Bomet’s pride as little known Silibwet FC breaks 12-year jinx for NSL football
- Despite the league ending prematurely, Silibwet believes their time had come even if the season could have concluded.
- Prior to the league’s cancellation, Silibwet’s skipper Dennis Cheruiyot was the division’s top scorer with 16 goals.
- Zoo FC’s Micah Kipyego and Shadrack Omondi of Kisumu All Stars are some of the stars in the Kenyan Premier League who trace their roots to the club.
- Similarly, head coach Lenny Kigen believes his team has what it takes to mount a strong challenge albeit in unfamiliar territory when the season kicks off.
Special Report Gilbert Kiprotich
For many, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought with it its fair share of gloom.
Pain, anguish, mental torture, job losses, and in extreme scenarios deaths have sufficed.
However, in few and far circumstances, there are persons or institutions who have reasons to smile, thanks to the virus!
One such entity is Silibwet Leons FC, a football club which recently earned promotion to the National Super League, Kenya’s second top tier football league after the competition was ended, thanks to the virus.
The story draws back to April 30 when Football Kenya Federation (FKF) president Nick Mwendwa announced the ending of all FKF leagues in the country owing to the pandemic which had earlier led to the suspension of all sporting activities in the country following a government directive.
In his pronouncement, Mwendwa noted that the virus situation in the country had made it impossible to conclude the leagues.
With the leagues ending prematurely, Silibwet FC who at the mid-season sat at the summit of the FKF Division One Zone B earned an automatic promotion to NSL as per regulations governing Kenyan football.
“Where the league format due to circumstances of force majeure fails to be completed within the season, the league winner shall be determined as follows; where all the Clubs in the league have completed the first round fixture but less than 75% league games have been played, the table standings at the end of the first round shall be considered as the final table standing of the league.”
When the news filtered from Nairobi to Bomet County, in the green highlands of Kenya’s Rift Valley, home to Silibwet, it signaled the end of a 12-year jinx of wanting to compete in the NSL.
“It was unbelievable, we cannot quantify how joyful we were on learning that we had earned promotion to NSL because it is something we have been looking for since 2008,” Silibwet’s team manager Eric Rono said.
At the end of the first round of fixtures, Silibwet topped the standings in the 16-team league with 26 points, one ahead of Soy United although the former had a game in hand, which they later won.
Rono who has been the team manager since 2015 told Citizen Digital that the team started in 1980 as a community club and has since grown over the years. Today it has players from different parts of the country.
“This team has a very rich history which stems back to early 1980s when it started as a community club and by early 1990s it joined the Provincial League where we played until 2008 when we joined Division One.
Over the years we have managed to channel very good players some of whom have gone all the way to Premier League. Right now, we have players from different parts of the country some of whom reside in our camps here in Silibwet,” said Rono.
The team has however not lost its identity with close to half of the 30 players in the squad coming from Silibwet in Bomet Central Sub County.
Ready for the Big Boys
Despite the league ending prematurely, Silibwet believes their time had come even if the season could have concluded.
Prior to the league’s cancellation, Silibwet’s skipper Dennis Cheruiyot was the division’s top scorer with 16 goals.
Zoo FC’s Micah Kipyego and Shadrack Omondi of Kisumu All Stars are some of the stars in the Kenyan Premier League who trace their roots to the club.
Similarly, head coach Lenny Kigen believes his team has what it takes to mount a strong challenge albeit in unfamiliar territory when the season kicks off.
“It will be very competitive; the same way Division 1 is because the two leagues are almost similar. It will also be more difficult for us since most teams will be wary of our arrival in the league,” kigen said, adding: “I can assure you my boys are ready physically and mentally. We only need to work on their psychological aspect so that they can prepare themselves knowing that they are now heading to a higher league.”
The team who dons an all-yellow home kit and white for away matches and are set to use Silibwet Stadium as their home ground.
Although the stadium has been in a dilapidated state, Rono has disclosed that works have begun to standardize the surface with the help of the County Government who are also set to erect floodlights.
The team has been struggling without sponsor and has relied on the County Government of Bomet to cater for part of their expenses especially for the away games, and as they join NSL, the situation is set to be more complicated as they will have to travel to faraway places such as Mombasa to face teams like Modern Coast Rangers, Coast Stima and the newly promoted Mwatate United FC – all domiciled in the Coast region.
“We are really calling upon companies and individuals to come on board and assist this team because we have been struggling financially. I can assure them that the boys are talented and will repay in kind such a gesture. The County has been boosting us but it is not enough as sometimes we end up using our own resources,” added Rono who also played for the club in early 1990s.
In a region probably known for its athletics prowess, fans will soon be entertained to a local derby as Silibwet joins another side in the NSL, APs Bomet who are also based in the county.
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