2016 KPL Awards: Cocktail of controversy and glamour
Kenyan football loyalty gathered on Tuesday night to award the finest in the 2016 top flight season amid a cocktail of controversy and glamour.
The latest edition of the annual Kenyan Premier League (KPL) Footballer of the Year Awards delivered high in the fashion stakes but sparked furious social media debate with the judges’ choices of those who went home with individual honours.
With the ceremony slated to kick off at 6pm local time (+3GMT), proceedings formally got underway at 9pm as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) Kenneth Muguna was finally unveiled over two hours later amid collective disbelief among those gathered.
His choice as the showstopper and signature act of the day blew social media ablaze in the same fashion ticker-tape and confetti shot up on stage to welcome his coronation.
The 20 year-old Western Stima midfielder was voted ahead of more renowned exponents in the KPL including two from champions Tusker FC- Humphrey Mieno and David Odhiambo- defender and fan favourite Eric ‘Marcelo’ Ouma as well as Golden Boot winner, John Makwatta of Ulinzi Stars.
Before the stunning climax to the gala where most gathered observed the black tie dress code albeit with variations among the players who threw in eye-catching hair styles, designer wear and shoes to the mix, invited guests largely stuck to the script.
Speaker after speaker extolled the virtues of how the 2016 KPL exhibited improved quality right from officiating to the coaching and playing standards.
“It’s been an amazing year that has seen drastic improvement in the quality of our league. I’d like to thank our title sponsors for their commitment,” outgoing KPL chairman Ambrose Rachier chorused.
Proceedings began with a sombre moment of silence in respect to Ogeto Gecheo and Victor Wayodi, the two Kenya Cup rugby players who tragically passed on within a week of each other playing in their domestic league.
It set the tone for Gordon Oluoch, the Director General of Sports Kenya and a keen rugby enthusiast who emphasised the importance of investing in the welfare of local footballers while calling for lucrative performance incentives for KPL players.
Football Kenya Federation (FKF) President Nick Mwendwa reflected on his first year at the helm of the national governing body.
“We’ve set up more than 20 offices across the country where our members can seek guidance. We have all witnessed the change in the way football is being run in the country.
“Some of these people used to receive thousands of dollars from FIFA but how they spent them only God knows,” Mwendwa charged.
By the time all distinguished guests had made their speeches, season highlight videos had already been beamed on the large screens planted across the hall.
And then the big moment arrived.
When Muguna’s name went up, muted celebrations greeted the announcement of the MVP in perhaps an indication of the uproar that was to follow.
At full-flight, Muguna has been virtually unplayable this season. A cheeky rainbow flick captured within the reel of his highlight show for the night depicted just how absorbing a player he has been to watch.
Soft-spoken and unassuming, the slender former Palos FC midfielder possesses admirable precision with the ball with an eye for the killer pass that led him to a league high 10 assists for the season.
“I want to thank God for enabling me win this award and thank Stima for giving me the chance to play my first season in top flight. I also thank our loyal fans and my critics for they all keep me going,” he said as he picked his Midfielder of the Year award.
Fans favourite for the MVP Ouma ended up settling for the New Player of the Year where incidentally, he beat Muguna to second.
“I’m humbled by the award. I’d like to thank the players for helping me grow and for my coach for believing in me at such a tender age,” he beamed.
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