in really to most of us that we are going beyond the borders, we are totally excited," said Eric 'Berbatov' Wafula who scored the solitary goal for Kitale in their unlucky 1-3 loss to Sags Academy in a build up match on Tuesday.

Wafula opened the scoring with a fine half-volley 20 minutes into the game and they could have put the game to bed before the interval but Elly Saenyi was wasteful in front of goal. A reorganized, re-energized and rejuvenated Sags team

The players will participate at the camp alongside East African neighbors Tanzania and Burundi, Central African nation Congo among others.

The one-week camp will be held at the High Performance Center (HPC) in Pretoria and will see teams get expert training from some of the leading coaches drawn from the host country.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Steven Gerrard Conundrum: What Rodgers Should Do With the Captain

Hello you Liverpool fan, can we talk? As in just have a little chit-chat about err… someone? Not just anyone, but a football player, not your normal Sunday league footballer but a Liverpool player, a club legend? Ok let me stop all the ambiguity, grab a drink, lean back on your seat, and let’s have a discussion about Steven Gerrard. Let me go first right?

Steven Gerrard will forever be remembered as a Liverpool icon, the one-club legend who time and again put his foot on the right gear when needed and dragged men around him to safety like no other. His position in the Liverpool folklore is secure. He will be revered and idolized, his influence in the dressing room will be missed, kids will be named after him and his No. 8 jersey will, even if retired, be fan’s favorite for many generations to come. Can I continue?

Having said that, it’s about time the Liverpool nation, the Koop and more so Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers who all adore and love Gerrard accepted the fact that he can no longer be who he has been for the club for the past 16 odd years. He is no longer that sprint chicken who will burst with pace before letting fly a thunderous 30-yard shot into the back of the net. He is no longer that full-bloodied midfielder who will track his marker before dispossessing him with a crunching tackle, just in time. He is the captain alright, the leader of men, the quintessential embodiment of Liverpool Football Club and the reference point to that rare quality in modern football; club loyalty.

However, the Whiston-born midfielder seems to be losing it (and am being kind because many pundits are saying he has lost it). Taking a look at the beginning of this season, Gerrard has been part of the problem for the Reds who have lost three of their opening six league games. Rodgers has carried on with the scheme of last season where Captain Fantastic was deployed in the deep lying midfield position to great effect.

Gerrard contributed 13 goals and provided the same number of assists as Liverpool scored goals for fun in what was one of the fiercest attacking frontlines in Europe, led by the dynamic duo of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, otherwise referred to as ‘The SAS’. Gerrard’s 13 assists was the highest of any player in the league and his 2,220 passes at an accuracy of 86% was only second to Manchester City’s Yaya Toure. The Liverpool No. 8 also won 69 tackles, made 48 interceptions and completed 91 clearances in a season that saw him deservedly named in the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) Team of the Year.

Rodgers was quick to laud his captain saying, "We mustn't forget that he's arguably the best in European football in a controlling role at this moment in time. There's not many players who can do what he can do - be one of the best attacking midfield players in Europe and then switch to be arguably the best controlling player.”

While the Ulsterman’s description of the 34-year-old might have been a wee bit generous, Gerrard for the umpteenth time proved himself as an indispensable member of the Liverpool squad who came so close to winning their maiden Premier League title, a prize that no one would have enjoyed more than Gerrard himself.

However, that’s as far as the good part of the script went. The Gerrard of this season has been a shadow of that of the season past. His legs are tired, his body language is at its all-time low and the captain’s head seems to be dropping. In the defeats to Aston Villa and West Ham this season, Gerrard has been found wanting. Opposition managers ala Villa’s Paul Lambert and West Ham’s Sam Allardyce exposed his weakness by deploying Gabriel Agbonlahor and Steward Downing respectively to nullify the threat that Gerrard poses. They stuck to him, covered every blade of grass with him, followed and put him under pressure totally invalidating his influence in the proceedings.

