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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!!