KPL Countdown: Zoo lose top stars in droves but Iswekha remains defiant
- Zoo FC enjoyed a sterling start to life in the top-flight in their opening two seasons for a club that admits it is financially incapable of offering professional football contracts for its players.
- The Kericho-based club finished 12th in their debut season in 2017, the same year it produced the Kenyan Premier League’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) in Michael Madoya.
Analysis, Matthews Mutai
Zoo FC enjoyed a sterling start to life in the top-flight in their opening two seasons for a club that admits it is financially incapable of offering professional football contracts for its players.
The Kericho-based club finished 12th in their debut season in 2017, the same year it produced the Kenyan Premier League’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) in Michael Madoya.
They went one place better the year after and the KPL’s biggest clubs started to take notice of their sustained success and inevitably began raiding it for their top talent.
Midfielder Collins Agade was signed by Muhoroni Youth before switching to Bandari FC where he has become an integral piece of their KPL resurgence before Madoya followed, signing for Tusker FC last year.
Gor Mahia FC then snapped up Nicholas Kipkirui, who had scored a combined 24 goals in his first two seasons, beating strong interest from Ulinzi Stars for the striker’s signature.
Defender Isaac Kipyegon also moved to AFC Leopards and goalkeeper Vincent Misikhu joined Wazito FC, leaving Zoo without its backbone of stars that had continuously made the difference for them and the club almost paid the ultimate price last term.
Zoo ended up finishing 15th on the KPL standings, just a point clear of the promotion/relegation playoff spot and Danson Chetambe, the star that stepped up to help secure their top flight status has moved on again after being lured by Bandari.
That exodus has coincided with shrinking funds at the club that financial, albeit unsteady, backing of Kericho County in those two opening two seasons but the local government is slowly tightening its purse strings on the team, opting to develop the Kericho Green Stadium instead.
Herman Iswekha says he is happy to build again after admitting there is little the club can do to stave off star exits but believes there will always be another top star off the production line, ready to make the difference.
“There is no better club in the country right now as good as Zoo in producing good players. You look at some of the players that have left and wish they had stayed but another look at those that are coming up gives great promise,” Iswekha told Citizen Digital.
One of Zoo’s drawbacks has been their inability to get a desirable start to their campaigns, digging themselves into a hole with defeats in their opening matches before labouring to stay up.
“This has to stop. We lose our first, second…fifth matches, the fans start to turn against us and really this has to be fixed. I want to urge our fans to turn out in large numbers on Sunday when we host Chemelil in our opening game of the season.
“Last season there was some sort of disconnect between the technical staff and the players and we all had to sit down to find a way of working together. It was a candid talk and things started to work out better.”
Iswekha is taking charge of his first full season as the club’s head coach after being promoted towards the close of last season following the exit of Sammy Okoth who joined Vihiga United in April.
“It’s an exciting challenge and I’m looking forward to it and for now I can say a top 10 finish is reasonable ambition to set for ourselves,” Iswekha said.
One to Watch: Derrick Anami
Anami was largely frozen out and mainly considered a squad player but the exit of Madoya opened a door of opportunities for the fleet-footed attacking midfielder.
Comfortable on both feet, Anami possesses a fine range of passing, an eye for the spectacular goal and the absence of Chetambe means he could be pushed into a more attack-minded role.
He scored five crucial goals, with three of those coming during Zoo’s last two season-closing matches against Kakamega Homeboyz and KCB FC.
Club: Zoo FC
Home Ground: Kericho Green Stadium
Year Founded: 2010
Head Coach: Herman Iswekha
Transfers In: Eugene Ambulwa, Vincent Misikhu and Collins Neto (Wazito FC), Dominic Kiprono (Chemelil Sugar), Dennis Ongeri (Posta Rangers), Festus Mutai (promoted from junior team)
Transfers Out: Kevin Omondi (Homeboyz) Danson Chetambe (Bandari FC)
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