It was only against Everton where Rodgers tinkered with the shape of the team by slotting Jordan Henderson alongside Gerrard that latter showed his influence which was capped by a fine free kick goal that served to answer his critics. But even in that game, the statistics suggested his authority in the game was minimal with Javier Manquillo the only Liverpool player who clocked 90 minutes having touched the ball less than Gerrard.

The midweek Champions League clash away to Basel saw Gerrard surrender possession countless times and even his set-piece delivery wasn’t at its customary high standards. The critics who had just started biting their humble pie resurfaced.

Many have suggested that Rodgers should push Gerrard a bit further up like Manchester City have done with Frank Lampard who has 4 goals in his name in 5 appearances for the Citizens. Like Gerrard, Lampard doesn’t have the feet or mobility to go the distance on the pitch which has seen Manuel Pellegrini slot in the attacking third where he doesn’t have to do so much running.

Should Rodgers try and adopt Gerrard in the same manner City have with Lampard and will Captain Fantastic flourish in that position and if not, will the manager be brave enough to drop him to the bench?  And should Liverpool fans finally start accepting the very fact that the heartbeat of the team for over a decade should bow and take his place in the supporting cast at the Anfield theater room and beyond?

It’s your turn to talk now because for the first time, Gerrard seems like a man who shouldn't be a guaranteed starter at Liverpool.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Champions League Dossier: Manchester City Players Brilliant Individually, Terrible Collectively

Manchester City has established itself as one of the British teams who regularly enjoy participating in Europe’s elite club competition, the UEFA Champions League. Ever since making their return to the competition four years ago after 43 years in the abyss, the Arab-owned club has become a permanent fixture in the competition which accommodates four clubs from England.

However, results on the pitch at the biggest stage of them all have been far from convincing. In their last three seasons in the competition, the 1970 UEFA Cup Winners Cup champions have progressed past the group stage only once. Their return to the competition in 2011 saw them crash out at the group stage after finishing third behind Bayern Munich and Napoli. They did even much worse in the following season finishing last after they failed to register a single win in 6 matches.

It was only last season that they progressed to the last 16 after finishing behind Bayern Munich. However, that was the furthest they went as they lost 4-1 in aggregate against Barcelona.

It hasn’t been a good start this season either even under the experienced hands of Chilean manager Manuel Pellegrini. City were beaten for the umpteenth time by Bayern Munich in their opener. The match looked destined for a stalemate but the Bavarians showed their experience grabbing the winner through Jerome Boateng in the dying embers of the game.

The Premier League champions were supposed to show their might when the Roma brigade came visiting on Tuesday but another frustrating evening saw City them take the lead inside four minutes through a Sergio Aguero penalty. That should have served as a danger signal, a warning to Rudi Garcia’s men that they were in for a long day. But the Giallorrossi wouldn’t be cowed as they threw the home team’s script off the window as early as midway into the first half and wrote their own through veteran skipper Francesco Totti who drew level with some deft finish as he became the oldest player to score in European football.

On another day, the Italian capital side would have left England with a point but neither Garcia nor the couple of the club’s fans who attended the match would be disappointed with the single point.

The draw was the fourth successive season City have failed to win their opening home match in the competition, something that has proved costly before and looks like it might bite again this season.

It was a performance that lacked will-power, belief, tenacity and big-game mentality that is akin of a team that wants it the most. Many of City players sulked and played like they belonged to the second tier of European club football. Credit must go to the visitors who never let the stage or the big names written all over the City team intimidate them.

But questions will definitely be asked about this City side whose individual players are a Champions League manager’s dream but collectively, a frightening nightmare. With only one point from two games, the Citizens must now win home and away against Russian side CSKA Moscow, get a result against Bayern which might still not be enough making their final clash in the group against Roma in Italy a must-win as well.

