NAIROBI, November 20 – Newly crowned Kenyan Premier League (KPL) Footballer of the Year Sofapaka’s Anthony Ekaliani Ndolo is out to buck the trend that has seen four of past six recipients of the top individual honour at the annual fete fade from the radar the following season after glory.
Ndolo, who also bagged the Midfielder of the Year accolade to emerge the star of the awards gala, had the added pleasure of being a universally acclaimed winner in a fete that drew controversy on Thursday with claims of corruption and bias in the selection of awardees by the panel of all 16 KPL coaches.
The midfielder, who had stints with Tanzanian titans Young Africans as well as Ugandan sides SC Villa and Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), says the sky is the limit and winning the awards will motivate him to work extra hard next season to maintain the standards he set on his debut season in the league.
“When you are put on the spotlight everyone will be watching on you. I’m there now and I hope to even do better in the coming season. I know where I have come from and where I’m heading, it won’t be easy maintaining consistency but I will try my best.
“Football has become a full time paying job so if an offer comes and my club agrees I will go but for now I have six months left in my contract,” Ndolo told Capital Sport.
His coach Sam Timbe who signed him from KCCA at the beginning of the season said the onus was on his instrumental midfielder who scored nine goals for Batoto ba Mungu to shape his future.
“I’m proud when I see the boys win the awards which mean I’m doing a good work and the trust will continue to grow. Nobody is chasing Ndolo from Sofapaka but if he gets a good offer and he feels he want to leave then who I’m I to deny him?
“It has been a tough season with salary problems when we went up to six months unpaid but I’m happy the boys responded well. We have to work hard so that God can reward us, last year we finished third this year second and with a GOtv Shield now we have a task of climbing to the first position, it’s not easy but we have to work hard for it,” the Ugandan underscored.
Despite seeing his club dominate the winners’ roster, Timbe was controversially beaten to the Coach of the Year award by Chemelil Sugar’s Mike Mururi, an outcome that led to uproar over the selection process with Football Kenya Federation (FKF) wading into the debate Thursday.
“We are not the only ones doubting if the exercise was free, fair and transparent, there are complaints from other quarters too- stakeholders and observers as well as the media. It appears the exercise was skewed to favour certain teams and individuals, and merit was not the key factor used in picking the winners.
“We understand that intense lobbying preceded the exercise, culminating in partiality and biased picking of the winners, which defeats the purpose of the exercise,” the federation whose boss Sam Nyamweya handed Ndolo the top accolade nonetheless, said in a statement.
“The judgement is not for me. If I came second, I thank God for that, if I’m around, it means I work hard so that they can give me the prize next season,” a deflated Timbe said after being proclaimed the runners-up in the coaching category.
Another puzzling verdict was the overlooking champions Gor Mahia skipper, Jerim Onyango, for the Goalkeeper of the Year crown for the second successive season despite leading the team to retain their league crown and keeping the highest number of clean sheets again with Chemelil’s Jairus Adira taking the prize.
-The curse of the FOYA-
Besides the ruckus on Wednesday night; being named the KPL’s top dog has turned to be a curse rather than a boon and Ndolo who dazzled for his side is out to ensure he does not become the latest to drink from its poisoned chalice.
Since inception, 2009 winner Sofapaka’s veteran John Baraza was the first to go against the drain when he followed it up with the Golden Boot and finishing third in the race for the top price the ensuing campaign.
Gor’s Ugandan goal poacher Dan Sserunkuma, whose omission from the top three of the footballer of the year also raised eyebrows, was enthroned in 2012 before storming back to lead his side to their first KPL in after 18 years.
This season, he grabbed the Golden Boot with 16 as his goals once again lifted K’Ogalo to become record 14-time league winners.
Francis Ouma (2008), George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo (2010), Kevin Kimani (2011) and Jacob Keli (2013) are the victims of ‘the curse of FOYA’ with transfers following their crowning moment the second season contributing to their fall from grace.