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Kalekwa backs Kimanzi’s restoration

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NAIROBI, Kenya, November 2- Kenyan Premier League (KPL) side Sofapaka FC president, Elly Kalekwa, has thrown his weight behind the re-appointment of Francis Kimanzi as Harambee Stars head coach.

Kimanzi, who was restored to the position he was acrimoniously fired from in February 2009 on Tuesday by the Sam Nyamweya led new Football Kenya Association (FKA) administration, is also the head coach at Sofapaka.

“I’m very happy for him and for us, the appointment of Kimanzi is a promotion and we will support him as a club to ensure that he succeeds. The national team belongs to all of us and having our own in charge is a sacrifice we have to make,” Kalekwa told Capital Sport on Wednesday.

Quizzed on whether handling both sides would prove too vexing for the coach who replaced KPL rivals Gor Mahia tactician Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno at the helm, Kalekwa emphasised its only the league management body that could ease the burden.

“As long as KPL supports Kimanzi, he will succeed because ideally, the national team and clubs do not play their matches at the same time so it is possible to coach both teams.

“During the consultations that saw him appointed, I stressed to the league to organise their games in a way that will give the coach enough time to do his work without pressure and they said this would be done, so Sofapaka has no problem,” the president explained.

He added: “For us, Kimanzi is still under a contract with us and I do not see anything difficult with him being the Stars coach. What many people do not know is that the coach does very little once he has drawn his programme for the players.”

One of the criticisms levelled at Otieno during his spell in charge in interim capacity after his elevation from the assistant coach position this February was his perceived inability to handle the challenging role at his club and Stars.

On that subject, Kalekwa opined, “There is a difference between Gor and Sofapaka. There is a lot of pressure on the coach to perform at Gor because of their demanding fans but for Sofapaka, we are patient and give our coach enough time to organise his programme.

“When Kimanzi came in, we gave him three years to build the team into a winning outfit and so far, he is doing a good job even though we lost the Cup since we are in a good position in the league. He is a good coach the country needs.”

Commenting on the matter, Kimanzi, who was also the coach of KPL side Mathare United in his first stint with Stars in 2008 where he led them to the title, said the dynamics had changed since then as he contemplates vacating the Sofapaka role.

“The CAF and Fifa calendars have changed and now there are so many matches unlike before. I want a smooth exit from club football and I shall discuss with Sofapaka management since I know committing to both positions is difficult,” the coach said upon confirmation of his appointment.

His first day at the national team job saw him meet his players on Wednesday morning as he prepared his club side to form his former employer Mathare in a KPL clash in the evening, underlining the tricky task ahead.

Stars face Seychelles in a two-legged 2014 World Cup pre-qualifier Saturday week before the return fixture in Nairobi three days later and 19 players are in residential camp.

Aggregate victory over the islanders will see Kenya join the group featuring Nigeria, Malawi and either Djibouti or Namibia who face each other in another pre-qualifier in the race for Brazil 2014.

Fourth place Sofapaka on the other hand are still in the running for their second domestic title in three years and are eight points behind leaders Tusker but with two games in hand as the KPL league reaches its climax.

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