NAIROBI, Kenya, January 24 – After years of relying on talent promoted from their youth ranks and returning former players, Mathare United, have changed tact and recruited outside the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) set-up in bringing in Hussein Zinda and Noah Abich.
Former Karuturi Sports forward Zinda and the much travelled Abich who was in the books of Sony Sugar last season represented a departure from Mathare’s core tenets of promoting homegrown players as they seek to remain competitive in a league they flirted with relegation last season.
The pair join the team after club chairman, Bob Munro, changed the recruitment policy claiming, “to give every player in the country opportunity to explore their talents,” but the truth is MYSA is no longer producing quality capable of thriving in a competition driven by huge resources to secure seasoned campaigners.
“Beginning this season, the technical bench is allowed to recruit players from other football clubs, unlike before where they promoted players from the youth team.
“Like in the Olympics under-23 competition where teams are allowed to have three over age players, the coach is now free to bring on board the same number who are non-MYSA.
“But I do it reluctantly because I would like to prove with youth development programmes in the league, players will be competitive without foreign based players,” the MYSA founder said, conceding how development of the top flight in recent years has made it necessary for clubs to invest in proven players for survival.
Also joining the team is custodian Peter Odhiambo, defender Robinson Kamura and Eric Omondi, who earned promotion from the youth teams.
The slum boys who barely survived relegation after finishing 13th, have lost most of their key players, who include Kelvin Ochien’g, who signed with Nairobi City Stars, Francis Ouma, defender Lloyd Wahome, midfielders Osborne Monday and Dennis Nzomo, who rejoined their former head coach, Francis Kimanzi, now with 2011 and 12 champions Tusker FC.
However, Munro, said they are not troubled to be referred as underdogs this season, but warned any club that is counting out Mathare to watch out.
“Last year we ended up with 32 points, after accumulating 19 draws, if half of those matches were victories, we could have been among title contenders.
“We have lost some of our most talented and experienced players, but the youngsters that we are left with, only lack exposure but they are equal to the task.”
According to club team manager, Willy Muruya, they are looking forward to lift the February 2 Kenya Power Charity Cup, after league champions Gor Mahia, edged them out of the inaugural competition last year.
“If we win the one day tournament, it will be a good start to our team ahead of the new season, where we are aiming to reclaim the title,”
“Mathare is well known to developing young talent, so we don’t feel the loss of the players who have left the club since the youngsters can also fill in the gap.
“Our first target in the coming season is to finish in a respectable position by the end of the first leg,” Muruya declared.
Mathare kick-off their 2014 league hunt with an away fixture against Western Stima at Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega County.