Will they manage? Not on the account of that display in front of 37,509 fans at the Eitihad on Tuesday night.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Premier League Predictions: Derby Clashes as Arsenal Clash with Tottenham in London and Liverpool Host Everton

Sixteen goals apiece were scored on Saturday and Sunday as the Barclays Premier League continued providing the shocks on what was only matchday five. The most striking result was the 5-3 battering, mauling and humiliation of Manchester United at the hands of promoted side Leicester City. The Red Devils, boasting a fiery front line of top marksmen were exposed at the back as they surrendered a 3-1 lead with barely 30 minutes before full time. This weekend, they host West Ham at Old Trafford with no less than 9 members out with injury. All but two matches will be played with two derbies spicing up a weekend which won’t be short of upsets, shocks and goals. Here’s my weekend predictions:

Liverpool 2 1 Everton (Saturday, 1445hours)
It has not been a good start for the two Merseyside clubs. Liverpool’s start to the season has been rocked by inconsistency which has seen them lose thrice in the opening five league games. After getting punished 3-1 at West Ham last weekend, the Reds struggled in their midweek Capital One Cup clash against championship side Middlesborough who pushed them past extra time and into a marathon of penalties which Rodgers’ men won 14-13. That game must have taken a toll on them especially young Raheem Sterling who played the whole 120 odd minutes and is likely to be involved again. Their city rivals Everton haven’t done any better and were knocked out of the League Cup after a 3-0 capitulation at Swansea. Even worse, the Toffees were beaten 2-3 by Crystal Palace at Goodison Park. This Merseyside derby at Anfield couldn’t have come at a better time for either of the clubs. Three points for either will be a fine kick up their backside especially for Liverpool who will have home advantage as they aim to extend their unbeaten run at Anfield against the visitors to 21 matches. Daniel Sturridge could play a bit part should he be declared fit to play. If he plays, the Reds will overpower their visitors.

West Ham 2 2 Manchester United (Saturday, 1700hrs)
Manchester United’s season took a turn for the worse last weekend after they threw away a 3-1 lead and ended up losing 5-3 at Leicester. The Red Devils were cruising with just half an hour to go but a debatable penalty decision not only allowed Leicester to get a goal back but shifted momentum in their favor. With Louis van Gaal hauling off Angel Di Maria, Nigel Pearson’s side got rejuvenated to the detriment of United defence which was exposed for the umpteenth time. Jonny Evans sustained an ankle injury in that match and with Tyler Blackett receiving a red card which means he’s suspended for the West Ham visit this weekend, Marcos Rojo is the only member of the Red Devils’ defence who is 100% fit. That could spell even more trouble for van Gaal’s men especially if the Hammers carry on with the same game plan that saw them beat Liverpool 3-1 where they had a real go at the Reds. With Blackett , Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones all likely to miss, Van Gaal will probably raid the youth set up for backup with under-21 captain, 21-year-old Tom Thorpe, and 19-year-old Paddy McNair likely to be given the nod to make their senior team debut. It could be another high scoring game this which could go either way meaning I’ll settle for a draw.

Chelsea 3 1 Aston Villa (Saturday, 1700hrs)
Frank Lampard dominated the headlines last weekend at the back of his goal that helped Manchester City nick a point against Lampard’s former side Chelsea at the Eitihad in a 1-1 draw. It was a fine operetta for the former England international who returned to bite his former employers as the Blues’ 100% start to the season ended. Jose Mourinho’s men resume Premier League duties after their 2-1 win over Bolton Wanderers in midweek when they host Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge. Villa were bullied to submission by Arsenal last weekend and their run of tough fixtures continues with a visit to Chelsea before they host Chelsea at Villa Park next weekend. The 1-1 draw at City was the first time this season that Diego Costa failed to find the back of the net for the Blues in the league and the Spaniard will be keen to get his boots back in action in a match I tip them to win. 

Hull City 1 2 Manchester City (Saturday 1700hrs)
Steve Bruce’s Hull City will be gunning for only their second ever victory over Manchester City when they host the Premier League champions at the KC Stadium. The two teams were both in League Cup action in midweek with City battering Sheffield Wednesday 7-0 while Hull were edged 2-3 by West Brom. So much separate The Tigers and their weekend visitors than the two-point difference there’s in the league. Hull haven’t had a bad start but expecting them to stifle City will be too much to ask though they will give it a good go. However, the class of the champions will prevail as they try to ensure the 5-point gap between them and the top doesn’t stretch any further.

