Which way Shabana? Sleeping giants take stock after mixed NSL campaign
- In their first season in the National Super League (NSL) after a two-year absence, Shabana FC ended their season with a 3-1 win against FC Talanta.
- The win ensured that the team seen by many as a sleeping giant, given its huge following and rich history, finishes the season in ninth place.
- The glamour boys had a season characterized by mixed results. At some point, the club’s fan base was confident of a promotion to the top tier league but that wasn’t to be as challenges popped up.
In their first season in the National Super League (NSL) after a two-year absence, Shabana FC ended their season with a 3-1 win against FC Talanta.
The win ensured that the team seen by many as a sleeping giant, given its huge following and rich history, finishes the season in ninth place.
The glamour boys had a season characterized by mixed results. At some point, the club’s fan base was confident of a promotion to the top tier league but that wasn’t to be as challenges popped up.
The Kisii based team will have to maneuver through the NSL again next season as they attempt to stage a comeback to the top league.
In the past, the closest Shabana faithful came to a feel of the Kenya big-time soccer was in the 2014-15 season, but the controversy surrounding their promotion criteria meant that they remained National Super League.
The financial turmoil only compounded matters for the worst as the club was again relegated to FKF Division One after the 2015-16 season.
After concerted efforts by the management, eventually, football gods gave them a nod as the team found its way back into the NSL after overcoming Mwatate FC via spot-kicks in the promotion play-off at Kasarani.
Coach Gilbert Selebwa took over in December 2018 immediately after the promotion was confirmed. The sole objective at the time was to secure promotion.
However, after a season riddled with financial turmoil, he can only reflect on the positives achieved.
“The season can be seen as a success given that team finished in the top immediately after promotion from Division One. This season, the NSL was very tough and clubs, for instance, Wazito and Ushuru have vast amounts of resources to spend on compared to us,” Selebwa told Citizen Digital.
“We have had a few challenges, but we believe that those challenges can be addressed. With proper planning and inclusion of a few quality players am confident we will overcome these obstacles and fight for promotion into the Kenya premier league,” he added.
The club’s fan base has proved to be the unshakable bedrock of the team’s survival instincts over the years. They are the reason the club is mentioned in the same breath as other premier league powerhouses Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards having started their journey as community clubs.
The coach only has kind words for the fans who have pushed the team through thick and thin.
“I thank the fans for their passion and support, and we will be back at it again next season. They always have our backs, and they make us want to win every game despite the challenges.”
Financial problems have been at the heart of the failure of the club to live up to its bidding. Its inability to secure sponsorship has seen the glamour boys slip below their traditional regional rivals Ingwe and K’Ogalo. This proved to be the case, yet again.
With the prospect of automatic relegation to Division Two in case of failing to honor three consecutive matches on sight, the management held a fundraiser that helped cater for players’ welfare.
Despite this injection, Selebwa says they could not match the fluidity of their fellow KPL hopefuls in the NSL.
“The biggest challenge that we faced is that we did not have the necessary financial muscle like our opponents, for instance, FC Talanta, Wazito, and Nairobi Stima.
“That notwithstanding, the management has managed the situation as players were paid whatever little that was available.” He reckoned.
The financial problems resulted in the team losing 15 first team players after a series of go slows.
Speaking at the season-closing ceremony at the Gusii Stadium, club Chairman Jared Niverton promised that the team will bounce back stronger next season as they aim to deliver premier league football to its followers.
With a potential sponsorship kitty from the Kisii County government in the tunnel, Niverton confirmed that the club would move swiftly to secure quality players to bolster the team as they aim to move up the football ladder.
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