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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!!