KPL Countdown: Dimmed, then back to light; how bright can Stima shine?
- Stima has signed 13 players, most of whom Babu and Nyabinge have worked with before especially by raiding their former clubs
- Stima however lost a number of dependable players, including Kopany Hubert, newly signed Gor Mahia duo Maurice Ojwang and Kennedy 'Agogo' Otieno, Kenneth Okoth who signed for Tusker FC, Vincent Likare (Wazito FC) and now Kisumu All-Stars duo of Wesley Kemboi (the longest serving member by close of last season) and Martin Oduor.
Analysis, by Jacob Icia
After agonisingly slipping from the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) in the 2017 season, Western Stima found their way back to the topflight with Paul Ogai leading the majestic march for the power men.
He endured a tough National Super League (NSL) competition to earn a KPL spot in the 2018 season, and started off strongly only to stumble along the way forcing his resignation towards the end of April.
He had seen Stima through 12 matches without a win, and the big man at the Kisumu based side Laban Jobita had to take a step. Out of discomfort with relegation talk around club, Ogai had to go, he had to pay way, and eventually he resigned, creating room for experienced man, former Sony Sugar’s coach Salim Babu.
Babu was soon handed Hesbon Nyabinge who was hitherto guiding NSL side Green Commandos as his assistant, their experience and camaraderie as former teammates at Sony paying direct dividends to keep Stima afloat by the end of the gruelling season.
They concluded the season at number 13 on the 18-team KPL log, garnering 39 points from eight wins, 15 draws and 11 losses. That, was only two places from the relegation zone, as the the 16th team in KPL must face the third ranked team from the NSL in a relegation-promotion playoff.
Fast forward to August 27, 2019, and Babu is counting only four days to the 2019/20 season kickoff, with his men opening their campaign against Kariobangi Sharks. This time round he is in charge from the start, and there will be no excuses to any unappealing performance as his assistant Nyabinge offers.
“We came here last season with only a few matches remaining, the task was to save the team from relegation threat. The players were not together mentally, and that’s what we really worked on to survive the axe,” told Nyabinge, who once played under Babu at Sony.
It was a challenge for the two to get results with a depleted squad, at a time fixture congestion was bothering every KPL team considering the short-time 2018/19 season.
“We found a team of only 23 fit players, there were a lot of injuries. It was not easy to work with that number for the matches but we managed. Technically they were good and experienced, our main job was to bring them together and make them play,” noted Nyabinge.
The tactician now believes the team is ready for a season of proper competition rather than fighting relegation, drawing from their active preseason as his captain Samuel Odhiambo concurs.
“We are in a good shape ahead of the new season. Last season we lost concentration along the way and it proved costly, because we were lacking togetherness. We have now built that mentality of working as a team and we feel ready,” said Odhiambo.
Stima has signed 13 players, most of whom Babu and Nyabinge have worked with before especially by raiding their former clubs Sony, Chemelil Sugar, relegated Vihiga United and newly promoted KPL side Kisumu All-Stars.
Kelvin Motsosi, Abdallah Wankuru, Kennedy Odhiambo and Apollo Otieno have been roped in from the Awendo based side, with Amos Kigadi and Amos Waitere joining from Vihiga and Chemelil respectively. Ugandan striker Oramch Villa has also returned to Stima, while Ian Motanda has crossed over from neighbouring All-Stars.
Another promising signing in the Stima stable is Fidel Oringa who will be up against his immediate former employer Sharks in the season opener, budding Benson Ochieng who was spotted playing for Kisumu Day Secondary School, Robert Achema and Augutine Kuta, formerly of Nairobi Stima.
While Nyabinge believes teamwork will be the fulcrum to their success in the forthcoming season, he singles out his attack department as one of the most improved.
“For the first time we have good attacking setup; Villa, Hassan… and the old guys. I think attacking department is our key strength,” observed Nyabinge.
Stima however lost a number of dependable players, including Kopany Hubert, newly signed Gor Mahia duo Maurice Ojwang and Kennedy ‘Agogo’ Otieno, Kenneth Okoth who signed for Tusker FC, Vincent Likare (Wazito FC) and now Kisumu All-Stars duo of Wesley Kemboi (the longest serving member by close of last season) and Martin Oduor.
Malik Dachi returned to his homeland Tanzania, while another last season member Blaise Nkolo has joined Busolo United in Uganda.
Ready for Sharks attack
With the new team, Stima emerged top in a six-day preseason tournament in Kakamega, winning four and drawing one match.
“We are under no pressure, after a good preseason. The tournament in Kakamega showed us where we are and we are ready for the take off,” Nyabinge confidently said.
Kigadi the man to watch
Kigadi, since his days at GFE 105, is a man who knows how to terrorise opponents especially the giants. He scored both against champions Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards in last season’s matches then in Vihiga colours, and was among the forwards who hit six goals in the KPL despite his club’s poor form overall.
In 2018 season, he was named the September/November player of the month by Sports Journalists Association of Kenya (SJAK) for his exploits, helping Vihiga escape the KPL axe.
A tested and proven goal poacher, Kigadi will certainly thrive with good partnership from Villa and Henry Juma , as he is poised to fill the big void left by Agogo and Ojwang in a better environment to give his best.
Like Kenneth Muguna, Joash Onyango and many others who have sprung from Stima to the best that there is in Kenya – Gor Mahia , Kigadi could be the next if his performance at Vihiga is anything to go by. He should be key in guiding Stima to at least top-10 finish.
Name: Western Stima
Nickname: Power Men.
Home grounds: Moi Stadium Kisumu/ Bukhungu Stadium Kakamega.
Year Founded: 1997
Head coach: Salim Babu.
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