CURTAINS CLOSE IN ON KPL 2016 SEASON

This weekend marks the second last round of the Kenya premier league. Nairobi City Stars are already relegated, with Sofapaka and Ushuru (played a nil draw against City Stars last evening) battling to stay in the top tier. Should City have beaten the taxmen, a win over the slumboys would’ve put Sofapaka above Ushuru courtesy of a superior goal difference. Now they need nothing less of a win against Mathare to stand a chance. This weekend decides who stays up and who joins City Stars in the walk of shame.
The title race could also be decided this weekend. If Tusker win against AFC Leopards, then the show is over. If they drop points (draw or lose) and Gor Mahia win against Muhoroni, then Kenyan football will witness a bruising battle on the final day. Basically, the curtains come down on the 2016 season this weekend, the next weekend will be just but a formality. Whether or not Tusker wins this weekend.
If The Brewers beat Ingwe, then they will have rubberstamped a trophy less season for Kogallo and possibly the sacking of Ze Maria. If they don’t, they might as well forget their dreams for a double. They have an honest chance of beating Kogallo on the final day, but they will have to be aware that they will be playing against 14 players. The 13th player (the fans) is a ticking time bomb who will create an atmosphere so intimidating for everybody else including Gor Mahia players, which could make the referee their 14th player. The atmosphere will be so charged that even if the fans shout for a penalty while the ball is at the center of the field, the referee will point to the spot. They will also fill the stadium no matter where the match is played. You can play the match in Besigye’s compound where no one is allowed in, but they will still turn up the size of India’s population and sing their hearts out- after bracing tons of teargas and forcing their way in.
The head to head is also stacked against The Brewers, with Kogallo having won 4 of their last 5 encounters. In the league, only Rangers boast of an equally strong defense as Gor Mahia with the least number of goals conceded at 13. Though the Tusker attack is 5 goals better than that of their title rivals, their shooting boots seem to go missing when they meet with Gor having kept 3 clean sheets in their last 5 meetings. There are only two things that could work for Tusker if things go down to the final day; Gor Mahia will be under immense pressure (Tusker will only need a draw), and if the referee will try to prove that he is not easily intimidated and give decisions against Gor. Otherwise, a fourth consecutive title awaits Kogallo.
So what are the chances of things going down to the wire? It all depends on Ingwe, and to a little extent Muhoroni. Ingwe have a worrying run in the league, two points earned in their last five matches. The last game was an embarrassing 3-2 loss to relegation-bound Sofapaka. The score line makes it look like they gave it their best. Side note: someone should tell Akwana that it is damaging to a goalkeeper’s confidence to get subbed in the first half without an injury. That’s scapegoating. Their head to head against Tusker is not that impressive either, with only two draws from last five meetings. Gor Mahia fans will be hoping that Stewart Hall will not want his first game in charge to end in defeat. What are Mashemeji for if they can’t stop your rivals from winning a title you are fighting for?
Having had a bad run after their early season bubble burst, Ingwe could salvage some pride in their striker Kepha Aswani finishing as top scorer. He only needs two goals this weekend to go joint top with Makwatta of Ulinzi.
Afterthought: Would the title race have been this exciting had Gor Mahia (and AFC Leopards) not been docked six points for crowd trouble? If they miss out on their fourth consecutive league title, then it is their fans that denied them that accolade and not Tusker FC.
Two-cent opinion: We are not yet ready for an 18-team league. We should first sort out club and league management, refereeing standards, stadiums, and complying with the CAF guidelines. We definitely don’t need to adopt the European calendar. And could the league management make their website (www.kpl.co.ke) a little bit more informative?
*source of stats: flashscore

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