Football Football

Cash crunch bites ‘money-bags’ Sofapaka

Sofapaka players in a previous KPL clash. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya
Sofapaka players in a previous KPL clash. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

NAIROBI, September 21- Tribulations of Sofapaka FC this season after running SportPesa Premier League winners Gor Mahia close last term are another sad example of how quickly it can unravel in football when money flow runs thin.

The Elly Kalekwa owned-outfit stormed to the top flight in 2009 in the most astounding of fashions when they won the title with swagger and panache that swept away traditional giants Gor, AFC Leopards, Tusker and Ulinzi Stars as they threatened to establish a new order in domestic football.

At the time, every side in the division turned green with envy, the club’s players and coaches enjoyed best salaries, allowances and bonuses as Kalekwa was hailed the local Roman Abramovich- after the Russian Oligarch who turned English Premier League champions Chelsea from also-rans to upset established titans, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool.

However, the bubble started to burst last season when it emerged the club’s staff were going unpaid or getting salaries late although the downturn was masked by a title-run that ended on the last day of the campaign.

There has been no hiding place this time with Ugandan head coach, Sam Timbe, the quiet tactical genius who held their challenge together gone when the club could no longer afford him.

“This season we are not doing well but it’s normal because we cannot win every cup. Finances have been a big stumbling block to our team just like the other 15 KPL clubs and I believe we are performing dismally because I’m not around to motivate them.

“We lost good players like Fiston Abdul Razak and its taking time for new ones to combine but all is not lost. We will find our way back to the top,” the flamboyant Batoto Ba Mungu boss told Capital Sport on Monday.

Timbe’s departure to rejoin his former Uganda side, Police FC piled more misery to the three-time domestic cup winners but Kalekwa maintains he has faith in his assistant, David Ouma as he shops for a replacement for the 2014 KPL Coach of the Year runners-up.

“I declined to extend his contract because he was very expensive but we don’t regret since the team was second under Ouma when he joined, so let’s see how the season ends. We have moulded international players like Danson Kago whom we worked with for four years.

“Another is Bebeto Lnamba we have loaned to Nakuru All Stars. He has now seven goals but Timbe didn’t give him a chance. Whatever God will give us this season, we will take,” the Congolese-born business man noted.

Sofapaka had a slow start at the beginning of the season when players went on go slow demanding salary and bonus arrears and after Timbe, whom most adopted as a father departed, they have gone five matches without a win as they desperately hang on to third on 42.

Arguably their darkest day of their campaign came on Sunday when they were knocked out of the GOtv Shield by National Super League side, Administration Police 5-3 on post match penalties to end their hold on the crown they won last season.

Batoto Ba Mungu became the first club in the country to inch closest to the re-modeled CAF Confederations Cup when they lost the play-off for the lucrative group stages to Egypt’s Ismaily.

Having surrendered the DSTv SuperSport Cup to K’Ogalo, failed to challenge for the league and now out of the Shield, only the KPL Top 8 remains to fight for where they are paired against Chemelil Sugar in the quarter-finals that get underway this weekend.

The team that produced the 2014 Player of the Year as well as midfielder of the Year, Ekaliani Ndolo who has failed to get anywhere close to the heights this term has a daunting conclusion to the season that could see them toppled from the top three.

Ouma charges host fellow limping giants, AFC Leopards before welcoming unbeaten Gor before rounding up with tricky tests against Mathare United and Thika United.