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KPL to turn U20 championship into reserve league

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Ulinzi Warriors’ Moses Mwangi progresses forward to score as Ulinzi beat Posta Rangers 4-1 in the KPL U20 Championship on December 19, 2016 at teh Camp Toyoyo Ground.PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 1- The Kenyan Premier League management has said the under-20 Championship will be transformed to a reserve league in the next two years as they step up efforts to ensure the youth program remains sustainable.

KPL CEO Jack Oguda says talks are already in place with potential sponsors to work out logistics that would see the tournament run concurrently with the top tier league.

“We are talking to several people to see how we can work that way out. For us, that is the ultimate target like it happens in many other developed countries. We have seen quite some good talent exhibited this year and it is part of our contribution to see Kenya qualifies for the 2022 World Cup,” Oguda told Capital Sport.

Coaches have also called on the same transformation, arguing continuity will ensure the fruits of the youth cadre competition are seen. Currently, it is played on a championship basis during the April, August and December school holidays.

“If they turn it into a league it will be positive because sometimes we are trying to reduce age cheating but when there is no platform then its difficult. When you have something running consistently throughout the year, then it will help curb the vice of age cheating,” Francis Kimanzi, the Mathare United senior team coach offered.

Gor Mahia’s midfielder Teddy Osok controls the ball as his team mates watch under pressure from a Mathare United player in the KPL U20 semi-final on December 29, 2016. PHOTO/Courtesy

He added: “In turn, the competition in the league will be good because we will get players who are tried and tested. This tournament has tested players and by the time they go to the senior level, you can tell that they are ready.”

Western Stima’s youth team head coach Hezbon Nyabinge also had the same sentiments and added it would be a morale booster for the young players to have a tournament of their own.

“If these boys can be playing like curtain raisers before the senior teams play, then that will go a long way in building their morale and confidence. It is a good idea to turn it into a league,” Nyabinge said.

At the same time, Oguda has termed the last three editions a success and hopes sponsors Sportpesa who bankrolled this year’s edition will hand them another cheque to run the 2017 tournament.

“The biggest challenge in running this tournament has been finances. The Sportpesa contract has run out and we are already in talks for next year’s sponsorship. We are also talking to a few other people to see if we can make the package better,” Oguda added.

He also touched on the thorny issue of age cheating brought up by Harambee Stars U20 head coach John Kamau and said they are working closely with the federation to ensure the gate keeping structures are water tight for the upcoming editions.

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