Western Stima 1 Ulinzi Stars 2
ULINZI Stars won the inaugural Kenyan Premier League “Top 8” knockout tournament and a Sh1 million prize by beating Western Stima 2-1 in the final on Saturday at the National Stadium, Nairobi.
Celebrity guest football analysts, “live” on SuperSport’s special studio platform at the stadium, termed the inaugural competition as a great success and a boost to Kenyan football.
John “Bobby” Ogola, defender of the highest calibre ever to have won the Harambee Stars shirt said:
“There has been very little action, outside weekly league fixtures, to keep the Kenyan player busy. This competition is the way to go... to get them accustomed to the demands of modern professional football.”
Gilbert Selebwa, coach of Kenyan Premier League side Congo United said: “Today’s final is on a perfect setting. It confirms results of KPL’s good management. For years there was so much anger about how Kenyan football was run but now there is freshness and hope for the future.
“Interest in football and confidence is on the rise. There is clear hope that the prize money in this new event can rise to, say, Sh8 million.”
After the exhilarating finale, Ulinzi Stars were due to leave Nairobi for Dar es Salaam, then on to the Central Tanzania city Morogoro to take part in the ongoing Cecafa Kagame Castle Cup club championship.
Western Stima took a well deserved first half lead when Aloyce Mangi jumped to head home a lobbed ball from the left flank in the 37th minute.
After outrageous fluffing an opportunity by Anthony Nderitu in the 21st minute and Stephen Waruru with the easiest in the 22nd, Ulinzi levelled in the 56th minute. It was Waruru who first made up for the first half let down.
Then substitute Evans Amuoka came on in the 60th minute and sealed the match five minutes to the end with a brilliant solo move.
One of the things he said in a long, happy interview with SuperSport’s James Wokabi was:
“I thank our midfielder Eric Apul, he saw my run and gave me a perfect pass. He knew I could outrun the opponent; I held on to possession when they thought I was going to pass, then I went for goal. They did not expect that.
“I dreamt about proving that, because this was a competition for the teams that finished in the first eight positions in the last year’s league, and since we were No.1, we should also finish top in the knock-out. We had that point to prove and that was what I was thinking when on the bench.”
Waruru said: “After the equaliser I knew we were back. I just wanted to dance and I did. I had told my teammates before the match that tonight we shall dance. I wasted that great chance in the first half and it was a relief after making up for it.
“This is a great morale boost as we go to Tanzania for the Cecafa Club Cup.”
George Wesa, the Western Stima captain said: “It’s natural to be unhappy at the moment, but we did our best against a difficult team. They are powerful and experienced. We didn’t win but that’s no shame. We learnt something.”