Arsenal 2 2 Tottenham (Saturday 1930hrs)
The second derby on the weekend will see Arsenal welcome bitter rivals Tottenham for the North London derby on Saturday evening. Tempers are destined to flare as these two adversaries fight for points at the Emirates. Arsenal go into this fixture a wounded animal having been bundled out of the League Cup by Southampton while Tottehnam registered a comfortable win over Nottingham Forest to advance to the next round.  The Gunners have won the last three meetings in this encounter and haven’t lost against Spurs at the Emirates since November 2010. However, both clubs are still struggling to calm their ships which makes a draw all the more possible result.

And That’s thesteifmastertake!!

Kshs. 10m Boost for ABC Bank Baringo Half Marathon

ABC Bank Group MD Shamaz Savani presents the Sh. 10M to the marathon Patron Paul Tergat (l) and Baringo County Governor Benjamin Cheboi during the launch.

This year's edition of the ABC Bank Baringo Half Marathon 2014 edition will take place on the 1st November and the title sponsors with the title sponsors injecting Kshs. 10 million.

The race, themed ‘Developing Athletic Talent’ seeks to nurture and promote young sporting talent and will for the first time feature a schools-only category in which participants will compete in the 6KM cross-country race.

Speaking at the launch event, Baringo County Governor, H.E. Benjamin Cheboi emphasized the importance of nurturing upcoming athletes through locally sponsored initiatives such as the ABC Bank Baringo Half Marathon.

“My government is equally committed to supporting not only athletics but other sports as well, as a way of encouraging our youth to pursue sports as a viable career option.” Governor Cheboi said.

This initiative provides an opportunity for every athlete to perform at their best through continued practice and race opportunities through which they can gauge their performance levels. The organizers have this year involved and worked closely with the Baringo County Government and other local leaders to enhance community participation and ownership of the event.

The Paul Tergat Foundation Chairman and Patron of the Baringo Half Marathon, Mr. Paul Tergat called on both elite and budding athletes to register for the marathon to battle it out for the attractive prizes on offer. The upcoming athletes will have the opportunity to have their talent identified, and possibly picked for the athletes’ development program.

“A school is free to register as many teams as possible. This will give our young people in schools from across the country an opportunity to showcase their athletic talent as the cross country season kicks off,” he noted.

ABC Bank Group Managing Director, Mr. Shamaz Savani said the half marathon also seeks to boost the image of the sport to upcoming talent and the general public. 

“As the title sponsor, we have increased the sponsorship kitty to Ksh. 10 million from Ksh. 5 million last year. This kitty will be used to host the marathon as well as run the athletes’ development program following the marathon. Additionally, we have increased the total prize purse to Ksh. 3 million with the first prize being 300,000 shillings each for men and women in the 21 km category. We have introduced a Schools Category, which will be the key highlight of the marathon, with prizes for both schools and winning students,” he said. 

During last year’s ABC Bank Baringo Half Marathon, the organizers identified a batch of 12 upcoming athletes to join the athletes’ development program sponsored by the bank. They have undergone intensive professional training in reputable training camps to prepare for not only the Baringo Half marathon but also for other local and international races. They have also received life skills training in key areas such as personal finance and investments, handling media and public speaking, anti-doping policies and managing sponsorship contracts. 

Alfred Barkach, one of the ABC Bank-sponsored athletes, won the 10,000 metres race at the recently concluded East African Secondary Schools Games held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. His success is testament to the fact that nurturing talent will produce more champions for this country.

Some of the mentors who have offered a helping hand to the budding athletes through the athletes’ development program include: world marathon record holder Wilson Kipsang, former Olympic 800 meters champion Wilfred Bungei and US-based Kenyan distance runner Betsy Saina. 

International athletes from Ethiopia and other East African countries have also been invited to headline the event and to increase the participation bracket beyond the country’s national borders as a model of building and nurturing talent.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!