Despite the usual financial challenges in Kenyan football (also concerning stadiums renovation), which were made worse by the withdrawal of the last standing sponsor, SportPesa, the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) has continued to serve the needed entertainment.
While it has been a race of who has the money against who doesn’t we can’t expressly state that there has been a gap in the excitement the league has propelled. For all the entertainment seen so far though, we may have a late treat in the race for the league title.
At least five teams have so far shown a clear intent to go for the title, with Kakamega Homeboyz the surprise contender and will want to take wins over top teams, AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia as the needed motivation.
With the leadership of the league standings not constant, Homeboyz ascended to the summit in the 19th round of matches, displacing Tusker, who had taken over from Gor Mahia. Meanwhile KCB FC and Ulinzi Stars have shown clear intentions too and with the caliber of players the teams have, their ambitions can’t be faulted.
Going to the 20th round of matches, the top five teams in the league standings are separated by just four points and are sure the positioning of teams will keep changing as we approach the business end of the league.
So far, Kakamega Homeboyz, Gor Mahia, Tusker, KCB and Ulinzi Stars occupy the top five positions in that order, on 39, 38, 38, 35 and 35 points respectively and given the consistency these teams have shown in the season, there is enough evidence to sum that the league winner will be one of the five.
While mathematically it is impossible to rule out AFC Leopards (31 points) and Western Stima (30 points), their struggles when dealing with top contenders remain a reason to doubt their ability to challenge for the title. A safe bet would be to leave them out of this race.
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But let’s see KPL stats in details: AFC Leopards, who are placed sixth, have not won against any of the top five teams, making it hard to place them high among the contenders. Their financial woes have not made it easier either.
In the past few seasons, Gor Mahia have convincingly won the league title and in the run up to their wins, there was very little doubt that they were actually going to win. In 2018-19 season, they had an eight-point gap as they bagged the title. In 2018, they had a 13-point gap and in 2017, they won it with a 19 – point gap.
Gor Mahia won the title with three matches to spare last season and in the previous campaign they won it with six matches to spare while they did it with four matches to spare in 2017.
The gap in points at the end of the season has been reducing and going by the current season’s competitive levels, we are sure the gap will not be as huge as in those three years in review.
One other factor that could make the title race even more interesting, is that the top five sides have the financial muscle to see them through. Homeboyz enjoys funding from top Kakamega businessman Cleophas Shimanyula and while there have been complaints of unpaid dues from a number of clubs, that hasn’t been the case with Homeboyz, and the results show it.
As for Gor Mahia, the goodwill from club chairman Ambrose Rachier has seen them through rocky times. Even without a sponsorship, they have been able to keep their standard of play and attract top players in the country and regionally.
KCB are funded by the most successful commercial bank in the region – Kenya Commercial Bank – and even the aura that the players have on the pitch depicts a satisfied lot.
Tusker FC are bankrolled by the biggest brewery in the region – the East African Breweries Limited. They have been able to attract top talent and been very stable not just this season but over the years. Apart from Ulinzi Stars and Gor Mahia, they are the only ones to have won the league title in this decade.
Ulinzi Stars, on their part, have full funding from the Kenya Defence Forces and issues to do with delayed salaries have never been heard there.
These five sides have for sure shown the ability to go all the way in the title race.