Coaches anxious as league set to finally kick-off today

The wait is finally over as the 2020/2021 Football Kenya Federation-Premier League (FKF-PL) season kicks off this weekend with seven matches on the card after almost a nine-month break.

Several coaches and players are looking forward to making impressive debuts with thrilling intrigues expected in the title race and relegation battle after the government yesterday issued the clearance on the return of the league. All the matches will be played behind closed doors owing to Covid-19 restrictions.

Though a number of players have reportedly tested positive for coronavirus at a Nairobi-based club and a newly promoted team, this is anticipated to be one of the most competitive seasons in recent years if the signings made by most teams is anything to go by.

But it is the arrival of betting firm BetKing and StarTimes as the FKF-PL’s official title and broadcast sponsors respectively that is expected to spice up competition in the domestic league.

However, the big question is, will record champions Gor Mahia continue to rule the league or it will be a new era with a new champion at the end of the season?

But looking at what has been happening at K’Ogalo in the recent few days, they should brace themselves for a tough season as the likes of AFC Leopards, Tusker, Sofapaka and Wazito appear to have shown their title intentions with some good businesses in the transfer window.

Coaches anxious as league set to finally kick-off today
AFC Leopards’ Elvis Rupia challenges Gor Mahia’s Boniface Omondi during their Kenyan Premier League match at Kasarani Stadium on March 8, 2020. [Stafford Ondego/Standard]

It is a season that will see Bidco United make their debut in the topflight football while new coaches including Gor Mahia’s Roberto Oliveira, AFC Leopards’ Thomas Trucha and Sanjin Alagic (Nairobi City Stars) will all be aiming for a brilliant debut with their respective clubs.

Dutch-trained tactician Francis Kimanzi will be making a return to the league with Wazito after recently parting ways with national team Harambee Stars while Paul Ogai has rejoined Western Stima from National Super League side Coast Stima.

Just like Kimanzi and Ogai, former Kenyan international Sammy Okoth will be out to prove himself in the league with Vihiga United. Okoth guided Vihiga to promotion play-offs triumph over Kisumu AllStars (5-3 on penalties after 3-3 draw) early in the month.

And as the league kicks off today with AFC Leopards hosting Tusker in what has been considered the highlight of round one at Nyayo Stadium, AFC coach Thomas Trucha has already set his sights on ending the club’s 22-year title drought.

“I believe we have had a very good pre-season since I came. The boys have been responding well; working hard, focused and everyone was fighting trying to show his best. With that, they have put me under pressure because they are all good players, but unfortunately, we can only play eleven,” said Trucha.

“It is a competitive team and I believe we are prepared. I have told the players we have to focus on ourselves and not the opponents. We played Tusker two weeks ago and we know it is a good team. We know how strong they are and they know how strong we are and on the day the best team will win. My strategy is to win game by game.”

Coaches anxious as league set to finally kick-off today
FKF President Nick Mwendwa with StarTimes CEO Hanson Wang when they lStarTimes as FKF Premier League official partners on Thursday, November 26, 2020. [Standard Sports]

Vihiga United take on Kakamega Homeboyz in Mumias today while Bandari entertain Sofapaka at Mbaraki Grounds.

Bidco United coach Anthony Akhulia says he can’t wait to make his Premier League debut when his side tackles Western Stima in Kisumu tomorrow.

“As a team we are well prepared for our first match in the Premier League. I can’t wait to be on the touchline. We will try our best,” said Akhulia.

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